Tips for Helping your Child with Special Needs Keep their Mask on
Face masks have now become a part of our daily lives. Right now you can not go anywhere without having a mask covering your nose and mouth. As things begin to re-open wearing a facemask to protect everyone is very important. Wearing face masks can present a challenge for families with younger children, especially for those caring for a child with special needs.
For parents worried about their child’s ability to keep a mask on this school year, we have a few tips to help ease your concerns.
Getting comfortable with the mask.
Just by having your child hold the mask in their hand during a preferred activity they will slowly get used to the foreign object. Suggest an end reward for holding the mask during an activity and gradually increase time. Once they are comfortable holding it, attempt to have them wear it on their hand. Place the ear loops of the mask around their pinky and thumb, repeat the preferred activity along with increasing the time. If your child becomes comfortable with this, move to having them brush the mask on their own cheeks. This sensory feeling will show them what the mask is like on their face. Again have them perform this during activity, then reward and increase time like before. Finally move to placing ear loops on one ear, then move to the other ear. In the end moving to the child wearing the mask on their face.
Seeing others also wearing masks will help normalize the face coverings. This could be done by putting masks on all your child’s favorite toys. You could have them practicing placing the masks on their dolls, stuffed animals, or even you. Seeing a parent or sibling wearing the masks appropriately can make the masks seem more familiar and less scary.
Make it fun.
Choosing a fabric that is soft and breathable for the child. Looking to avoid scratchy material this sensory feeling may make the child hesitant to wear the mask. Avoid fabrics that trap heat as well. Make things exciting by choosing a cloth mask with a fun design or their favorite color. If you are using disposable masks those can also be decorated! Make it an activity and decorate them together with stickers or markers.
Discuss Covid-19 and the reason that face masks are important. A year into the pandemic your child has probably noticed a disturbance in routines and changes in their daily life. Talking about how the virus is making a lot of people sick and that it’s best to wear a mask when around other people. Also how the masks keep their body safe. It can be helpful to provide a timer for the wearing of masks as well. For example verbally stating that they can remove the mask when they get home or when they get in the car.