As Director of Sunny Days Sunshine Center, and a parent of three children, I know how hard it is to get your child to wear a face mask during this time. Either they are too young to understand, they do not like the way it feels, or they just outright refuse to even try it. I completely get how frustrating this can be for both you and your child. I also understand that as a parent we want to make sure we are protecting our children and want them to be safe. In addition to being the Director and a parent, I am also a board certified behavior analyst at the Doctorate level. My hope is that some of the ideas I share below will help your child become more comfortable with wearing a face mask. The key: Make it fun, don’t expect too much up front, and always reinforce!
1. Have your child create, decorate, or choose their own mask.
Have your child create, decorate, or choose their own mask. If the mask is something they are interested in, they may be more inclined to want to wear it. For example, if your child loves trains, see if you can get a train mask.
2. Reinforcement is key.
Once you get the mask, allow the child to play with it and get used to it in the house or on the driveway before being in the community with it. Even if the child puts the mask on for even 30 seconds you want to provide your child with reinforcement. The reinforcement must be something that is very motivating to them. It can be a piece of candy, a special book, a special tv show, whatever is going to motivate your child to want to wear the mask. The goal is to get the child to wear the mask more and more each time and the only way to do that is to provide the child with something that is reinforcing to them!
3. Be consistent.
Make sure you are consistent and follow through. The child needs to know that any time you leave the house or anytime you have to get out of the car to be in the community the mask must be put on. Make sure you have the reinforcers on hand so as soon as you get back to the house or back in the car the child can be reinforced.
4. Start small.
Do not expect your child to go into the community and leave their mask on for an hour. Start small and build from there. Maybe the first time you require the mask you go to the post office and just get out of your car to walk to the mailbox they have outside. Then the next time you go somewhere that would require your child to wear the mask for 5 minutes, then after that 10 minutes and so forth.
Again, the key is to be make it fun, be consistent, follow through, and reinforce!
Have additional questions regarding masks, sensory challenges, or the developmental services we offer? Contact us here.
As Director of Sunny Days Sunshine Center, Dr. Lindsay Hilsen brings close to 20 years of experience with early childhood intervention and autism to the position. Lindsay received her Doctorate in Special Education through Nova Southeastern University. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the doctoral level (BCBA-D) who holds two masters in Special Education and Education, as well as a certified NJ special education teacher and elementary education teacher. She is also the author of two Autism Curriculums: A Step-By-Step Curriculum for Early Learners with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and A Step-By-Step ABA Curriculum for Young Learners (ages 3-10) with Autism Spectrum Disorders.