Cap Guard meets Speech Language Pathologist, Stacy Fonner MS, CCC-SLP
Describe your experiences thus far with evaluations and therapy sessions in which students came to your session wearing masks. Thus far I have evaluated 5 students (3 boys and 2 girls). The Speech and Language evaluations lasted anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours. Each one of the 3 boys took off their masks during the evaluation. The girls kept their masks on however one of the girls wore a mask that was too big and her nose often showed. The school hung a square sheet of plexi glass from the ceiling. It was in the way of trying to turn pages in the testing book. A couple of the boys like to push the plexi glass since it swings from the ceiling. For the first evaluation, I had a terrible time reading the testing materials because my glasses fogged up. For the articulation evaluation it was frustrating because I could not see the mouth of the student. I had no visual cues to determine placement of the student's articulators (tongue, lips). Voiceless sounds (/s/, /sh/ /t/, /p/, /k/ and /f/ were much harder to hear especially since the building air conditioner was making noise. I was also concerned that the students were having a difficult time hearing me give the directions. It was frustrating.
How did you feel when students removed their masks or touched their faces? I expected it so I wasn't surprised. I felt badly that the students had to wear them in the first place because I know they can be uncomfortable. I especially felt bad for the student who wore glasses because his glasses were fogging up like mine were.
Why is it so critical for you to be able to see a student’s mouth movement and facial expressions? Some letters make very similar sounds. Masks decrease hearing acuity. I need to see a student's mouth to determine if they have correct tongue or lip placement. The placement of the mouth, lips or tongue gives me visual cues as to how the student is producing the sound. It is important to note if a student who is having difficulty producing sounds correctly is groping (moving their mouth repeatedly trying to produce the correct sound). It is important to note if a student who stutters is opening their mouth with no sounds coming out. Facial expressions are an important part of communication. It is our emotions that give meaning to our words. Those emotions are conveyed through facial expression, voice, and body posture. We are missing a vital component of communication when our faces are hidden. Have you ever misunderstood a text because you were missing the emotion it was sent with?
Why is it so critical for a student to be able to see your mouth movement and facial expressions? Same reasons. I am communicating with my students and giving them directions or modeling the way to say something. Students who are receiving Speech Language therapy already have some kind of difficulty communicating. They can not afford to miss hearing the message because it is muffled, or miss a facial cue, or miss a visual cue of where to put their tongue or hold their mouth to correctly produce a sound. I need to determine if my student is stimulable for a sound. It is important for a student to see exactly what I am doing with my mouth and see if they can imitate it.
If both SLP and student wore face shields, describe how this would improve assessments and treatment plans. Facial expressions would be visible as long as there was no fogging. Mouth posture, tongue, lips would be visible giving both therapist and student vital visual cues. Sound might not be as decreased. I hope this was helpful.