PALM BEACH COUNTY, Florida (LifeSiteNews) - A speech therapist in Florida is sounding the alarm on the CDC's insistence on mask wearing after noticing a massive uptick in the number of children suffering from speech delays and other mask-induced issues.
Jaclyn Theek, a clinic director and speech-language pathologist at the Speech and Learning Institute in North Palm Beach told ABC news affiliate WPBF that she saw a whopping 364 percent increase in the number of referrals for children suffering from speech delays in 2021, suggesting mask-wearing may be causing unprecedented damage to healthy childhood development.
"This has been a very challenging year," said Theek at the end of 2021, informing the public that prior to the pandemic, only five percent of her patients were babies and toddlers, a number that has since skyrocketed to 20 percent.
Saying that many parents are referring to the problem as their children being "COVID-delayed," Theek stated that while "There's no research out there yet saying that this [mask wearing] could be causing speech and language delays," she is "most definitely" convinced that it is a "factor."
"We are seeing a lot of things that look like autism. They're not making any word attempts. And not communicating at all with their family," explained Theek.
"It's very important that kids do see your face to learn, so they're watching your mouth," added the pathologist.
While Theek is correct in stating that there has yet to be a peer-reviewed study indicating a specific problem with delays in speech caused by pandemic measures such as masking, an August 2021 study out of Rhode Island found that children born during the COVID-19 pandemic have markedly lower cognitive ability compared to their pre-pandemic counterparts.
"Across all measures, we found cognitive scores were significantly reduced during the pandemic by 27 to 37 points (or almost two full standard deviations)," wrote the researchers.
"We did not find significant differences in birth weight or gestation duration overall in the pre vs during pandemic children," they added, suggesting the problem is not a result of physical ailment or malnutrition, but rather a result of environmental conditions such as masking and isolation.
In addition to concerns raised by speech therapists and other medical experts, parents have also noticed a difference in their pandemic-born children when compared with their older children raised before the so-called public health measures.
"It definitely makes a difference when the world you are growing up in, you can't interact with people and their face. That's super important to babies," mother of five Briana Gay told the ABC affiliate when explaining how only her youngest has experienced delays in speech.
"We'd go out and walk around the neighborhood, and there would be no one there ... everyone just stayed in," added another parent, Gregg Santos, a father who has noticed speech delays in his young son Diego and thinks isolation and masking are to blame.
"It bothers me," Santos said. "It bothers me a lot."
According to experts, the number one thing parents can do to prevent this issue in their own children is to take extra time to read, talk, or sing to their children when they are at home, to make up for the possible reduction in exposure to the human face when children are at school, daycare, or another setting where everyone is masked.
Additionally, parents should remain cognizant of the important milestones in children's verbal development, such as being able to speak around five to ten words by the time they are 12 months old, 50 to one hundred words by 18 months, and hundreds of words by age two.