Minnesota mom promotes clear masks to help children with nonverbal expression during pandemic

Mask-wearing is not the easiest for little ones. But with school back in session and many kids returning to in-person classes, masks are required to be worn at school.

While it may create a challenge to keep the mask on children, wearing them is also creating mental strain and causing anxiety for some. The lack of human connection through nonverbal communication — something as simple as a smile — is not helping this.

That’s why Kala Koch of southeast Minnesota started the See Smile Organization. With some help along the way, she’s been able to connect schools with see-through masks so kids can see each other’s smiles, communicate better and strengthen friendships.

Koch noticed her 4-year-old son experiencing more anxiety while wearing a mask at his child care facility.

“You could really see an impact for him at a young age,” Koch said.

With schools preparing for the safest learning environment possible for their students, Koch thought they may need some help thinking outside the box. With See Smile, she’s taking the charge to help participating schools get the clear masks.

“My objective is to improve that social interaction because it’s so important for kids to be able to have that,” Koch said.

“Whether it’s with special needs or the deaf and hard of hearing community, there are a lot of advocates for clear masks,” she added. “But ultimately everyone can benefit from it, and the only way everyone benefits is if everyone can get on board and a community can support that effort.”

She knows the topic of mask-wearing has, and continues to be, debated – but Koch hopes to keep politics out of it.

“That is completely irrelevant in this conversation because the kids don’t have a choice. So I think, and hope, that people can understand that this isn’t about promoting masks, it’s about improving the environment at the schools.”