Pediatrics Association Claims Masking Does Not Delay Children’s Speech, Language Development

By Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee is a health reporter for The Epoch Times.
August 17, 2021 Updated: August 17, 2021

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that parents do not need to be concerned about their child’s social development, claiming that masking has no negative impact on speech or language development.

“Babies and young children study faces, so you may worry that having masked caregivers would harm children’s language development. There are no studies to support this concern. Young children will use other clues like gestures and tone of voice,” the medical organization said in a series of tweets on Aug. 12.

The AAP didn’t give evidence for their statement, only providing a link to an article published on a parenting website that the organization sponsors. The article itself also did not cite any sources that back up their claim, instead saying that “there are no known studies that use of face mask negatively impacts a child’s speech and language development.”

The article, however, provided the reasoning that children’s other senses may be heightened to compensate for masking, giving an example that “visually impaired children develop speech and language skills at the same rate as their peers.” The article also stated that face time without masks and “dedicated time to converse” at home is enough for young children to “reach their expected milestones.”

AAP did not respond to The Epoch Times’s inquiry for data behind its masking claim.

In their new COVID-19 guidance for schools, released in July, the AAP recommended that students over the age of two wear a mask at school, unless a developmental or medical condition prohibited the use, and regardless of their vaccination status.

In addition, the organization said that every person who is eligible should get inoculated and, if necessary, schools could consider making vaccination mandatory for in-person learning to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The AAP’s recommendation for universal masking in schools is aligned with updated guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to David Lewkowicz, adjunct professor at the Yale Child Study Center, babies begin to lip-read at eight months old when they start to learn a language, and caregivers who mask will “probably hinder babies’ acquisition of speech and language” as they are not able to “access visible speech cues.”

“Overall, the research to date demonstrates that the visible articulations that babies normally see when others are talking play a key role in their acquisition of communication skills,” said Lewkowicz, who has been researching language acquisition in babies and children since before the pandemic.

“Research also shows that babies who lip-read more have better language skills when they’re older.”

school students masks
Masked students at an elementary school in Chula Vista, Calif., on July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

In an opinion article published by the Wall Street Journal, Dr. H. Cody Meissner and Dr. Marty Makary disagreed with the CDC’s masking recommendation for students, stating that there are negative effects of prolonged mask-wearing in children, including in the development of their communication.

“Facial expressions are integral to human connection, particularly for young children, who are only learning how to signal fear, confusion, and happiness,” the physicians wrote. “Covering a child’s face mutes these nonverbal forms of communication and can result in robotic and emotionless interactions, anxiety, and depression.”

“Seeing people speak is a building block of phonetic development. It is especially important for children with disabilities such as hearing impairment,” they added.

Meissner is chief of pediatric infectious disease at Tufts Children’s Hospital and a top expert on childhood vaccination, while Makary is a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and editor-in-chief of Medpage Today, an online medical news service.

Meissner and Makary argue that the mask mandate for children is not based on science, as they could only find a single retrospective study, with inconclusive results, that addresses whether masks decreased COVID-19 transmission in children.

Furthermore, a research study (pdf) by Makary and his team at John Hopkins “found that of the $42 billion the National Institutes of Health [NIH] spent on research last year, less than 2 percent went to COVID clinical research and not a single grant was dedicated to studying masks in children.”

Diverging from the guidance of the U.S. CDC and AAP, the World Health Organization advises children 12 and older to wear masks, in line with the recommendation for adults in their area.

In light of the CDC’s recommendations, many school districts across the United States have begun requiring mask for students returning to school, with at least 12 states enforcing that masks be worn at schools, according to USA Today.

However, eight states have banned schools from mandating masks: Utah, Arizona, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Florida.

Some European countries will also be lifting mask mandates in schools. Students in England and Wales will not need to wear masks in the upcoming academic year due to concerns that masks obstruct learning and communicating.

While in Ireland, students 13 and older are still waiting for their government to remove their mask mandate. The Irish government had decided in July that mask-wearing would not be required for the new school year.

The mask policy in Sweden will continue to be the same, with students being allowed to decide for themselves whether to wear masks at school. Sweden kept preschools and schools open for students through grade nine during the pandemic and did not require masks.

The Swedish Health Agency cited poor evidence on the effectiveness of masks as one of the reasons it chose not to mandate mask-wearing. The country has relied on other preventative measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee
Meiling Lee is a health reporter for The Epoch Times.