Wearing a mask by daycare educators will have negative consequences on the development and learning of young children, experts say.
• Read also: The pandemic generates “COVID babies”
Paediatricians and speech therapists are sounding the alarm bells for infants and young children in child care.
According to them, wearing a mask is a real “brake” on interaction, communication and, thus, on the general development of the child, while the most important period for language learning is between 0 and 3 years and that it continues until the age of 5.
A document co-signed by three pediatricians and sent to the national director of public health, Horacio Arruda, in June, indicates that it is a “serious matter, which must be urgently taken into account”.
They are also categorical and even go so far as to oppose the wearing of masks in daycare. To date, the co-signers have not received any feedback from Dr Arruda.
Long term repercussions
Specialists say that the longer the mask is worn in child care settings, the greater the learning delays will be in “Covid babies”, including:
- Sounds and speech : some sounds (example: ba, bi, go, vi) are not properly conveyed due to the mask barrier. A developing child who cannot hear them may be delayed at this level.
- Lip reading : toddlers rely on lip reading around the age of 6 months. This is an important element in the development of language. The child learns in particular by imitating the movements of the adult’s mouth.
- Facial expression: by having only the gaze as a reference point, expressions (discontent and disgust, for example) can be confused, which leads to “insecurity” in the child.
“We still have more than a year in this way of life, so the children who learn to speak during that year, we will have difficulties sooner or later and there will be no more speech therapists. they will start school in three or four years, ”warns pediatrician Marie-Claude Roy.
“This problem is not found in the columns of figures for deaths, cases of Covid and hospitalizations, it strikes the imagination less since it is in the long term, but it will catch up with us at the turn. […] It is a more insidious evil which remains nevertheless very disturbing ”, she continues.
In their document, pediatricians believe that wearing masks in daycare centers could affect children’s communication skills.
“In the long run, the mask could explain why children communicate less, why children are less empathetic when they communicate and why their thought process has not been sufficiently enriched by the communication”, we read.
Give preference to transparent masks in daycare
In order to reduce the impact on children’s development, specialists believe that the transparent window mask should be used by all childcare workers, whether private or public.
Last week, the Ministry of the Family granted $ 50 million to help subsidized childcare services put in place health measures, with the aim of limiting the spread of COVID-19.
The ministry confirms to Newspaper that these sums could be used for the purchase of masks with transparent windows.
The procedure to obtain these masks will be sent to daycare services next week, it is claimed.
However, according to pediatricians, wearing a window mask should be preferred in all daycare centers, whether private or public.
“The purse strings have loosened so much on all kinds of things in the last few months, and that shouldn’t be an idea, but an obligation [pour tous les enfants] », Insists pediatrician Marie-Claude Roy.
“Yes, it’s expensive, but I think you can’t afford not to have them,” she continues.
Currently, a single transparent window procedure mask is approved by the Commission des normes, de l’énergie, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) and the Ministry of the Family. This is a single-use model, mandatory in childcare. It is made in the USA by the company Clearmask, but is out of stock. It won’t be available for “a few weeks,” the company says. It also sells for a high price, at US $ 87 for 24 masks.
Soon manufactured by us
With us, the Quebec company Prémont, located in Louiseville, is about to launch its production of transparent window masks. A first in Quebec.
“If all goes well, we will be able to provide some within a month”, specifies the co-owner of the company, Luc Girard. These new masks will retail for nearly two dollars each.
Sensitized to window masks because of his deaf daughter, Mr. Girard admits that the demand is currently “very strong” in Quebec.