Over the last couple of months, the world around us has changed significantly. For many of us, our daily routines have been upended and we’ve made adjustments to how we go about day to day activities. Our children, too, have noticed and felt each of these changes.
At Innovative Behavior Options, we want to help you and your family adjust to this new, temporary normal (for tips on handling adjustments to your child’s routine, click here), and part of that adjustment might mean learning to wear a mask. As more and more businesses open back up, you may be venturing out more frequently, and some of these excursions may require wearing a face covering.
Until recently, it was the exception to see people out and about while wearing a mask, and, as with all things new, it may take your child—especially a child with special needs—time to adjust. Here, we’d like to offer a few tips to introduce a face mask to your child with Autism and to help him or her learn to wear one.
Talk with your child
The first step in introducing anything new is always a conversation. Masks are different and they obscure part of a person’s face, so some children may even be worried or scared of them. Give your child a chance to ask questions about masks (why we wear them, what they feel like), and use age-appropriate explanations. It may also help to let your child see you wearing a mask.
Get your child involved
We’ve talked about it here in the past – getting your child involved in a process and letting them have some choice or say can create buy-in and motivation. If you’re buying a mask, show your child some options and let them choose a color or pattern. If you’re making it yourself, find a way to let them help. And if you’re using a disposable paper-style mask, consider letting your child decorate it themselves.
By having a say in the process, your child is likely to be both more motivated to wear the mask and less scared of it.
Make it fun
As adults, we know that wearing face masks is serious and important and the reasons for doing so are anything but fun. But for our kids, masks can be associated with Halloween, being a ninja, or playing doctor. Remember the light-hearted fun of dressing up, and include your child’s face mask in play time. Playing with the mask at home and associating it with fun will make your child more comfortable wearing it when out and about.
And of course, social stories are always a great way to introduce something new to children with Autism! Social stories about wearing a mask can include familiar elements, such as washing hands and doctors’ masks.
At Innovative Behavior Options, we want to provide you with the resources you need to keep your family healthy while continuing to promote independence (click here for a previous blog on advice for caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic). If you have questions about ABA therapy or want to learn more about our in-home ABA services, please give us a call at 770-250-0093.