3 Social Skills to Teach While Wearing a Mask

August 17, 2020 No Comments

Wearing masks and seeing others wearing them is new for our students with autism.  With this new change, it is important to use this opportunity to teach them some crucial social skills that will help them be successful.

Social Skills

September is not just coming in to a new school year, it’s coming in to a whole new world.  With all the required social distance, disinfecting, and handwashing, the reality is things are not going to be the same for a long while.  Some of us have been spared the risk of going to school in person by being totally remote, but are still dealing with the challenges of remote learning.  One of the biggest changes to how we present in public spaces and socialize is the introduction of masks.  I am not afraid to say I am a promoter of mask wearing (if you are able to do so and barring unique needs and age).  From a social aspect, I think wearing a mask show consideration for others.   Even though I am a supporter, it doesn’t mean it is without challenge.

The one thing that really sucks about wearing masks is that it literary covers half your face.  I know that is the whole point, but this hinders communication as we know it. Many of us have been practicing our smizing (if you don’t know what that it, just Google it and you’ll be met with a bunch of photos of Tyra Banks back in her ANTM circa 2000’s days.), but sometimes, that’s just better left to the professionals.

I have been thinking a lot about how this is going to affect our kids.  As undesirable as many things of this new teaching era are, this will open a lot of opportunity for us to think of other social skills we will have to rely on to convey our message.  When we think of identifying emotions, we tend to automatically think of what our mouth is doing (smiling, frowning…you get the idea), but there are many other ways for us to figure out what somebody else is thinking.  Here are a few social skills I plan to teach to help my students understand one another, despite having to wear masks.


Body language

This is a great opportunity to model and teach body language to our students.  The way we stand, hold our arms, and can tell a lot about how we’re feeling.  Instead of teaching emotions in the way we usually think (showing faces, etc), don’t forget to teach accompanying body language.  Things like hunched shoulders, raised eyebrows, and more can really relay our thoughts and feelings.


Thinking with our eyes

Our eyes can tell a lot about what we are thinking.  Just like body language, our eyes can tell a lot about what we’re thinking.  Where we’re looking can also tell about what we’re thinking.  Joint attention is basically this skill, but we can push it a little bit further and teaching how to inference what somebody could be thinking.  For example, if I am looking at a candy bar on the table,  I could be thinking “I really want to eat that candy bar”, or “I hate Snickers”.  Neither is right or wrong.


Figures of speech/idioms

This is the type of language that can really tell how we’re feeling.  However, it can sound really wacky to the individuals that take phrases like “raining cats and dogs” literally.  In the past I have used my idioms activities resource to teach 20 different common idioms.  My students have loved learning the idioms and love how silly they sound.  Click below to download this resource.

idioms activities for students with autism


Are there any other social skills do you think could be taught to compensate for masks wearing?

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