On July 20, 2020, a mask mandate went into effect in Arkansas as a much-needed way to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. This mandate requires masks that cover the nose and mouth in all indoor environments where exposure to non-household members will occur, and enforcement of 6-foot social distancing rule is not possible. Children under the age of 10 are not required to wear a mask, but it is strongly encouraged. Mask use will likely be a requirement for students for the coming 2020-21 school year and learning now will help with the transition.
This mandate is going to save lives, but it requires the learning of a new Activity of Daily Living (ADL): mask-wearing.
Learning new ADL skills can be a challenge for children with disabilities. Children with diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Downs Syndrome, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder struggle with sensory issues. These sensory issues can make even the most mundane takes most of us never think about, such as wearing shoes and shirts, a challenge to teach. Mask-wearing is a new skill, with sensory issues involved, and it is challenging to teach. It is not a challenge that is impossible to overcome, but it is a challenge that may take time to master.
To help alleviate these challenges, Autism Involves Me (AIM) is launching a Learning New Things Takes Time Campaign. The Learning New Things Takes Time Campaign asks for just that – a little time while people with disabilities learn a new ADL. They are not looking to for exclusion from the mandate – they are always fighting tooth and nail for inclusion – but are asking for a little grace while learning a new skill.
Starting this week, Autism Involves Me will be giving out orange bracelets and buttons to families who are embarking on the challenge of teaching mask-wearing. They ask that if you see someone, or their parent/guardian, wearing a bracelet or button struggling with a mask, you offer them a little grace.
Grace can be giving the parent/guardian a little extra time to get the mask back on before asking them to leave. Grace can be understanding when someone has to be asked repeatedly to put on their mask. Grace can look like not stepping in and making a situation worse when a parent/guardian is trying to deal with a meltdown. Grace can be anything that shows patience to people working hard to learn something new.
They don't ask that you change rules for anyone, or even your expectations, but rather that you be kind and generous to those struggling.
If you would like to show your support visually, they offer decals (vinyl, non-adhesive) to put up in your window to let people know learners are welcome at your place of business.
For more information, email Info@CampAcacia.org or call (479) 466-2006. You can learn more about Learning New Things Takes Time, get resources to help kids with disabilities learn how to mask, order bracelets or buttons, and help spread the message by visiting https://campacacia.org/lnttt-store.