Vicki tells us her experience of lockdown so far, including the pressures of homeschooling and communicating with hearing loss.
I’m mum to two small girls aged 4 and 7 and so far we have been in lockdown for 6 and a half weeks with the first two in isolation as the girls had some symptoms. I have severe/profound hearing loss – and this lockdown thing has been hard!
‘The biggest hurdle has been homeschooling’
In some ways the things I’ve found tricky are very similar to a lot of my friends who have kids of a similar age. The biggest hurdle has been homeschooling. Years ago I used to quite like the idea of homeschooling, bonding with my kids and loving learning together. Ha! It’s not worked out quite like that. I started with really good intentions. I had a timetable. Resources. All manner of things printed off Twinkl. The one thing I hadn’t counted on was the older one flat out refusing to do anything involving reading or writing. Or maths. This is despite allegedly being a dream student according to her teachers!
So a few weeks in I all but binned the timetable. There’s no morning of lessons and afternoon of enrichment. I’m just desperately trying to find ‘fun’ activities where I have smuggled in reading/writing/maths without her really realising. We’ve done a fab Coronavirus diary pack that a friend sent me. Colour by numbers for times tables and comprehension about the tooth fairy. It’s all good. They’re just not learning quite as much as I hoped, and a lot of the day is spent preparing food (why do they eat so much?!) and breaking up sibling squabbles.
‘Playing jenga with click and collect slots’
Then there’s the anxiety. Again, pretty prevalent at the moment. All the normal worries – getting enough food when we’re trying not to actually go round the supermarket and playing jenga with click and collect slots that I share with my mum and sometimes a friend who’s isolating. The fun of random things not appearing and not being able to go out to buy them and having to re-jig the menu plan. The stress of having to wipe down shopping and the whole thing from planning to ordering to collecting to putting shopping away – which now takes hours every week.
Then there’s the obvious worry about catching the virus. I’m trying not to worry so much about me, but I do worry about my parents and grandparents who are all in the older higher risk group. I miss my friends SO much and it is incredibly hard not being able to pop round a house or go out for dinner and get a much needed break from home and work.
‘Err I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that?!’
I also have the extra anxiety caused by my deafness. Part of this has definitely been caused by video conferencing. Other than using FaceTime, I find the audio/video sync so bad I cannot lipread a video chat even with one person speaking to camera. Once you throw in some small people for good measure, it’s impossible. I tried Zoom one night with friends and the sync with multiple endpoints was even worse than the chats I’d tried on WhatsApp and Messenger.
In the end I settled for enjoying my wine while watching everyone else chat. It was lovely to see their faces and one friend tried to type the main points which was kind but just not the same. It’s as bad for work – but then I get the fear thrown in as well – that moment when someone says ‘so Vicki, what do you think?’ and everyone else on the call stops and waits for me to say something deep and meaningful. Not ‘Err I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that?!’
The other element of this is masks. Oh my. Of course people want or need to wear them. But why did no one consider ways round this for deaf people? Last week I had to take my older daughter to the doctor twice. The first time we saw a lovely nurse, as soon as I explained she wheeled back to the other side of the room and took off her mask so I could lipread. Very kind and a sensible solution. The second time we saw a senior GP. He was wearing not one but two masks. I explained again, and mentioned what his colleague had done to help. He said ‘Well I’ll just talk louder’. He wasn’t very impressed when I pointed out that no, actually, that wasn’t really going to make any difference.
‘Let’s hope it won’t be too much longer!’
So there we go. It’s been really tough. I don’t think there are any easy answers in any of this. There’s definitely a huge gap for accurate subtitles on video conferencing. And I’ve been reminded yet again of both the frustrations of deaf awareness and the kindness of strangers. Like most of you I’m sure, I cannot wait for lockdown to be over. We’re incredibly lucky that we’ve stayed well – and once this is over I know I’m going to be so grateful for school, good health, and just the mundane elements of normal life like a relaxed food shop! But most of all, hugs and time with family and friends.
Let’s hope it won’t be too much longer!
Find out more about the best video conferencing apps and software for accessibility and communication tips for healthcare professionals.