A news website published an article reporting research findings on the detrimental effects of face masks on children. Referring to the post, social media users claimed that face masks are causing speech delay in children. We fact-checked and found the claim to be Half True.
A news website named The National Pulse published an article titled, “REPORT: Mask Mandates Causing Over 350% Surge In Childhood Speech Delays”. The post based its facts on another article published on the West Palm Beach Florida News (WPBF) website. The WPBF article titled, “Palm Beach therapist sees increase in children’s speech delays during COVID-19”.
Referring to the post on The National Pulse, a Facebook user writes, “This is great news for thousands of speech therapists and teachers who prosper from our children’s poor health”. Another Facebook user says, “I’d call this child abuse”. The Facebook posts can be seen here and here.
Can face masks cause speech delays in children?
No clear evidence. Researchers have found contradicting evidences regarding this so far.
One study conducted among children shows that masks do not cause language impairment among children. This study concluded, “no change in the children’s ability to learn and produce language whether or not the students and their teacher were wearing masks”.
However, another study done just an year ago, has shown that masks are a typical visual barrier ‘to those who rely on non-verbal communication signals on the face (e.g., mouth, lips, teeth, tongue and cheeks)’. It can make the voice of children less effective or distorted. Moreover, children may not obtain visual cues or read lips if the speaker is wearing a mask.
Another study suggests that face masks can develop insensitive behaviours to induce stress among children. Stress can further elevate cortisol hormones to ‘negatively influence brain connectivity and growth’. Mask-wearing ‘raises questions regarding mother-infant interactions and whether this could negatively impact the brain connectivity and growth’.
Wide scale mask wearing among public across the world is a comparatively new phenomenon. We will have to wait for further in depth research about this to reach to a conclusive evidence.
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