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Wearing a mask is part of our “new normal” lately. Not only can they feel slightly uncomfortable, but wearing a mask can especially pose specific challenges to children with communication difficulties. As some communities begin to re-open, children may need to communicate with you and others while wearing a mask in places like the park or grocery store. Some kids may go back to school in a few weeks. 

Say What?

Do you find yourself asking other people to repeat themselves more now that we’re all wearing masks in most public places? You’re not alone. 

Wearing a mask can make someone’s speech sound quieter and muffled. When we listen to one another, we typically watch the person’s mouth as they talk. Having that visual taken away can make it more difficult to understand somebody.  It’s also more difficult to understand someone’s emotions when we can’t fully read their facial expressions. 

How to Help

Luckily, we can teach our kids some simple strategies that can help us and others understand their speech better while wearing a mask.

1. Speak Up. Encourage your child to speak louder.

2. Slow Down. Because speech can sound muffled while wearing a mask, talk to your child about how slowing down and pausing between sentences can help other people understand them. 

3. Over-pronounce. Practice over-pronouncing words while at home with your child. Show them how you can really “pop” your lips to make a “P” sound in the word “pig”. Or really push their tongue up to the roof of their mouth to make an “L” sound in the word “like”. 

4. Act it Out. Ask your child to use gestures or point to objects as they talk to help their message become clearer. If they are talking about something big, they can open their arms wide. 

5. A Quiet Place. If it’s possible, move to somewhere a little quieter. Reducing background noise can help your child’s speech sound clearer. 

The truth is that wearing a mask is a necessary now. And while it may feel anything but normal, it’s something we’ll likely need to do for a longer. By teaching your child a few easy tips for making their speech sound clearer while wearing a mask, you and others can understand them better and it can reduce some frustration they might experience while communicating. Here’s to settling in with our new normal! 

Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist

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