Lake Norman Woman February 2022

Page 52

Again, while there is still debate about just how much effect masks are having on developing youth (and others), here are a few issues to consider:



in a Pandemic …


yes, but what else are they doing? There is controversy surrounding the topic when it comes to the impact on young children learning to talk. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists are well positioned to extend their reach in the face of communication struggles and questions posed by facial masks. The potential for harm does not always translate into actual harm but I think most would agree that blocking half of the human face dehumanizes us to some degree and hides some vital facial expressions. M A S K S A R E H E L P I N G P R E V E N T T H E S P R E A D O F C O V I D,

There are sensitive periods in which speech and language development and social-emotional development occur in young children. At birth, babies learn how to communicate by staring at faces of their parents’, watching their mouths, listening to their voices, and trying to respond. This is how they learn to talk. Babies watch and listen before they begin to truly babble and then imitate and use words. These milestones are building blocks and lay the foundation for evolving speech and language and effective communication. The loving adults smile and coo back to the baby as the reciprocity of human communication continues.

Tips to Better Communication While Wearing a Facemask:


Marianne Umphlett is an ASHA-certified, NC-licensed speech-language pathologist and owner of LKN SpeechLanguage Pathology located at 126 S. Main Street, Suite 2A (above Main Street Books) in Davidson. Connect with Marianne and her team at 704.641.0338,, or via






Do masks interfere with speech and language development?

Yes, if a young child is not exposed to a full human face smiling, talking, cooing, and interacting with them most of the time, development can be affected. Is mandatory masking of school children a bad idea?

Obviously there is much controversy over this, but I have seen it negatively impact some children; especially those with speech and language impairment, hearing impairment, learning disabilities, and/or ADHD. Are sounds muffled and occluded behind a mask? Yes,

consonants cannot be heard as clearly and the decibel reduction from masks ranges from 3-12 depending on the type of mask worn. The lips and 50 percent of the facial expression are hidden so it impacts what is seen and what is heard.

• At home, spend quality time talking and playing with your young child in normal everyday routines without a mask allowing them to fully see all your face and expressions.

• Wear a clear mask or shield as often as you can so that children and adults can read your lips and read your facial expressions.

• When wearing a mask, face the person directly and make sure they are looking at you. • When wearing a mask, speak slowly and slightly louder, but do not shout. • Use your hands, body language, and changes in the tone of your voice to add more information to speech that is masked. • Reduce the background noise and distractions. w WRITER MARIANNE UMPHLETT

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