SLP and OT Tips for Wearing a Face Mask

by Laura Ironman, MS, CCC-SLP and Jennifer Coyne, MS, OTR/L

Here are our SLP tips from Ms. Laura:

1. You don’t have to shout- just speaking slower and clear should help with masks. You can increase your volume slightly- but there’s not need to shout! Muffled voices will not “de muffle” if you’re shouting, they will just be louder muffles!  It’s hard when you mumble your words- so enunciete but no need to scream to be heard!

2. If you have a loved one you interact with who is deaf or hard of hearing or anyone who is a lip reader in general- wearing masks can be tricky- it may help to avoid communication breakdowns if you get a mask with a screen- we have attached a youtube video of how to make your own or if you are not gifted with a sewing machine – you can buy them on a lot of different shops.

This is a tutorial for a DIY mask with a clear window.

3. If you are with a kiddo who has a hard time with comprehension, allowing visuals to help when in public is also helpful. I honestly do this myself in the grocery store- pointing to the aisle where we need to go, or making a sign for “drink” if you’re thirsty after keeping the mask on for a long time- being more visual can help with understanding.

4. There’s a lot of jokes going on about facial expressions going out the window when related to non-verbal language because our faces are being covered up now- but there is other non-verbal body language we give off- posture, shrugs, where are hands/arms are, shaking and nodding our heads, etc. We can still communicate with all of these tools to help if there’s a communication breakdown. 

5. Wearing hearing aids/cochlear implants- masks can make it difficult wearing these devices because of the way the bands push your ears- You can secure these devices with wig tape, to try to keep them from falling out- make sure before using any materials that they are safe and will not damage your device. 

6. Make sure you have your communication partner’s attention- Everything is harder when it comes to communicating during social distancing, whether you wear a mask, and/or you are talking 6 feet apart. It is easier when you know your communication partner is focused on you- if they’re distracted, they are more likely going to miss parts of what you are saying. 

7. If you can- make sure you are in a quiet place to talk, parks are outdoors and are typically quieter then if you and your communication partner are walking down a busy road. Our voices are already muffled with the masks- adding extra noise can make it very hard to listen!

Here are our OT tips from Ms. Jen:

1. Try different fabrics. There are many options for safe cloth face coverings made out of different fabrics, so one fabric might work better for your child than another. You can also make a makeshift cloth face-covering out of a material you already know they like. This will help get the kiddo used to wearing something on his/her face before moving to a more secure face covering.

2. Play with the band. Some kiddos will be more sensitive to feeling the band around their ears, while others will be more sensitive to the band that wraps around the back of their head. Try different ways to secure the mask to see what might work best.

3. Tie it tighter (firm and secure, not uncomfortable). Although it might be counter intuitive, a tighter mask that doesn’t slip or move around as much might be more comfortable for a kiddo who is sensitive to light touch. Find a mask that will sit securely over the kiddo’s nose; this might help it stay in one place more consistently.