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Some experts worry mask wearing may be causing language development problems in kids

As school masking continues, experts said they’re noticing an uptick in families seeking help for their kids who are having challenges speaking.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 10:35 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 29, 2022 at 12:16 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As school masking continues, several Hawaii experts say they’re noticing an uptick in families seeking help for their kids who are having challenges speaking.

“For definitely younger kids, kindergarten, preschoolers, I have been seeing a lot of preschoolers, who doesn’t talk at all,” said educational and nutritional psychologist Dr. Karla Garjaka.

Garjaka said when learning to speak, it’s important to see mouth movement — especially when differentiating words that sound similar like three, free and tree.

“Yeah, for instance, one of the teachers her name is Kathy, and kids are calling her coffee,” Garjaka said.

Shannon Ferris’ 8-year-old daughter started speech therapy during the pandemic.

“She’s academically plateaued, she is falling behind speech,” said Ferris.

“I don’t understand stuff and then it’s really hard for me to hear because I like I don’t understand what he’s saying,” said Ferris’ daughter, Emma.

Carolinda Murphy, speech language pathologist and CEO of Speech Solutions, said school administrators have been contacting her office because there’s a growing need for speech and occupational therapy.

However, Murphy said masks are a sliver of the overall bigger problem.

The speech language pathologist adds that social distancing is also a factor.

“We’ve seen an increase in kids that have frontal lisps, we’ve seen an increase in children who can’t say their ‘r’ sounds,” Murphy said.

“We’ve seen an increase in children who fall in the spectrum, who already have social pragmatic challenges, but they’re further compounded, because they aren’t around anybody else.”

Murphy said in the last six months she has been seeing more parents concerned about their 1 or 2-year-old’s not babbling or talking.

She said early intervention is key.

“We have to find a solution to the problem early on, so that it doesn’t have lasting effects throughout their school years, because that’s when it’s really going to hurt them,” Murphy said.

Despite CDC’s guidelines, the state Health Department says they will continue recommending masks in the classrooms because they’re effective against COVID.

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