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Speech and language instructors noticed negative effects of mask wearing



Little Rock, Arkansas — While some people say the pandemic is over, others say it will never be over, and one thing is sure, mask-wearing has become a new normal.

“When it first started, I was definitely concerned with me being able to provide appropriate therapy services for children,” said Charity Avery, an instructor of Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “I treat children from birth to 21, and obviously with those kids developing language, my concern was I need them to see my mouth. I need them to hear me appropriately. I need them to see all of my visual cues.”

According to Avery, mask-wearing was essential for health, when COVID-19 reared its head.

“Obviously we want to keep everybody safe, and we don’t want people to get sick, so that was the thing we took into consideration first and foremost. But my clinical brain was definitely worried about what were the potential ramifications from masking,” said Avery.

The ramifications are now showing. “When we’re looking at child development, the CDC provides guidelines that physicians can look at, parents can look at, to determine if their child is developing in a typical fashion,” said Avery.

Lowering the guidelines, the CDC recently changed the milestones for children between 15 and 30 months.

“So what it’s done, is it’s made early intervention potentially start later for kids when in reality, it really needs to start earlier,” said Avery. “It is potentially telling families, my child doesn’t need to do this till a later age, but when they get to school, the same expectations are there. They are still in Kindergarten and going to be required to start reading when they are now not required to start talking till 30 months. They have changed some of these guidelines, but in reality, the guidelines for education have not changed, and will not change. The expectations are still high.”

This has caused a burden on educators, who want to make sure children are learning at least at grade level.

“I know that teachers are struggling and I know that the expectations are not being taken off them. If the expectations are going to change for development, and what we get to treat from this early standpoint, it’s going to be harder for teachers,” said Avery.

We’re told the focus now shifts to parents, asking them to step up and help educate children, if they aren’t already. “It’s just simplistic. It’s giving them one word and having them repeat it. It’s making them try to verbalize and request a drink. If they are thirsty, and you know they are just pointing, make them say juice, or cup, or something, just attempt,” said Avery.

For those who need assistance getting their child to speak and say words properly, there’s a free therapy program available to provide extra support and intervention.

The program is available for aged birth to 3-years-old.