Schools should consider the use of visors over masks when it comes to students with hearing loss, the Department of Education has said.
It comes as new guidelines for children aged from nine upwards — those in third class and above — to wear masks while at school took effect last week, following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
However, a spokesperson for the Department of Education has said: "For pupils who rely on lip-reading, consideration should be given to facilitating this important means of communications.
"Schools are asked to use their judgement in such cases.
Last week's guidelines were a concern to parents of children with hearing loss.
Aisling Cahill from Kilcullen, Co Kildare, has four children — James, 13, Holly, 12, Noah, 8, and Alex, 6.
James wears a hearing aid, while Alex is a cochlear implant user.
Ms Cahill, who is also a member of Our New Ears, an advocacy group of parents with children who have hearing loss, welcomed the news that visors could be used in schools.
“It’s amazing news. We wanted them [the Department of Education] to hear us, we wanted them to respond, and to acknowledge that our kids have these extra challenges.”
Ms Cahill says she understands and respects that some parents may not want to send their children to school without a mask.
“But the fact that schools will now allow the use of visors, which will allow kids to communicate, where a child needs that lip visibility, is just all we’ve been asking for,” she added.
Ms Cahill had previously expressed concerns about the new guidelines. She warned that unless something was done, children who are hard of hearing or deaf would be “left behind” both academically and socially.
However, with this new announcement, these fears have been alleviated.
"We just want them to be able to participate with what the teacher is saying and what the other kids in the class are saying,” said Ms Cahill.
“There's been a lot of worrying this week. But there is going to be overwhelming relief now after this,” she added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education also said that in the case of certain children, schools may be already aware of difficulties they may face in the appropriate use of face coverings.
“Schools are best placed to identify those children whose complex needs are such that the wearing of face-covering may not be possible for them and to discuss this with parents as required.
"In such circumstances, a school will not require medical certification to provide an exemption to the wearing of face coverings.”