Overcoming Face Mask Challenges during Speech and Occupational Therapy

Speech Language Pathologist wearing a clear mask

Overcoming Face Mask Challenges during Speech and Occupational Therapy

Face masks are an essential tool in most medical settings, but traditional masks can pose challenges for those undergoing speech or occupational therapy. Speech and occupational therapists must be aware of the potential impacts that traditional face masks can have on their patients’ ability to communicate and perform daily activities. While many child development centers have similar face mask requirements to doctors’ offices, traditional face masks can make effectively communicating difficult for therapists and their patients.

Face mask challenges

Face masks can affect communication significantly, disrupting the essential nonverbal cues that are key components of therapy sessions. Traditional face masks pose significant challenges to nonverbal communication because they literally block a person’s face, and with that block facial expressions and emotional cues. Traditional face masks hide facial expressions and reducing the ability to convey their emotions effectively.

Misunderstandings and miscommunications are common, particularly in situations where verbal communication may not be enough, such as in personal interactions, business meetings, or medical consultations. Moreover, the loss of emotional cues can result in a lack of empathy and understanding, especially when dealing with vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, or those with disabilities. The impact of traditional face masks on nonverbal communication is a significant concern that needs to be addressed.

Challenges during therapy sessions

During speech therapy, the challenges are ever present. Speech therapy requires close observation of facial expressions and mouth movements, making traditional face masks a challenge. The inability to read lips and facial expressions inhibits communication and affects patient progress. Therapists strive to model what proper tongue and teeth placement looks like to improve articulation. The traditional face mask is a barrier to this goal.

Furthermore, the disadvantages of traditional masks extend to occupational therapy (OT). In this field, facial recognition is essential to develop trust and effective communication between therapists and clients. When facial expressions are hidden, clients with language difficulties or sensory processing disorders may struggle to express themselves adequately, hampering the effectiveness of therapy. Wearing masks during OT sessions can pose physical and psychological barriers for both the therapist and the patient. Therefore, therapist must find creative and effective ways to address these barriers to ensure that OT sessions are successful.

Patients often find recognizing their therapists difficult and vice versa with traditional face masks. This obstacle hinders the formation of a rapport between the two, essential for trust and cooperation, making the therapeutic process challenging and less effective.

Potential Solutions

Clear face masks, like The Communicator™ mask, offer a potential solution to the communication challenges posed by traditional face masks. Clear masks are made of transparent material that allows individuals to see the mouth and facial expressions, enabling improved nonverbal communication. Seeing visual cues is especially important for those with hearing impairments or language difficulties who rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to understand what is being said.

Moreover, clear masks help maintain facial recognition during speech and OT, reducing the risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Additionally, using clear masks can create a more inclusive environment, ensuring that individuals with hearing impairments, language difficulties, or sensory processing disorders have equal access to communication. Finally, clear masks like the FDA-approved Communicator™ mask, meet specific safety standards while allowing individuals to communicate effectively.

Clear face masks during therapy

Clear face masks have shown significant potential in different therapy situations. In speech therapy, clear masks can provide benefits for children with hearing difficulties, as they allow them to see the therapist’s mouth movements and improve their ability to communicate effectively. Additionally, clear masks can offer advantages for language learning, enabling learners to see the mouth movements and better understand how to form sounds and words.

In occupational therapy, clear masks can offer benefits for those with autism and sensory processing disorders, as they allow clients to see the therapist’s facial expressions and improve their ability to express themselves. Moreover, clear masks can provide advantages for those with language difficulties, enabling them to communicate effectively with their therapist and develop essential skills. Overall, the use of clear masks in different situations has demonstrated significant potential for improving communication and enhancing therapy outcomes.

In conclusion, the use of traditional face masks poses significant challenges to communication, especially for individuals who rely on nonverbal cues and facial recognition during speech and occupational therapy. However, opting for clear face masks can provide a solution to these challenges, creating a more inclusive and communicative environment for everyone.

Clear face masks not only allow for nonverbal communication and facial recognition but also provide an added layer of protection while still maintaining the necessary safety standards. By embracing clear face masks, we can enhance communication and ensure that everyone’s needs are met, regardless of their communication style or abilities.


Clear mask improves speech communication in individuals with speech and hearing impairment” by Han KJ, Kim HJ, Rim JH, Park JS, and Cho YS. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32407789/)

Clear face masks for caregivers of deaf and hard of hearing individuals” by Al-Haidary, S. S., Al-Qahtani, M., & Sadek, A. M. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7846664/

Communication Challenges and Facilitating Solutions With Clear Masks: Perspectives of Speech-Language Pathologists and Listeners With Typical Hearing” by Creutz, S., Kent-Walsh, J., Ritchey, K., & Demeter, K. (https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2020_JSLHR-20-00263)