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Agency works on mask wearing with children on autism spectrum

Technicians stress consistency and compassion
Posted at 5:53 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 17:53:16-04

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Mask-wearing is something that takes getting used to, and one segment of our population is working extra hard to wear them effectively.

6-year-old Justin is working with Guerlancia Bernard, a registered behavior technician. She worked with children on the autism spectrum about the difficulties that come with mask wearing. Specifically for kids who experience sensory sensitivity.

“It’s just very difficult to keep it on, due to them not being comfortable, not being used to having the mask on,” she explained. “It’s definitely something new for everyone, especially the autism population.”

She said the key is consistency.

“Without that consistency, they are not able to understand why they are doing it,” said Bernard. “Providing them with social stories, along with games to make it fun for them is the proper way to go about teaching them how to wear their mask.”

Yazmin Rodrigues said she has taken part in parent training to help learn teaching techniques. She said he models now after seeing his family wear masks.

“We put it on around the house,” she said. “At the beginning, it was a bit hard…He doesn’t like to have anything on his face.”

Some parents and professionals are asking for compassion for their children, saying it is not easy for some to learn.

“Parents are getting a lot of phone calls that your child refused to wear the mask, but not knowing that it’s not because they refuse to wear the mask, but maybe it could be the sensory issues or other key factors,” said Widline Pierre, the head of the Living Soul Agency, which provides behavioral therapy for individuals with autism throughout South Florida.

Pierre stressed the importance of parent and teacher training.

“It’s going to be hard at first, but constant redirection of pulling the mask, reminding them constantly, and also pre-warning works very well with any individual on the spectrum,” she said.

“We know with our children and the population we are in, they don’t have the capacity to know how important it is,” said Bernard. “We are just doing our best to get them to understand at their level to know how important it is.”