As we begin transitioning back to the clinic, you may be worried about how your child (especially a younger one) will be able to participate in speech/language therapy while wearing a mask, or while the Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) is wearing a mask. This is a valid concern, as many clients who attend speech and language therapy work on articulation goals (e.g., specific speech sounds) and benefit from visual cues. Treatment often focuses on correct placement of your speech articulators (tongue, lips, jaw), which are hidden while wearing a face mask/covering!
Young children who are learning language also absorb lots of information about communication while looking at others’ mouths and eyes. Facial expressions provide strong visual cues to help children understand the meaning of messages.
So, with masks here to stay for awhile, how can we continue to support children’s development of speech and language skills? During your child’s in-clinic sessions, the SLP may creatively implement some of the following:
- Taking up-close photos/videos of speech sounds or target words to show your child.
- Use of face shields and plexi-glass dividers, so if a mask is removed temporarily to show speech articulators, there are multiple protective barriers.
- Providing tactile cues (e.g., touching face/tongue/lips) with gloved hands.
- Wearing a face mask with a clear shield in front of the mouth (if available).
Continuing with or starting telehealth therapy services, and practicing in the safety of your own home are excellent, safe options as well! Talk to your child’s SLP about home carryover activities, so you can continue to model for him/her and practice without wearing a mask.
If you are wearing a mask, check out these great tips below from speechsisters.com to improve communication:
- Speak clearly. Make it a point to enunciate words and sentences.
- Exaggerate speech sounds if needed.
- Speak in a slow, unhurried way.
- Decrease background noise if possible.
- Turn up your speaking volume. Use a deep breath to help project your voice.
- Be expressive with your eyes (our eyes show happy, sad, and scared emotions).
- Use gestures or body language to support your verbal message (act out action verbs).
- Show the child objects as you speak about them.
For additional tips on communicating while wearing a mask or social distancing, check out asha.org: https://www.asha.org/public/Communicating-Effectively-While-Wearing-Masks-and-Physical-Distancing/
Just know, we are here to help and provide ideas or creative ways to continue to support your child’s speech and language development!
Marie Harper, MS, CCC-SLP