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Aug. 5, 2020 – Valley News, Valley Medical Center external link employee news
Learning by Seeing — Window Mask Donations Make All the Difference to Speech Therapy Success

In Room 23, speech therapist Cassidee Dangerfield, SLP, observes her patient, who is practicing his "s" sounds. This 5-year-old patient engages in a multitude of speech games to improve word flow. He says words such as "spin" time after time—this repetitive exercise helps strengthen his articulation. Both Cassidee and her patient are wearing masks during this session, due to COVID-19 precautions. However, these masks are special: they both have clear plastic windows sewn in to reveal the mouth. Thanks to these essential masks, Cassidee and other speech therapists can examine how their patients pronounce words.

"[The window masks] allow my patients to see my mouth and how it moves. This is crucial when practicing speech sounds," Cassidee says. "There is so much comfort that can come through a smile, and the window masks allow that to be seen, even during this time of masking."

Tom Watson and his EcoConsumer team are responsible for fabricating Valley's window masks. He is a project manager for the King County Solid Waste Division and coordinates the EcoConsumer public outreach program. Volunteers in this program usually fix lamps, vacuums, fans and chairs, among other household items. Under Tom's leadership during the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, EcoConsumer began making cloth masks for Valley in March. Shortly thereafter, another Valley speech therapist, Natasha Arora, and Kris Atkisson, manager of Value Based Initiatives, reached out to Tom asking if there was a possibility of creating window masks for Children's Therapy. Tom and his team agreed to start the project.

Three EcoConsumer volunteers have been tasked with making window masks for Children's Therapy. Each use their own sewing machines and tools. King County incentivizes these volunteers with a stipend.

"We're so glad we've been able to make a difference at Valley with this project," Tom says.

Gail, one of the volunteers constructing the window masks, is a first-grade teacher in Federal Way. She's been responsible for about 20 window masks, each with removable plastic windows for easier washing and reuse. The volunteers have worked tirelessly to produce these window masks, requiring about 90 minutes of labor per mask. So far, the EcoConsumer public outreach program has delivered 35 window masks to Children's Therapy.

"This is a shining example of how King County cares for our community," Kris says. "I hope this spirit of cooperation continues and we are able to work together on other projects in the future."

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King County Solid Waste Division mission: Waste Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Disposal