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Masking for children with autism

Ellen Lengyell, autism spectrum disorder consultant with McMaster Children’s Hospital at the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre

We are all living with a new reality due to COVID-19, with lots of changes to our daily lives and routines.

One of the biggest changes is a requirement for us to wear face masks when we’re out in public spaces.

Children with autism may find it particularly difficult to wear a face mask. I’m going to provide you with some helpful tips to help your child get ready for school by becoming successful at wearing a face mask.

Talk about masks

If your child is able to understand your verbal instruction, the first thing that you can do to support your child is to talk about it. Discuss the reasons why it’s important to wear a face mask. For example, masks help to keep us healthy and safe, masks help to stop the spread of COVID-19.

You could also read a social narrative to your child to teach them about wearing a mask.

Personalize masks

Consider involving your child in personalizing their own masks that they will be wearing at school by decorating it. For example, a space mask or a dinosaur mask. This may help motivate them to put it on and keep it on over time.

Use an illustration or video

Many children with autism are visual learners, so modeling or showing them a visual or a video that demonstrates the proper way to wear a mask, over the nose, mouth and chin can be very helpful. Here is an example.

Wearing a mask is a new life skill that will help keep your child and others safe and healthy.