Children know best — except when it comes to masks, apparently
The World Health Organization declared a COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020. Nearly three years later, some still behave as if a heightened state of fear should be the norm.
Demanding that children be masked , for example, disregards the data and places them in harm’s way both socially and developmentally. But this is exactly what the federal government is encouraging for the most vulnerable among us.
The federal government’s Head Start Early Childhood Learning Knowledge Center website has a page dedicated to masking guidelines. Among other things, they include tips for helping children learn to mask. Aside from any mention of the vaccine included on the page, the entire thing could be pulled straight from 2020.
One tip reads: “When children are eating, brushing teeth, or napping, store their masks in a paper bag or breathable container labeled with their name.” According to the federal government, children should be wearing masks a majority of the time, even during play, school, and other interpersonal interactions. Another line reads: “Mask wearing is an emerging skill.” But the worst addition to the site is a link to a Sesame Street video titled “Fluffster Wears a Mask.”
In the video, a puppet named Julia is with her bunny named Fluffster. Both are wearing masks. The character of Julia, meant to be a 4-year-old, is agitated because she’s autistic and wearing a mask is confusing, constricting, and difficult. In the short segment, Julia’s father is speaking to her from another location and encouraging her to give the mask a try. Julia is flustered, and rightly so. She refuses to wear her mask multiple times.
The video caption says the following: “Many children with autism are especially sensitive to texture, making mask-wearing especially challenging. To help ease their experience, put a mask on yourself, and remind children: Practicing wearing a mask can make it easier. The more we practice, the easier it can be.”
Did I mention Julia is preparing to go outside? To a park?
There is no reason whatsoever to do this to children of any skill level. That a government website is encouraging not only regular “emerging skill” mask-wearing among all children but also those who have autism is nothing short of abhorrent. There is no logical reason to promote or continue this kind of instruction.
The reason such measures exist is because adults in power seek to assert their influence over everyone, even when science and common sense are in direct contrast with them and their missions. And children are caught in the crossfire.
According to the very bottom of the Head Start site, the last update to the guidelines page occurred on Feb. 10. There seems to be no interest in removing the type of guidelines that treat the world as it was before vaccines existed, when the infection rate was soaring. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it clear that it does not want to revise the earlier guidance to reflect how things are in 2023. It also seems to care little about the temporary and permanent damage to children as a result of unnecessary masking.
As a parent, I have seen firsthand how masks can limit a child’s development. My oldest son does not have autism but does have an expressive speech delay. During the 2021-2022 school year, he was in kindergarten and receiving regular speech therapy during the week. It was not until the end of February 2022 that masks became optional in his school district.
While he made some progress in the months leading up to that date, the improvement in his speech from that moment on has been nothing short of astounding. Removing the barrier so he could work on his communication and in turn see and better hear others communicate was key. The federal government is not only encouraging this kind of restriction but is doing so when every factor stands opposite it and its drastic regulations.
There is nothing precautionary about directing children to mask when they are least likely to get COVID-19. Adults who live in fear of getting the virus are more than welcome to mask, vaccinate, boost, and stay away from crowds of people. It is not the job of children, who need every avenue and resource open to them, to ensure the safety of adults.
Forcing children to mask, whether they’re entirely healthy or neurodivergent, is wrong. If it didn’t make sense years ago, it certainly doesn’t make sense now.
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Kimberly Ross ( @SouthernKeeks ) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog and a columnist at Arc Digital.