As students have returned to in-person schooling following the Covid-19 pandemic, a new challenge has arisen: optional or occasional masking in schools. For many students, this is difficult. For most students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, masking can be highly distressing.
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), we place highly qualified therapists in our partnering school districts to support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other disabilities. We are here to help you support students with ASD, so that they can stay safe and adjust to mask wearing in a post-pandemic world. Contact us to find out how we can help the students in your district!
How Do Masks Affect Students With ASD?
According to the Autism Society, ASD is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the U.S. Although people with ASD share certain characteristics, every student is different and exists on a spectrum, like many disabilities.
For students with ASD, masks pose several challenges to interpreting verbal and non-verbal communication and generally engaging in social interactions. This is because masks make it difficult to see facial expressions, which is important to listening to and comprehending speech, language, and emotions.
Along with these difficulties, traditional face masks are often made of scratchy, uncomfortable materials that feature prominent stitches and fit tightly on the face, which can cause students’ glasses to fog up. Since students with ASD have sensory sensitivities, typical masks can also:
- Make it more difficult to speak
- Cause a sense of claustrophobia
- Lead to discomfort around the ears, a highly sensitive area
In addition to these challenges, many students both with and without ASD may not understand why they need to wear a mask in the first place. When taking in these factors, it is no wonder that many students struggle to wear masks in school.
How You Can Help Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Wear Masks in School
If students with ASD in your classroom struggle with mask wearing, there are several things you can do to help them feel more comfortable and adjust more quickly. Some of the options include:
- Demonstrating using the mask on the student’s preferred object or person
- Allowing students with ASD to choose their own mask from a variety of styles and fabrics
- Giving students the opportunity to practice wearing a mask in a sensory room or a location that’s not too stimulating
- Using inclusive and ASD-friendly masks, such as masks from ESSC and Rafi Nova
These are all tactics that our qualified pediatric therapists can use during pull-out sessions, as well as push-in sessions.
Partner With PTS to Support Your Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Today
Help your students with ASD and other disabilities wear masks in a safe, effective, and more comfortable way. Contact PTS today!