How to get your child with autism to wear a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic

May 5, 2020

With the recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation to wear a cloth face covering when in the community, many parents are left wondering “How am I ever going to get my child to wear a mask?” Many children with Autism experience sensory issues, making wearing a mask more difficult. If you think it might be difficult for your child to tolerate wearing a mask, check out the strategies below.

Maggie Imlay

AnswersNow BCBA

With the recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation to wear a cloth face covering when in the community, many parents are left wondering “How am I ever going to get my child to wear a mask?” Many children with Autism experience sensory issues, making wearing a mask more difficult. If you think it might be difficult for your child to tolerate wearing a mask, check out the strategies below.

How to increase the likelihood your child will be willing put a mask on:

  • Consider the type of material your child is most likely to tolerate. Flannel, cotton, surgical mask? 
  • Consider different fastening options and what your child is most likely to tolerate. Loops behind the ears, ties behind the head or neck, or elastic around the back of the head? 
  • If you are making/sewing a cloth face mask, consider using fun material with a pattern that represents your child’s interests (e.g. Disney, trains, spaceships). 
  • Let your child explore/play with the mask before asking them to put it on. 
  • Model for your child how to wear a face mask. Wear your mask while your child is exploring his/hers. 
  • Have your child practice placing the mask on a doll, stuffed animal, or let your child place the mask on you. 
  • Make a game of it!  
  • Pretend you are superheroes who need to put on their masks to save the day. 
  • Play peekaboo and make silly faces. 
  • Explain to your child why they need to wear a mask. Social stories can be a very useful tool. See the YouTube links below:

          Wearing a Mask-A Social Narrative for Children https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgaKLpSxQag

           We Wear Masks, A Social Story About the Coronavirus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnP-uMn6q_U


Strategies to increase the amount of time your child is willing to wear a mask:

  • Model for your child how and when to wear a mask. If you are asking your child to wear a mask, you should be wearing one as well. 
  • When you first introduce the mask, have your child wear it for a short amount of time. It might be helpful to have them do this while engaging in a preferred activity such as watching their favorite television show or playing on the iPad. 
  • Provide reinforcement for wearing the mask (e.g. hugs, high fives, additional iPad time). 
  • Slowly increase the amount of time your child wears the mask and continue to provide reinforcement. 
  • Provide lots of opportunities to practice at home before heading out of the house. 
  • When your child is ready to take a trip out of the house while wearing his/her mask, keep it short.  Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce! 


How to teach your child to put on and wear a mask independently: 

  • In order to teach your child how to put a mask on by themself, you first need to break down the task into smaller steps. This is known as a task analysis. Once you have created your list of steps (task analysis), you can begin teaching your child each step individually or introduce all steps at once. It is often helpful to have pictures that correlate with each step. Below is an example of a visual task analysis that could be used to teach your child to put on his/her own mask. 

Step-by-Step Guide: How to put on your own mask: 

  1. Hold your mask with the blue side facing out and the metal wire at the top.
  1. Hold ear loops using both hands. Might need to shorten loops to fit your child (pictured in photo). 


  1. Pull ear loops over your ears.


  1. Press down on the metal wire to mold it to your nose. It should feel snug. 


  1. Make sure the bottom of the mask is covering your chin and you’re all done! 


  • If your child responds well to learning through video modeling, YouTube can be a great resource. There are an abundance of clips/videos demonstrating how to put on a mask. Always make sure you are screening videos prior to your child watching.  

If you think you may need more help with your child, our BCBAs would love to help. Download the AnswersNow app to schedule a video session or to start talking with a clinician today.

_______________________________________________

Resources:

Autism Little Learners. (n.d.). Home [YouTube Channel]. Wearing a Mask-A Social Narrative for Children. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgaKLpSxQag

We Wear Masks – A Social Story by Dr. Mike 

McGovern, Mike. (n.d.). Home [YouTube Channel]. We Wear Masks, A Social Story about the coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnP-uMn6q_U



You might also like:

Made with ❤️ in Richmond, VA