West Seattle Blog… | Subject: View of the speech therapist – LET’S FINISH THE MANDATE OF THE SCHOOL MASK AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

Hello, I started the other channel and I want to continue this discussion. My dear friend is a speech therapist and wrote this thoughtful letter that we are trying to get out to the public. I also advise you to read this article published today: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/kids-masks-schools-weak-science/621133/?utm_content=edit-promo&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=the-atlantic&utm_source=twitter&utm_term=2022-01-26T13 %3A25%3A59&s=01

From a local speech-language pathologist who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of the backlash she will get for voicing some very valid and logical concerns:

I am writing to express my serious concerns about the indefinite orders for young children to wear face masks to participate in society. I’m writing as the parent of a 4-year-old currently enrolled in preschool who needs it (as well as a newborn son who I hope will never have to wear it). Additionally, I write as a licensed school-based speech-language pathologist, with concerns about the effects of prolonged facial covering on children’s speech, language, and social development.

First, please note that the United States, and in particular King County/Washington State, is an exception in our approach to masking children. Consider that the World Health Organization does not recommend masks before age 6, and only selectively for children up to age 11. Many countries do not mandate or even recommend masks for children under 12. Consider that many parts of our own country do not mask school children. of any age, instead instituting an optional masking policy.

Even if our current mask policies were clearly beneficial in protecting children from infection and preventing transmission (which is unlikely, given the paucity of actual evidence of cloth masks in the best [e.g. worn properly, not soaked in saliva as children’s often are]), we have done a terrible job of calculating the benefit/cost ratio of such a policy. While we thought kids might wear masks for 2 weeks, or 2 months, maybe it’s forgivable that we didn’t do that analysis. But we have now reached the 2-year milestone of this pandemic, without any serious analysis of whether or not masking children has a net positive, and without any explicit “ramping out” metrics; how long are we going to subject the children to these measures? We have reached a point in the pandemic where it no longer makes sense to pursue untested mitigation measures without considering the downsides.

We have to ask ourselves, why are we still masking children? Is it to protect them from Covid? If so, it is more than clear that Covid poses a surprisingly low risk to children; this is especially true of the now dominant Omicron variant in our region. Is it to protect the adults around them? If so, remember that vaccines and boosters are effective against serious illnesses and are free/available to anyone who wants them. Is it to reduce community spread? If so, please see studies that show actual use of cloth masks is ineffective in significantly reducing transmission (in adults; children are even less likely to wear them correctly). Why can adults spend hours unmasked in restaurants, bars and sporting events, when we have children masked for hours during their most crucial developmental years?

Now consider all the possible downsides of forcing children to wear masks for hours on end, in school and in the community, including effects on speech/language development, socialization, mental health, health physics, etc

As a speech therapist in local schools, I am absolutely baffled as to how to provide meaningful speech therapy to children when neither of us can see the other’s mouth. How do they learn a sound when they can’t see a competent speaker modeling it? Now consider an entire generation of children who may be at greater risk for speech and language delays simply because they have been denied copious modeling due to universal face masking. As a speech-language pathologist, I also treat social communication disorders, which include difficulties with social aspects such as non-verbal communication (facial expressions, eye contact, body language) and interaction with peers (turning, answer the questions). Humans are deeply social creatures and we have evolved to communicate so much non-verbally. We now have a generation of children who rarely see the faces of their peers, can often misunderstand their peers; tone of speech, etc. Regarding physical health, could children’s wet cloth masks harbor microorganisms harmful to their health? Could this cause them to touch their faces more often, spreading more other diseases? Could it restrict oxygenation in any way when worn for hours?

Finally, two anecdotes to illustrate the impact on my son’s socio-emotional learning at school:
1. We were talking about masks and my son chimed in, “You know what’s silly? When they take our picture at school, they tell us to smile but it’s silly because they don’t see our mouth.
2. When the class photos were taken and distributed, my son could not recognize any of the people in the photo. He had only seen them masked for months.

I think as a society we have completely failed to properly calculate the cost-benefit analysis of mitigation strategies for our children. It may be easy to say in hindsight, but we have the opportunity to change in the future.
I do not intend to trivialize the seriousness of this pandemic, nor the risks for certain populations, nor the children who have fallen ill and even died tragically from this disease. But it is short-sighted and damaging to focus on these risks without also thinking about all the other damage caused by our mitigation efforts. This email alone may be inconsequential in making decisions for our preschool, city, county, or state, but I can’t live with myself anymore without trying to make a difference for my kids. And the others. I expect policy makers to say, “It’s not up to us / It’s from the board of health / It’s from the governor / We’re waiting for official guidance” – to them I say history is none of the business well those who only follow orders. How long are you going to wait to stand up for our children on your own? Please be brave, be logical, be compassionate towards the children who have already lost a part of their fleeting childhood forever because of the efforts of adults to keep them “safe”.

Thank you – please speak to local politicians so we can end this mandate as soon as possible.

Jessica C. Bell