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Coronavirus Resource

Reducing Challenges in Wearing Face Masks/ Face Coverings

As the guidance for wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks/ face coverings continues to evolve,
we appreciate that some children and young people who are Neurodiverse may find this difficult for a number of different reasons.
Here are some ideas of how you may be able to help make wearing a face mask/ face covering a more positive experience for a child or young person.

General Tips:

  • Begin practising wearing the face mask/ face covering as soon as possible to help make it as positive as possible.
  • Look for fabrics, textures, and colours/patterns they will tolerate and prefer.
  • Use a “visual timer” technique. Put a timer on and wear a mask/ covering alongside them. Incrementally increase the time to get used to the feeling.
  • Give a reward for practising wearing the mask/ covering at home. For example, allow screen time while wearing the mask.
  • Help them feel more comfortable observing others wearing masks/coverings, including YouTube videos.
  • Include them in making the mask/ covering or decorating it.

Graduated Steps for Face Mask/ Face Covering Use:

  1. See the face mask/ face covering in different places in your house.
  2. See family members wear their masks/ coverings at home. You can also put it on a favourite doll or stuffed animal.
  3. Touch the mask/covering with hands.
  4. Hold the mask/ covering in hands.
  5. Hold the mask/ covering closer to the face, and even smell it.
  6. Have the mask/ covering touch the face.
  7. Let the mask/covering cover the nose and mouth.
  8. Stretch the mask/ covering around the ears.
  9. Wear the mask/ covering on the face.
  10. Practice in different environments.
  11. Each step may take a different amount of time for the person to be comfortable.
  12. Provide praise, tickles, tokens, tapping elbows, cheering, or other rewards after each success.

Incorporating Rules for Face Mask/ Face Covering Use:

  1. Caregiver wears face mask/ face covering and announces a fun activity.
  2. Create a rule. (e.g. “When we go on the swing, you should try to look like me.”)
  3. Offer the mask/ covering. Without pleading or asking, re-state the rule.
  4. Give recognition/praise for “looking like me” and “following the rule.”
  5. Be positive so the mask doesn’t become associated with punishment. Try, “When your mask/ covering is on, we can go.” Try not to use, “If you don’t wear a mask/ covering, you can’t play.”
  6. This is a rule for everyone when learning to wear a mask/ covering and when wearing a mask/ covering in public places. Caregivers need to keep their masks/ coverings on in order to be the model.

Social Distancing
Keeping at least 2 metres apart is one way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. But what does 2 metres look like? Using visual cues may help to explain this to a child or young person. For example, using: 2 hula hoops; the length of a double bed; or about twice the arm span of an average child. Measure off in the garden or room to practice. Playing games like ‘red light, green light’ may also help for a child to practice keeping 2 metres apart from somebody else.

Hand Washing
Visual supports with sequential steps are a great way of encouraging a child or young person to wash their hands. There are a range of visual resources available online, such as on the websites listed below.

 The National Autistic Society’s Coronavirus page:

National Autistic Society’s Coronavirus

 Resources made by Sheffield Children’s Hospital:

Sheffield Children’s NHS

A short book explaining Coronavirus to children: #COVIBOOK
Supporting and reassuring children around the world


Resources from Specialist Training in Autism and Raising standards (‘STARS’)

Star Team