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Autism center uses modified face mask to better serve kids

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — Wearing a face mask can create some challenges for people who rely on facial expressions to better communicate. Cornerstone Autism Center is modifying their masks in order to help children with autism.

For many of the kids, they wouldn’t be able to get the quality service if the staff wore a traditional face mask. But with a specialized mask with a clear plastic covering around the mouth, they are able to do it.

Kids who attend Cornerstone Autism Center are full of energy and smiles. The only difference is some need to see the hands and faces of others to communicate.

“American Sign Language is made up of head movements and facial expressions that really make up the linguistics structure of American Sign Language. When our faces are blocked it can completely change the meaning of a sign,” said Stephanie Dille-Huggins.

Cornerstone Autism Center therapists work with kids to make sure they are developing the communication skills they’ll need as they grow.

They’ve been doing this work here for about a decade. But in just a few months, typical operations have been anything but that. COVID-19 forced the building to shut down.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit we knew that we needed to stay true to our mission so immediately our owners begin working towards a plan,” said Dille-Huggins.

Now that it’s open, safety measures like screening visitors, practicing social distancing when able, upping sanitization practicing, and a few more clear face mask modifications have been implemented.

“We do have several clients or children that we are serving that are hard of hearing that they do rely on reading our lips when we’re speaking to them it,” Dille-Huggins said.

Representatives said the kids get a kick out of the variety of masks. And as long as the staff can continue to make strides in improving the quality of life for kids, they’ll keep this up.