Like a lot of people wearing a mask is suddenly part of my daily life. It’s something we can do to protect people around us and reduce the the risks of easing lockdown.
Wearing a mask is not quite as simple for me as it for other people. I’ve had a few issues and barriers along the way. This post looks at the barriers and gives 5 things I’ve learnt so far.
As always, i am one autistic person. These tips work for me, but i they are anecdote. They wont work for all autistic people!
The first thought may seem obvious, but i’m including it as i didn’t initially try lots of masks. I picked a mask based on how it looked (Woo, Doctor Who pattern) and not how it felt in use. I assumed masks would all feel much the same, but they all feel very different.
I’ve now tried a few different masks and have settled on disposable style masks available from a shop neat my home. Unlike the thicker cloth reusable masks they dont get as moist. If it does get moist i can replace it. I found some with elasticed sides which are smooth and not plasticy.
Disposable masks feel bad from an environment standpoint but washing reusable masks adds to much complexity at the moment. A future problem to solve.
Whenever i am wearing a mask i am fighting the urge to pull it off. I have found that urge is much stronger when i have stuble. It’s also really strong if i am freeshly shaved.
The comfortable mask wearing window for me is 12 to 36 hours after a shave. I am trying to shave in the evening to so I am ready for mask wearing the following day.
The stubble issue was about the same between cloth and disposable masks. Shaving has many other issues and the extra shaving is one of the hidden costs of masks.
When i first was wearing masks i treated them like clothing. Much as i put my shoes or coat on before i go out i thought i’d pop a mask on and head out the door. That doesn’t work.
I already had an overloaded “going outside” routine (with a checklist including shoes!) and adding masks didnt work. It was the wrong time.
Instead, i am washing my hands and putting my mask on a good while before i head out. Often putting it on, then doing something distracting like playing xbox or watching youtube. I need to have aclimatised before i leave. If it’s still bothering me after 15 minutes then i need to work out why before i leave. There no use discovering i am too stubbly or sensitive for a mask when i am on the bus already.
This is a huge safety concern. If I am distracted by a mask then I am likely to wonder off the pavement into traffic. Ensuring I am not distracted is really important.
As i get more tired my hands kinda go numb. Even more so if i am taking ADHD meds at the time. This was probably the biggest issue with the reusable masks. Tiing a knot behind my head is hard enough when my hands are good. Undoing one after going out is damn near impossible.
I’m using elasticated masks as i find them easier. I’m also going to ask one of the support folks to help me develop a routine for someone else putting on or taking off a mask for me in an emergency. Hopefully it won’t be needed. But having it practised means it won’t effect my confidence.
I would Also like to explore velcro masks in the future.
I’ve written about the various processes we have adopted so i can use masks. However there are other options. The rules require face coverings rather than masks specifically. I suspect much like ear defenders i will end up with different options to suit the situation.
For example, i am looking into face shields, snoods and other face covering methods. I could see me using one type of masks for a short bus ride, but a different kind of mask for a long bus ride or sitting in a cafe. I have lots left to explore.
I am still working out masks. I hope by sharing these notes they are helpful. I’ve still got a lot to test and explore so i will probably write about masks more in the future.
Finally i am super keen to hear what other people are doing. Please ping me on twitter via @spacedoutsmiles with any feedback, comments or tips of your own