This month the Centers for Disease Control changed its age-based language proficiency milestones. The new standard stipulates that 75 percent of children should be able to say 50 words by 30 months rather than the previous standard of 50 percent of kids saying 50 words by 24 months.
This relaxation of standards is in sharp contrast to childhood language guidelines from the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University, Cleveland Clinic, and Kaiser Permanente, all of which stipulate children should be able to say 50 words at 24 months. The American Speech Language Association notes that speaking fewer than 50 words at 24 months constitutes a language disorder, and other authorities maintain that by 30 months a toddler should be able to say as many as 450 words and employ complex language skills such as use of pronouns, plurals, negation, and tenses.
The CDC fails to acknowledge that masking children is likely worsening linguistic and emotional development, as masking nullifies the crucial contribution of facial expression. The inflicted damage could be irreparable. We humans are social creatures, who communicate through complex languages and facial gestures. Our personalities are ingrained in these unique expressions, which impart visual messages that words alone cannot convey.
The face consists of 60 muscles that are controlled by the seventh cranial nerve, the nerve of facial expression. The homunculus, a distorted depiction of a human being representing the amount of cortical function devoted to each part of the body, demonstrates how the brain devotes an outsize role to the muscles of the face.
These mimetic muscles, named for the ability to mimic, are the only ones in our bodies that are connected to the dermis. The intimate connection of nerves, muscles, and skin gives humans the capability to engage in elaborate non-verbal communication.
Facial expressions provoke a variety of cognitive processes, including gestures that elicit rapid responses and ostensive ones that signal a willingness to communicate. A hidden face deprives one of the most basic aspects of humanity and the ability to constructively interact in social settings. Face masking children constitutes a sacrifice on a scale that can only be made in response to a danger of proportionate magnitude.
Medical Articles Ignore Data to Argue Ideology
Yet children are far less likely than adults to suﬀer Covid-related illness or death. The statistical occurrence of the latter is nearly zero. A Johns Hopkins study corroborated this finding in healthy children, and its lead author noted that the CDC failed to publish pre-existing medical conditions in children’s deaths purported to be caused by Covid-19.
In January the Brownstone Institute analyzed data from states with and without mask mandates for school children and found no significant diﬀerence in infection and hospitalization rates. The Swedish Institute of Public Health noted no diﬀerence in the number of infections in teachers and children in mandate-free Sweden in comparison to teachers and children in Finland when schools were closed and masks mandatory.
Despite the multitude of studies showing children are at low risk from SARS-CoV-2 and masks are ineﬀectual in the school setting, what is justification for authorities to force children to wear masks? An article from Psychology Today, “The Impact of Masks on Social and Emotional Development,” serves as a good example. The eﬃcacy of masks and the supposed dangers of Covid are accepted without reservation, including the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to mask children as young as two years of age.
The author contends that infants who are able to see mouths have larger vocabularies as toddlers. Emotional development is negatively affected when only the eyes are visible. Children less accurately interpret emotional expressions and fail to recognize positive emotions.
Social referencing, the tendency of a person to analyze facial expressions of significant others to be able to know what to do, and social mimicry, the unconscious imitation of accents, speech patterns, gestures, and emotions, are also negatively affected. Several workaround solutions are presented to compensate for arrested language and emotional development, but the reader is cautioned that children should not forgo wearing masks.
An article generated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “How Masks Could Aﬀect Speech and Language Development in Children,” downplays the role of facial expression, noting that face masks disrupt holistic processing and face perception in school-age children, by 20 percent. Parents are instructed to dress their children in personalized clothing to compensate for their lack of facial identity.
The author admits that masks pose a challenge for developing interpersonal skills, expressing and reading emotions, and speech development, but emphasizes the resiliency of children. Once again the obvious solution to reverse the mask mandate is not considered.
A recent NIH article, “How Does Wearing a Mask Aﬀect Children?” goes further, stating, “While masks can protect against Covid 19 infections, it is unclear how mask wearing behavior and mask mandates influence children’s cognitive and social development.” The agency categorically and erroneously aﬃrms the eﬃcacy of children wearing masks but then admits that detrimental behavioral eﬀects are unknown. The NIH promises the issue will be studied, but as long as mask mandates persist, the damage continues.
Children’s Resilience Not Boundless
The fortitude of children is not without limits, and in addition to the harmful consequences of masking, there is an increasing body of evidence that excessive screen time inhibits normal physical, social, neurological, and psychological development. Aaron Hertzberg points out that children are resilient when internalizing emotional distress and suppressing natural instincts, but they are not resilient in the ability to rid themselves of significant emotional trauma and abuse. What will be the children’s response when the final mask mandate is rescinded?
This past week a teacher announced to her students that masks would no longer be required in the classroom. The event was captured on video, and the children’s facial expressions and spontaneous outbursts of joy and relief provided a thrilling and heartfelt reminder that we need to do a better job protecting the most precious and vulnerable among us.
Scott Sturman, MD, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, is an academic distinguished graduate of the United States Air Force Academy Class of 1972, where he majored in aeronautical engineering. A member of Alpha Omega Alpha, he graduated from the University of Arizona School of Health Sciences Center and practiced medicine for 35 years until retirement. He now lives in Reno, Nevada.
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