Wearing masks, socially distancing from one another, and cancelled playgroups have posed some unique and unprecedented challenges to children who are learning and developing speech. The Coronavirus outbreak has changed all of our lives, but as adults we’ve found ways to adapt. We check for our masks with the rest of the essentials (keys, wallet, phone…) before leaving the house. We Facetime with friends and family more than ever before to stay socially connected. And we Zoom with co-workers to complete our jobs. Kids might need a little extra help from us to develop ways of compensating and continuing to develop some very important social and language skills despite the challenges posed to them since last year. Here are some of those challenges, and most importantly, some ways parents can help!
Challenge #1: Masks prevent kids from seeing our mouths and therefore, how we articulate sounds and words.
Solution: More face-to-face interactions at home!
Since kids rely so heavily on visual cues when learning speech (watching other people’s mouths as they talk), make sure to have lots of unmasked, face to face time during the times it’s available, like at home! You’ll want to do things like eat family meals together and position yourself across from your child sometimes while book reading. If you notice that your child is having trouble pronouncing certain sounds, over-exaggerate those sounds when speaking. You can even try explaining to your child how to move the muscles in his or her mouth to make the sound. For example, for “L”, you can ask your child to try putting his or her tongue up to the roof of their mouth.
Challenge #2: Less social interaction.
Solution: Pretend play!
Cancelled music classes, play groups, and more virtual school means kids may be missing out on that in-person social interaction with peers that is so important to their language and social-emotional development. Help your child learn and develop social rules by engaging in some pretend play with him or her at home! For example, act out a scenario with figurines where they take turns going down a slide, or help one another complete a task.
Challenge #3: Trouble hearing others’ speech under a mask.
Solution: Speak up, over-pronounce, and go to a quiet area.
Wearing a mask can make it difficult for your child to understand your speech when you’re out of the house. To help ensure he or she isn’t missing out on hearing you model words that can be so important for them to add to their vocabulary, use some strategies to compensate! Try speaking a little louder, over-pronouncing words, and moving to a quiet area of a store or getting down to your child’s level.
We’ve all shown that we can adapt to the curveballs that Covid-19 has thrown us. So let’s continue to stay strong and make sure our children continue to grow and learn important language and social skills!
Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist
Proud Member of The Story Box Family