AUTISTIC MASKING: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Special Education
AUTISTIC MASKING: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Many individuals on the autism spectrum face an uncomfortable and exhausting experience of concealing their true selves and conforming to societal expectations. This phenomenon is known as autistic masking. In environments where neurodiversity is not fully understood, autistic children often feel compelled to mimic neurotypical behavior and suppress their own unique traits.

Masking occurs when autistic individuals hide their true thoughts, emotions, and appearances, striving to blend in with others. This behavior can be either intentional or unintentional and can have serious consequences, such as a distorted sense of identity and mental health issues.

What exactly is autistic masking? According to Pearson and Bruce (2021), masking refers to the conscious or unconscious act of suppressing natural responses across various domains, including sensory processing, social communication and interaction, behavior camouflage, adaptive morphing, and compensation.

Why do autistic individuals engage in masking? Autistic individuals often mask their true selves in an attempt to be accepted and fit in, avoiding mistreatment or social exclusion by their peers and others around them. They yearn to belong and achieve a certain social status. In their efforts to conform, they may even mask their movements and other forms of expression, which can be challenging for non-autistic individuals to comprehend.

How can we prevent autistic masking?

  1. ACCEPTANCE: It is crucial to accept autistic individuals for who they are, embracing their authentic selves without passing judgment or criticism.
  2. TEACH SELF-ADVOCACY: By helping autistic individuals understand their differences and their unique neurodivergent wiring, we empower them to advocate for themselves. For example, they can confidently express, "I don't understand what you're saying. Could you please repeat it?" In the case of young children, advocating on their behalf is essential. Educating those around us about autism as a different neurological wiring can also foster an environment where autistic individuals can be their authentic selves.
  3. COMMUNICATE AUTISTIC DIFFERENCES: If a child is ready to comprehend autism, it is important to explain why they are different and the communication disparities among different neurotypes. We can illustrate how autistic individuals communicate and emphasize that having differences is perfectly acceptable. Introducing terms like "information dumping," "autism inertia," and "alexithymia" can help them understand how these aspects impact their communication with others. Failing to educate them about their unique wiring may lead to self-blame, lowered self-esteem, and a diminished sense of identity. Therefore, it is crucial to assure them that being autistic is not their fault; it's just the way they are wired, and there is nothing wrong with that.
  4. SETTING BOUNDARIES: Autistic individuals do not have to say "yes" to everything non-autistic individuals ask of them. They have the right to say "no" and establish emotional boundaries. Teaching them about physical boundaries, such as personal space, appropriate touch, and proximity to others, is also essential. Moreover, they should understand their financial boundaries, realizing that their money is theirs alone and they don't have to give it away unnecessarily just to fit in or feel a sense of belonging. Additionally, teaching them about social boundaries within their specific societal environment and encouraging them to establish their own boundaries is crucial.

By understanding the concept of autistic masking, recognizing its consequences, and implementing these strategies, we can work as a community to prevent masking, support and advocate for individuals with autism, and help them lead lives of dignity without judgment, criticism, guilt, or shame.

TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

 

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