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The Insider's Scoop On Autism Masking

We live in a world of masking these days, but when we talk about autism masking or social camouflaging, what does that even mean?

Masking in it’s simplest form is hiding. Imagine feeling that your behavior stands out in some way. Perhaps you are quiet and have difficulty starting a conversation or you have some form of stimming behavior and people stare. Whatever the difference, masking means the person covers up who they really are to try to fit in.  Autistic girls tend to engage in this social behavior more than autistic boys.

Masking = Fitting In

No judgement here.

We’ve all used social imitation strategies to some extent. We want to fit into a friend group so we pretend to think what they think and act in ways that are not really true to ourselves.

Well people with autism take this a step further to try to fit in a society that in many ways is not true to who they are.

This takes substantial cognitive effort (lots of energy) to constantly try to fit it to schools, groups of friends, and social situations.  These compensation techniques lead to social difficulties, low self-esteem and mental health problems.

Masking Behaviors

  • Imitating facial expressions and gestures of different people and even tv show characters to try to fit in and make a good impression
  • Practicing small talk conversations in different situations (creating social scripts to follow)
  • Hiding special interests and your true self to avoid teasing and bullying
  • Using eye contact although it’s uncomfortable and requires so much effort and social anxiety

Benefits of Masking

People continue with behaviors in their daily life that benefit them in some way. 

Masking is no different and in fact, the main reasons for autistic masking is to avoid bullying and teasing in a social interaction .

Other reasons include: 

Avoiding the negative impact of low self esteem 

Wanting to feel accepted in social situations

Imitating social skills of family members and in a friend group

Negative Effects of Masking

Kids may start imitating neurotypical behaviors starting at a young age and can spend their whole life using autistic masking to fit in.  

It’s good to be shaped by positive people and experiences that allow us to grow into a healthy adult.  But when we spend a lot of time hiding 

who we are just to fit in, we experience a loss of identity, a decrease in physical health and increased mental health issues which are harmful to us, not growth producing.

 

Autism Acceptance

We take the good and leave behind what isn’t working for us.  The process of growth is accepting who you are, loving your differences and being open to changing what you want to change about yourself. 

Kids with autism spectrum disorder may need further support and early intervention.  

Mental health services are available many places.  Here is a Psychology Today link based on city, state or zip code.

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