Woman making ‘smile mask’ to help kids with special needs, people who are hard of hearing

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — Renee Dorsey has been spending time making a unique type of mask that she calls “smile masks.”

“My inspiration was from my father. He’s deaf in one ear and has a hearing aid in the other ear. He actually reads lips. There was a need for a mask design with a window in it so people can read lips,” she said. “He called me and asked me if I can make a mask with a window in it. So we call it the smile mask.”

Dorsey’s masks are more complex than the standard pleated mask most people are wearing. Her masks have a 12-gauge clear vinyl plastic window in front of the mouth area. Dorsey said it takes her about 45 minutes to an hour to make the masks.

“You can take the plastic out, wash the fabric and place the plastic back in. The plastic isn’t sewn in so it won’t get damaged if you wash it,” she said.

Dorsey said her masks have been popular among doctors and teachers who work with kids with special needs.

“My first order was from a doctor who works with kids with autism. I have had several teachers contact me that want it for their classrooms for when they go back to school.”

Dorsey said kids who need speech therapy will especially benefit from the masks.

“The kids have to see the sound and how it’s formed, and they can’t do that with a regular mask,” Dorsey said. “They need to be able to see how the teacher feels and with the smile mask they can see the smile and they can see that it’s going to be OK, and it really is.”

Dorsey is charging about $15 per mask plus shipping for anyone interested. She said she can make men’s, women’s and children’s sizes and customers can choose the fabric design.

If you’re interested in purchasing one of Dorsey’s masks, you can contact her through her business page Rainbows End Designs.