In our current pandemic environment, face masks have become an everyday norm. Even as an adult, it can be challenging at time to wear a mask for prolonged periods of time, but these challenges are even greater for the youngest members of the community, especially those with sensory issues.
Here are a few tips that will help all children (and their caregivers) navigate these trying times:
- Model positive practices. Seeing adults in their lives and copying their behavior is important. Have small face masks or covering for dolls/stuffed animals so that all family members (even the inanimate ones!) are involved.
- Use a scented spray or essential oil on a mask (do not apply directly to the skin) to have a pleasant smell; lavender and chamomile also aid in calming.
- Explore different types of masks. Gaiters (a wide tube of fabric worn around the neck instead of over the ears), surgical style (either paper or cloth, with tie back or ear loops), and cloth masks with nose wires all offer protection.
- Masks cover or rub on different body parts. Know how to adjust a mask to resolve common issues.
- Mask is too hot – adapters are available that keep masks off of the mouth, letting more ventilation in.
- Too tight on the nose – pinch nose wires just above the nose, so that the wire is not against the sides of the nose.
- Mask rubs on the back of the ear – use a string or adapter to pull ear loops off of the ear so the tension is on the back of the head; for children who wear glasses; an elastic or large button (watch for choking hazards) can be attached to the arm of the glasses (or to a hat) so ear loops never hit the back of the ear.
- Head – If using a tie-based mask, move the tension to the top of the head or back of the head (depending on the area of concern) to prevent a sore spot or pressure.