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Island students with hearing loss make connections at Saanich beach day

Annual event links hard of hearing kids with their peers through games and activities

As they dove for prime tic-tac-toe positions or went fishing for magnets, students with hearing loss from across south Vancouver Island got to forge connections on Wednesday (May 29) that they may not get to make every day.

The festivities marked the Greater Victoria School District’s annual deaf and hard of hearing beach day at Cadboro-Gyro Park.

Students from five school districts came together for the day of games, which aims to spur social connections. Many of those who took part in Wednesday’s event are the only ones in their class or school who have hearing loss, so the beach day’s Amazing Race-style games allows them to meet other kids like themselves, said Megan Jantz.

The SD61 teacher, who works with students living with hearing loss, said those kids can sometimes struggle at school. Jantz gave the example of those students missing invitations to play at times when they can’t hear others kids behind them.

The more than 100 students expected to attend this year made it the largest beach day to date, but the activity-filled break from class is always a day that gets circled on the calendar.

“They love it, like we have some kids who start talking about (beach day) in September. They really look forward to this and connecting to their peers and others,” Jantz said.

The array of carnival-style games for those in Kindergarten to Grade 5 saw a parachute swaying, bean bags flying and kids working as a team across various stations set up on the park’s field. Grades 6 to 12 competed in challenges in the Cadboro Bay Village shops just down the street, vying to get their names on a trophy resembling the Stanley Cup. A series of games also accommodated students who are both deaf and blind.

But students weren’t the only ones benefitting as the around 40 to 50 parents who helped out on Wednesday also got to meet others in similar positions.

“It can feel really isolating and alone when your kid is the only one at the school (with hearing loss),” Jantz said, who added that beach day has put more emphasis on involving parents in recent years so they also know they’re not alone.

The park outing was supported by various deafblindness and hard-of-hearing agencies who could could refer parents to community programs available to families.

Jantz said people sometimes don’t fully understand the challenges kids face in school when they have hearing loss. The school district has aimed to help those kids foster connections with their peers in the classroom through initiatives like having agencies give entire classes American Sign Language (ASL) lessons.

Jantz hoped the friendships kids made on Wednesday would last beyond beach day, which the teacher said has been a common result of the annual event.

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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