Special education department utilizes clear masks to enhance learning
ASCENSION PARISH – There's a new addition to uniforms for students around the state. Masks are being worn at school to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In Ascension though, one department had to adjust this new requirement to ensure their students were receiving the best education.
"It's a little different because it goes around your head, and you can tighten the strap right here,” Alycia Patty said on the type of masks that she and her colleagues are wearing.
Patty is the special education coordinator for Ascension Public Schools. She knew when masks were first being brought up that the ones her department would wear couldn’t be the normal cloth coverings.
“The first thought I had was for our deaf and hard of hearing students and how that was going to impact them,” Patty said.
She says her students need to be able to see their teachers' mouths in order to learn.
“About half of each sentence we say is what they interpret without visual cues. So if they don't have visual representation of what we're saying, they're not going to understand what we're saying," Patty said. “That’s even with perfect speech and with no vocabulary, so if we’re talking about learning new content then that’s even lessened.”
That’s why all speech therapists and paraprofessionals are wearing clear, or see-through masks in the classroom. This allows the students to see them mouthing words.
“It’s critical for those students to completely understand, and there’s a lot that goes on with language. It’s not just about the words but facial expressions and even just smiles for our younger students is really important,” added Lynn Hathaway, the director of special education.
The clear masks they're using are the second style the school system has tried. The first fogged up too quickly, and more adjustments may be made.
“We’re even looking at other masks that are a little bit larger, so we may move on to that if we find that these don’t do the job,” Hathaway said. “Whatever it takes we’re very committed that all of our students have the opportunity to access the best education that we can provide.”
The special needs population in Ascension Parish Schools is right around 2,700 students.
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