How to Help Someone With a Disability Wear a Face Mask

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — June 30, 2020 — 3 min read
On June 26, an executive order went into effect that made wearing a mask in public a statewide requirement except for children under the age of 11 and those with special medical conditions, which include:
  • People who have breathing problems
  • People who cannot remove their own mask without help
As the caregiver of someone who has an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), you might be wondering if this means your loved one will have to wear a mask. First, check with your loved one’s doctor about whether they are required to wear a mask according to this new statewide executive order.

If your child or loved one cannot remove their own mask without your help, this means they are not required to wear a mask. However, if they can, or if you decide for their safety that they should wear a mask (those with IDD are high risk for COVID-19), getting them to wear a mask may be tricky.

Strategies to Make Wearing a Mask Easier

Schedule and routine can be very important to those diagnosed with IDD. Here are some ways to help your loved one cope with wearing a mask:

Talk to your loved one and explain the purpose of the face mask.

Have a developmentally appropriate discussion with them about why they must wear a mask. Use clear language like:
  • “Masks keep us safe from getting germs. Masks keep others safe from getting our germs.”
  • “When you wear your mask, you are being thoughtful to other people.”

Model the behavior.

When you go out, even if you don’t go with your loved one, put on your mask in front of them. Make sure they see that you are making it a habit when you leave the house.

Use a social story or online tools to explain why masks are important.

There are materials coming out that help parents explain why wearing a mask is a good thing. Here are a few:

Get your child or loved one used to the mask.

Start off by giving them the mask to touch and hold. Let them see what the fabric feels like against their face and what the ear bands feel like on their ears. Let them take time to put it on themselves.

Practice wearing the mask for short amounts of time.

Once they are ready to put the mask on, start by having them wear it for a few minutes. Then allow them to take a break. You can increase the time worn as they become more comfortable.

Use “if-then” language.

For example, say, “If we are going to the store, then we must wear our face masks.”

Add it to the daily routine.

Choose a step in your loved one’s routine to add putting on their mask. If before leaving the house to go on a walk they always put on their shoes, have them put on their mask as a final step.

Mix it up.

Make sure that they get used to wearing several different masks in case their first choice isn’t available or is in the laundry.

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