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.
- 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.
- See the face mask/ face covering in different places in your house.
- See family members wear their masks/ coverings at home. You can also put it on a favourite doll or stuffed animal.
- Touch the mask/covering with hands.
- Hold the mask/ covering in hands.
- Hold the mask/ covering closer to the face, and even smell it.
- Have the mask/ covering touch the face.
- Let the mask/covering cover the nose and mouth.
- Stretch the mask/ covering around the ears.
- Wear the mask/ covering on the face.
- Practice in different environments.
- Each step may take a different amount of time for the person to be comfortable.
- Provide praise, tickles, tokens, tapping elbows, cheering, or other rewards after each success.
- Caregiver wears face mask/ face covering and announces a fun activity.
- Create a rule. (e.g. “When we go on the swing, you should try to look like me.”)
- Offer the mask/ covering. Without pleading or asking, re-state the rule.
- Give recognition/praise for “looking like me” and “following the rule.”
- 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.”
- 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.
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.
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.
Supporting and reassuring children around the world