By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The folks at Baptist Health say observing facial expressions is a key component to early childhood development and learning and that’s why teachers at all their centers are wearing clear masks.

“We totally understand the need for masks but we understand children, young children need to see visual cues for caregivers to see the expression, get reassurance,” said Michelle Mejia, Assistant VP of Health Promotion & Strategic Partnerships at Baptist Health South Florida.

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These kids are seeing what is called facial cues and that’s important for lingual and social development. Yes, sound is important but the information is also communicated visually.

“Potentially, by not seeing them, by not seeing the facial cues could result in development delays,” said Mejia.

With a partnership with the Children’s Trust and financial support from the Healthy West Kendall Movement, the clear masks made it into the classroom.

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The masks were approved by the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health.

The clear masks allow the children to see the teacher’s mouth, which helps them master speech by not only hearing but seeing visual cues.

“We totally understand the importance of using masks. This is an added way to protect ourselves, use the masks, and also have our little ones see our facial expressions,” Mejia said.

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Baptist’s teachers say the full facial contact goes both ways. They can see a difference in the children’s response and interaction when they started wearing the clear masks.