How clear masks are helping East Tennessee babies and toddlers

A new kind of mask could put your kid at ease.
Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 5:40 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - When facial features and reading lips became covered with face masks at the start of the pandemic, it was a strange feeling. But think about being a young kid and seeing everything change. A new kind of mask could put your kid at ease.

“Going out into the community and seeing individuals with masks was very alarming,” explained Elle Benson, “And so she’d squeeze my hand so tightly and would get so nervous. And when my face was covered she was unable to get the security with a smile from me and those around her. And she became very anxious.”

These clear masks had changed the way Elle Benson’s 4-year-old daughter had reacted to seeing people.

“Having a clear mask allows us as a family to go out and understand that it’s still safe; it’s just new and different,” said Benson.

As a board member for the Association of Infant Mental Health in TN or AIMHI, Benson knew the need was greater than her own family.

“You can still see smiles. It allows the child to still see that they’re safe,” exclaimed Elle.

Members of the Association applied for the Tennessee Cares Act for grants to get clear masks. In the end, 100 childcare centers got them, and it’s made all the difference.

“Beyond just providing the clear mask, they’re providing training and education on that emotional support,” said Benson.

It helped teach babies and toddlers social and emotional cues that a regular mask blocks. For young kids, they can see their teacher’s mouth to learn phonics.

“It is so important to have the clear masks so that they can identify the phonetic sounds of the alphabet,” said Benson.

“It gives those children the ability to learn about their environment, that this is a safe place, or maybe I shouldn’t be doing this, cause you know the look on the lips of mm, mm, mmmm,” explained Kristin Dunn, “They still need to be able to see those things because that’s how they learn, socially how to interact with each other.”

Kristin Dunn works for AIMHI and has a background in early childhood prevention and intervention services.

It’s a new world we’ve been living in and Dunn said using these clear masks made a world of difference.

“This was an opportunity to really secure those early foundations for children for their social, emotional development,” said Dunn.

If you are interested in donating to the fundraising campaign to help more childcare providers get clear face masks, you can click here.

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