Increasing Your Child’s Tolerance for Mask Wearing
Guest Authored By Ashley M, MS, OTR/L
Mask wearing during this time is essential for our children to navigate and participate in their daily life activities. However, mask wearing for kiddos with sensory challenges can be difficult. It may take them more exposure and trials to be able to tolerate a mask such that they are more fully and safely able to engage in community activities such as trips to the doctor, dentist, or attending school.
Here are a few tips to help you as you continue to support your child to build their tolerance for mask wearing:
Empathize with your child. Masks are uncomfortable, most especially for our kiddos with sensory challenges. Acknowledge this discomfort, allow your child to express their concerns. Let them know that you are there to help them get used to it.
Use a social story. Using a social story is a great way to explain why mask wearingis important. Make sure to use child friendly language so that they can better understand how masks keep them and others safe and healthy.
Use masks during play. Incorporating masks into play is a great way to get your child interacting with a mask. Have your child practice putting on/taking off a mask on a stuffed animal or doll. As tolerance for play with the mask increases, have them pretend to be a doctor, vet, nurse, firefighter.
Offer Choice. There are so many options for masks including different styles, colors, designs, and textures. Trial different kinds of masks to see what feels most comfortable for your child. Don’t forget to include them in the selection process, as they may be more motivated to wear something that shows off their personal style.
Use positive Praise! Praise your child for small wins. “You did a great job wearing your mask!” It’s such a simple phrase that can go a long way in motivating your child to keep up the good work.
Graduate Exposure Step-by-Step. It is important to create the just right challenge for your child as they work to increase their tolerance for mask wearing. Below are a few steps you can take to support your child through the process.
Interact with the mask. At this step your child is exploring the mask. They can hold it, feel its different parts, and talk about the different parts. You can even make a fun craft out of it and have your child draw on the mask.
Bring the mask up to face. At this step your child only needs to bring the mask up to their face without securing it to their head/ears. You might come up with a fun game such taking turns talking, making funny noises, or telling jokes, where only the person with a mask can speak!
Put the mask on. At this step your child may put the mask on completely and take it off immediately after.
Wear themask for a specific period of time. During this step it is important to start small and build uptime. Start for several seconds at a time and build it up to minutes. Use a timer so that your child can understand what is expected. Use play, dance (such as freeze dance), or other activities to keep your child occupied during this time.
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