WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Wearing a face mask has become a new normal this year, but wearing one can be an uncomfortable challenge for people with autism or sensory disorders.

What You Need To Know

  • Children or people with behavioral conditions aren't required to wear a mask under Gov. Cooper's order

  • ABC of NC provides families with resources to help kids with autism get comfortable with masks
  • People with autism may be more sensitive which can make wearing a mask difficult

Children ages 12 and under and people with behavioral conditions aren't required to wear a mask under Gov. Cooper's orders, but some parents may still want their child to wear a mask in public.

ABC of N.C. is a nonprofit agency that provides clinical and educational services to people with autism and their families. In recent months, the agency has given tips to parents who may be struggling with getting their child to wear a face covering.

Board certified behavior specialist and program supervisor, Kristin Toruno says, "Pretty much everything about a mask is weird. For kids with autism, just the change in our routine can be a challenge. So masks are really kind of the culmination of all of those challenges into one."

Kristen McClure helped her six-year-old son Connor get familiar with face masks early on in the pandemic. She and her son talked about it, read about it, and watched cartoons with positive images and face masks.

McClure says, "I was searching Pinterest for good ideas, and that's where I got the idea of sewing the buttons onto his baseball cap. The earloops go on the hooks instead of his ears, which reduces the sensitivity."

Toruno suggests assessing your loved one's familiarity with face masks first. After, slowly let them touch the face mask and gradually move it closer to their mouth.

"They're saying the thicker quilted material is better at blocking, but at the same time, those are also stiffer. And for some folks, having fabric that's stiffer and doesn't move, that stays in place, that might be more comforting," she says. "For other people, something that's softer, more like a t-shirt, something that you might wear at home, that might be more comfortable."

If parents have tried a handful of different approaches, McClure says they should keep trying.

"Take as many steps as you need to. For some kids, it might be five steps. Talk about it, show it, practice it, try it and then ultimately, wear it," she explains.

For more information on ABC of N.C. and the resources it has, click here. For a more detailed demonstration on how to get your child to wear a face mask, click here.