Masks CAN Affect a Child’s Language Development

Masks CAN Affect a Child’s Language Development

Masks CAN Affect a Child’s Language Development

Kids are going to school, preschool, and even day care wearing masks. Not only that, but they see their teachers and caregivers wearing them, too. Which leads many parents to worry if this will affect language development.


Don’t Worry About It, Mama

Not to worry, said an article at a website sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Just chill, mama, there’s little to worry about:

“While this is a natural concern, there is no known evidence that use of face masks interferes with speech and language development or social communication. Plus, children can still get plenty of face time at home with mask-free family members.”

Ah, “no known evidence.” Those are weasel words that professionals use when they don’t know the real answer. The reason why there is “no known evidence” is because no studies exist which have determined if masks can keep very young children from learning to communicate. But that doesn’t mean they’re not hurting some kids.


Yes, Masks Can Cause Communication Delays

Jaclyn Theek, a speech-language pathologist in south Florida, says she’s seen a big jump in referrals to her clinic for delays in language. And this is among the tiniest of patients — babies and toddlers. In fact, Theek said that before the pandemic, about 5% of her clients were in that age range; now it’s about 20%. She also says that “We’ve seen a 364% patient increase in patient referrals of babies and toddlers from pediatricians and parents.”

So is this increase due to masks? In an interview with a West Palm Beach TV station, Theek couched her words carefully, also saying that there are no studies which say so. However, she added:

“There’s no research out there yet saying that this could be causing speech and language delays. But, most definitely, I’m sure it’s a factor. It’s very important that kids do see your face to learn, so they’re watching your mouth.”

She also said that her clinic is also seeing a lot of autism-like behaviors:

“We are seeing a lot of things that look like autism. They’re not making any word attempts. And not communicating at all with their family.”

Masks Can Also Block Social Cues

Blocking a baby or toddler’s view of an adult’s mouth doesn’t only risk their sound and word development. It can also impair their ability to judge social cues through expressions, which we then use to regulate our emotions.

Think about how your own face looks when you’re happy or sad, surprised or angry. Now think about how much your mouth figures into that expression. And consider that if a baby or toddler attends daycare for hours at a time, they’re losing these important early lessons in communication.

Dr. Vinay Prasad of the University of California, San Francisco, shredded an op-ed in the New York Times which told parents that nah, your kids don’t need to see faces. All they need to see are the eyes. Masks on kids and teachers? It’s all good!

Not only that, but a 2010 study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found that while children know a “happy” face by the age of five, it takes another five years at least to comprehend other facial expressions.

“The results indicate that there is a slow development of sensitivity to the expression of all basic emotions except happy. This slow development may impact children’s social and cognitive development by limiting their sensitivity to subtle expressions of disapproval or disappointment.”

Now, just imagine how constantly covering these facial cues have affected children for the past two years. Some kids most negatively affected by masks that hide expressions are those on the autism spectrum. Many of them are severely limited in their ability to read social cues during the best of times, and often have severe delays in language, too. They’re at great risk for being unable to adequately communicate with others.

But if we don’t all wear masks we’re gonna die from Covid!


Speaking as a Speech-Language Pathologist

As a speech-language pathologist (SLP) myself, I’ve worked for decades in all sorts of settings: schools, hospitals, clinics, and Head Start programs. I’m no longer working, but before I hung up my spurs I subcontracted part-time to a local agency. While I didn’t have the large caseload that a full time SLP does, I also had to deal with the mask issue among my preschool and school-age speech patients.

The biggest problem with masks for those in my profession is, of course, the fact that kids can’t see your mouth. How can you demonstrate, for example, the position the tongue must make to achieve the S or L-sounds? Or how we use teeth to make F, or TH? I had to cheat a time or two by briefly pulling down my mask at one Montessori school which required I wear one.

So imaginative speech pathologists have come up with the see-through mask. Ingenious!


Screenshot: Twitter.

Except that these masks don’t always perform as advertised, as one SLP found.

Did you notice a couple of problems with those masks? One, they still fit loosely and allowed the SLP’s breath to leak out. And, they fogged up! These things look creepy and unnatural, too.

And . . .they’re not cheap, either. One “face-shield mask hybrid” goes for almost $35 a pop for a single mask. But if you buy them in bulk you can get them for the low, low, price of $19.30 each for 25 or more. Tell me — what daycare or preschool will spring that kind of money for their staff?

Plus, they still fog up, according to the company. And they give this disclaimer, too:



We Don’t Need No Stinking Masks

Despite all the political brouhaha over masks in schools and daycares, the dirty little secret is thisThey don’t work. Almost 40% of our school-age kids wear masks every day to school. Yet in a comparison between states that mandate masks and those that don’t, both groups have similar trends in Covid cases — they go up and down together. In fact, those that don’t demand masks have lower case rates.

The proportion of positive Covid pediatric tests from ages 0-17 are also similar between these states, despite seasonality. Plus, Covid pediatric hospitalizations in states that require masks average about 4.23 per 100,000; in states that don’t require them, it’s about 4.9 per 100,000. These numbers are almost identical. Then consider, too, how extremely small this rate is to begin with.

Yet the CDC, media fear mongers, and teachers’ unions (don’t get me started on them!) say that if our little ones don’t wear face coverings then everyone will be in peril from Covid. Even though studies show that Covid is rarely a threat to kids, who are unlikely to spread it to their teachers.

But many of those in authority are willing to risk children’s communication development in order to placate adults’ overwrought fears. The kids aren’t alright. And lots of grownups don’t give a damn.


Featured image: Nik Anderson/ BY 2.0.


Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

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  • Deanna Fisher says:

    Brava, Kim!

    We are going to be reaping the whirlwind when it comes to interpersonal communication among young kids. I am so grateful that our private SLP has steadfastly kept her face unmasked in working with my boys, because it was BEST FOR THEM.

    • Kim Hirsch says:

      Thanks, Deanna. I’m glad your SLP is putting your son first. Covid is showing us that too many members of teachers unions really don’t care about kids all that much.

    • NTSOG says:

      I’m now retired, but in the 40 years I worked with autistic children and adults professionally I always insisted they ‘Look at me!’ and pointed to my face specifically. I would not continue with the educational content of the program until they did – often reluctantly at first – actually look at my face and thus Me as a person, not an object. Learning to look at the faces of other humans is critical, but not a natural thing for autistics to do. My parents always demanded that my brother and I look at them, i.e. their faces, politely in teaching good ‘manners’, though back in the 1950s no one knew about smart little autistic children such as I and my brother. People did expect [much like the parents of Temple Grandin who taught her what she called ‘Miss Manners lessons’] that children learn and practise polite manners. In learning to act with polite manners autistic children also learned to communicate more clearly with others and read and understand the facial communication of others better. The present occlusion of an important part of the face [mouth] with masks is going to have a hindering effect on the social-communication of little autistic children. Some children will also have difficulty recognising known masked people if and when mask wearing ceases to be the norm and will have to ‘re-learn’ those people once unmasked.

    • Scott says:

      This is NOT accidental, it is INTENTIONAL! The left is trying to raise a class of serfs, unable to function on their own, and dependent on the govt. for everything. This is just one more step on that road.

  • NTSOG says:

    I find wearing a mask restricts breathing and is very uncomfortable to the point that I have come to understand what it must be like to have[mild asthma. I also find that, since I am autistic, my ability to process the communication of others who are wearing masks is affected as I, like many who are autistic, lip read. I don’t like to look at the faces of others in general and hate making eye contact, but know that I need to listen and understand their possible important verbal communication. The movement of the mouths of others as they speak to me [in normal unmasked times] is critical to me and I usually focus on people’s mouths. Masks make it harder, but, being immune compromised and elderly, I have to wear them and will not go near others who don’t wear them.

  • Deborah B. says:

    Thank you, Kim! I was a substitute teacher for 10 years. Our county had 2 hearing impaired programs integrated with our local elementary schools. I worked with the ASL school (wonderful experience), The other school had the program that was primarily lip reading. I have wondered frequently how they have managed over these past 2 years.
    As I am also a nurse I have had many hearing impaired patients. Even if they sign or have cochlear implants or hearing aids, they always watched my mouth and face for clues. This cruel and unnecessary exercise in governmental tyranny further marginalized and isolated those who were most vulnerable.

  • Russ Wood says:

    In South Africa, I’m legally obliged to wear a mask in stores – otherwise both I AND the store manager may be arrested! I’m mildly asthmatic, and even a simple mask impedes breathing. And I regret not being able to smile at people I’m greeting! My wife reckons that it’s because it’s impeding my “old man twinkle’ at pretty girls!

  • […] It’s all been theater for the gullible masses. Never forget what they did to your children. Their education, their mental health and their speech development. […]

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