Parent Network of WNY’s Behavior Intervention Coordinator was interviewed on August 12th by WLVL Radio 1340 AM/105.3 FM with more questions about kids wearing masks. Please read the interview or listen to the recording on the link below!
WLVL: On the line right now is Debbie Schutt, Behavior Intervention Coordinator for the Parent Network of Western New York. Debbie, thanks once again for joining us. It is nice to talk to you again.
Debbie: Thanks for having me back again.
WLVL: So, Debbie, we are curious. You have had two of these Zoom meetings now discussing helping children to become unafraid of wearing masks. So, number one-how did the first two meetings go? Number two-what kind of response did you get?
Debbie: The meetings have been going very well. We have been getting pretty decent responses from a good mix of parents and professionals. And actually, a lot of parents who are also professionals. So, they can use some of the tips and strategies with their own kids and some tips and strategies with kids that they work with in their professional life. Our second one was last night and I didn’t go over my allotted 2 hours of time and it went pretty well.
WLVL: So the core of it is, getting kids comfortable with wearing their masks in schools and in everyday life generally – going to the store, going out with friends, or going to the playground. So what are some of the details that you mention to people that are part of the meeting? You know, like what’s the best way to make a child feel more comfortable with wearing a mask all day while at school?
Debbie: We talk a lot about slowly and gradually exposing your kids to wearing a mask. Maybe starting off just doing it inside the house or in their own yard where they feel a little more safe and comfortable. Putting the masks on some stuffed animals or toys and doing little role plays with them. For their first couple of community outings while wearing a mask, doing short periods of time and then slowly increasing those amounts of time. I like alliterative phrases and so I think that parents need to “model the mindset” and have a positive attitude and demeanor about wearing a mask and to also to make sure they’re following the same mask rules that they are asking their kids to follow, because even if we think that our kids are not paying attention or picking up stuff going on around them, we really know that they are! Keeping a positive attitude and following the rules, that can go a long way in making sure that the kids will follow those same rules.
WLVL: Yes Debbie. With the crowd or audience that you had during the Zoom meetings now we know one was in the morning one was last night and you mentioned the participation of professionals. Do you find with these folks, are they being helped by this because they are the ones that’ll be on the front lines in the school’s perhaps or in the classroom?
Debbie: I’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback from the participants on some of the tips and strategies and other discussion points that are being had during the Zoom meetings. They’ve said that they’re finding it helpful and it is giving them some good ideas of what they can try. I guess that we won’t really know until the school year starts and the kids do have to wear the masks for extended periods of time. Then we will be able to gauge the success of some of these strategies. From my point of view, the behavior intervention piece, some of the strategies that we’re talking about can be used for anything that you’re trying to get your kid to comply with, whether it’s a mask, or a chore, or taking a bath when you ask them to.
WLVL: With the general population, hopefully there has been a number of folks learning. And, like you said, we really won’t know until this thing goes into full effect. But what about the disabled child? Do you have disability specific strategies?
Debbie: We absolutely do. There is a whole section of a presentation that I do. In terms of some of the strategies, it depends on what kind of disabilities that we’re talking about. Individuals with autism, for example, might have some sensory processing challenges and they might have an aversion to the way the mask feels on their face. So if there is a way to make it feel less uncomfortable while making sure that the mask fits appropriately. If it’s the elastic around their head or the ear loops they don’t like, maybe use pieces of string or something to tie it with instead of the elastic which can pull on your hair and be a little uncomfortable. Letting kids pick out the kind of mask that they want based on what they’re comfort level is. Also, for people who may have a physical disability who can’t reach behind their head or behind their ears, I found some ways online to make some accommodations to masks with velcro or magnets so that you don’t have to be able to get both your arms behind your head to tie a bandana. You can just velcro it where the straps meet the main face covering part of the mask. So, there are a variety of strategies and accommodations for individuals with a variety of different types of disability.
WLVL: On the line with us is Debbie Schutt, Behavior Intervention Coordinator for Parent Network of Western New York. You can visit the website parentnetworkwny.org. And Debbie, I want to bring up the website. All of the events, all of the Zoom meetings are listed on an event calendar and it tells you a little bit about what they are. This isn’t just “mask wearing for kids” and getting more comfortable with that. You have other things too. Mental or stress therapy, mindfulness, and something going on tomorrow, the 12th, at 4 p.m. – A-maze-ing Therapy. Could you talk a little bit more about your other Zoom meetings that you have for the Parent Network?
Debbie: We have online events almost every day at this point. So, the event that you are talking about at 4 o’clock is called “Let’s Talk: A-maze-ing Therapy” and it is a panel with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist who work with school-age children. That panel discussion is just going to be about how parents can get the most out of their child’s therapy services especially at this time we’re on a lot of those therapy services are being provided virtually through Zoom, GoToMeeting, or other type of online platform. We also have our support groups that have gone completely virtual. So, they are all online – we have ones that are for Chautauqua County, Niagara County, Erie County, City of Buffalo, or one for people/parents and caregivers of Developmental Disabilities. Everything is on our calendar, everything is completely free. I would encourage people to really go and click on the events tab on our website and check out some of those events. There’s a lot of stuff for a lot of different populations.
WLVL: Yeah. The therapy, the A-maze-ing Therapy, that’s at 4 p.m. today and then tomorrow is actually the one related to mindfulness and managing stress. So, I think this one’s really important tomorrow as well at 7:00pm. You know, if someone wants to learn how mindfulness can reduce stress and kind of foster positive attitudes, I think that’s like a stepping stone to having a good atmosphere in the home to teach a kid about wearing a mask. You need to feel good about it, you need to feel comfortable with it, before you try to help someone else. It’s a whole atmosphere that needs to be built inside the home.
Debbie: Absolutely. With a lot of things going on in 2020 people have expressed increased stress levels. If going online and working with us and just learning some tips and strategies to help with some of that stress reduction and if you can decrease your own frustration level, increase your tolerance for things, that is going to go a long way in the atmosphere and in the mindset that you’re modeling for your children in the home.
WLVL: Debbie, it sounds like you folks have quite an inventory of resources for people through the website and as you said everything is turned virtual lately, so that’s very convenient. I did want to stress the two remaining seminar dates and times for helping a child not to be afraid to wear a mask. The 19th of August, that one’s the morning time, at 8:30 in the morning and then on the 24th, that is evening time at 6 p.m. About how long do the Zoom meetings last?
Debbie: They are scheduled for two hours. Usually the first 5 to 10 minutes is making sure everybody has their technology working and then depending on how many people we make sure there is sufficient time for Q&A at the end. The people that have questions specific to their family, their child, or children that they work with, that they have the opportunity to ask those questions and hopefully get the answers that they are looking for.