Mask mandate affecting speech impediments

Shelbie Heath, Jr. Photography Editor

 “It would be easier to overcome a speech impediment if the child wasn’t wearing a mask,” Shannon Walls said. 

Many kids around the world are diagnosed with speech impediments. A speech impediment, also known as a speech disorder, is where an individual does not have the ability to speak fluently or correctly. These individuals have problems with creating and understanding how words are formed, this can lead to communication problems. Having a mild speech impediment can go away on its own but some require speech therapy. Therapy and treatments depend on the type of disorder that you suffer from. 

Having to wear a mask as a child with a speech disorder creates frustration in them because they can’t pronounce words when they cannot see the teacher’s mouth. “It’s going to hold these kids back,” Stacie Downs said. Stacie is a wife and a mother of two children. She works as a substitute teacher for Bullitt County and works with many kids on a daily basis. This was a big change for her as a mother and teacher because she had to deal with the new reality of the world while juggling home life. Stacie has been a sub for nine years and has never seen what she sees now, children falling behind than what was expected of them. ¨There might be some kids that fall in the cracks because they might not have been diagnosed as needing speech because they probably don’t speak up anymore in class,¨ Stacie Downs said.  

Wearing a mask and still learning how to properly talk and form sentences, stops the child from reading how words are formed by lip, mouth, and tongue movements. This can create a negative effect on speech because not having face-to-face communication can fabricate speech cues.

Ways that we could possibly help this problem if the child and teacher wear a transparent mask during school hours. “Transparent masks would, of course, be an advantage should masks be required. Both child and adult would be able to see the movement of the mouth.” This could work but the mumbling and stuttering would still be an issue with the mask on. “I think it would be easier to overcome a speech impediment if the child wasn’t wearing a mask. Even if the adult is wearing one, they would better hear the issue with no mask on the child,” Shannon Walls said.

 Most schools only have one speech teacher and this affects children online because they can barely get to them. When Zoom calls were going on, a child in speech class was only going for about ten minutes a week. They would only be able to attend a speech class for around thirty minutes a month. This would not help because the child is distracted at home, either by watching TV or playing around. 

Being at home your parents learn your language because they are around you more than a teacher or friend. Walls says words incorrectly but Shannon and Travis would understand what he was saying. Walls would have problems pronouncing the letter R in words, an example is that he would try to say “water” but pronounce it “wat.” “Me and Travis would know what he was saying, and we wouldn’t correct him because we would be like, oh he’s saying water, so like we wouldn’t make him try to pronounce what he was trying to say,” Shannon Walls said. 

At school, the teacher would not know what he was saying so they would make him repeat what he said and correct him. During Zoom calls “Teachers may have a hard time understanding what their students are trying to say.” Shannon would have to step in and explain what Eli was trying to say.”But she couldn’t get a word and I would have to step in and be like he’s trying to say this because I’m around him all the time so I can kind of understand what he’s trying to say a little better,”  Shannon said.