Dr. Bow Tie
No, Masks Have Not Been Shown To Inhibit Child Development
Today I'm talking about a Tweet from Dr. Leana Wen, a physician who's touted herself as a public health leader, but has since abandoned that training and experience to become a COVID minimizer and gaslighter.
This Tweet thread was based on an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post stating that she would not be masking herself or her kids when they go back to school in the fall. I'm not linking to it, because it is a significant amount of COVID gaslighting. She talks a lot about personal choice and responsibility, which is not how public health works. It's about caring for one's community, which she should know, having worked in that space for so long.
She also compares COVID to flu and RSV here, which is disingenuous because COVID-19 has killed far more than either of those diseases in the past two years.
But let's focus on this second paragraph:
Typos aside, because we all have those, let's talk about why this anecdote is not applicable from a public health standpoint.
Linked below is an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics, at HealthyChildren.org, as well as an earlier piece written by the incredible Dr. Perri Klass. I strongly urge you to read it, as it discusses this question.
Every caregiver is on the lookout for delays in development or their kid hitting certain milestones. But over the last two years we've seen that even when masks were in wide use (not as much the case anymore), kids still hit their developmental milestones in most cases. They are surprisingly adaptable in these situations. Remember, even visually impaired kids adapt their other senses and develop social skills.
Lots of pundits with zero child development experience (including Wen and other COVID minimizers) are trying to hype up these baseless theories to try to get people to abandon masking, but there is no evidence to support their claims of masks inhibiting speech/language or social development.
Now, there ARE children who don't hit their milestones, but that happened even before masks became a tool in the pandemic. The AAP article highlights ways to play with small children to encourage those skills and learning. You don't need to see a mouth to understand many facial expressions, and kids can figure that out, too.
If you have concerns, definitely do bring those up with your pediatrician or a speech and language pathologist. There are early intervention programs and other resources to address such things, and they've adapted to masks, too.
Masks aren't perfect, and no one ever said they were. It can be challenging for kids to keep wearing them, but the biggest factor in that is good adult role models illustrating their importance in caring about others and curbing the spread of a dangerous virus.