What is “masking” and autism?

“Masking” and Autism- Sometimes this is called “camouflaging” 

On social media (twitter) I have seen multiple people who experience Autism describe the concept of “masking” and autism. At an autism conference I recently went to, a young man with autism described how he was able to “mask” his Autism and at the age of 22 has recently received a diagnosis. 

What is “masking”?

•Masking is when a person who has Autism tries to blend in or go unnoticed among their neurotypical peers. 

•They will fly under the radar, try to go unnoticed and copy or mirror as best as possible the social scripts of their peers.

•They work hard to be the “good student” and not bring extra attention to themselves. 

•Research shows that those who have Autism level one (aka. Asperger’s) often camouflage.

•Masking happens when a person with autism is more aware of their social differences to the neurotypical world. 

•Girls with autism tend to “mask” more than boys on the spectrum.

Why is masking an issue?

•Masking suppresses the natural state of the person with Autism. 

•Students who mask are often misdiagnosed because they have camouflaged their symptoms. A misdiagnosis of mental health difficulties may happen. 

•A feeling of social isolation may happen because they are not able to be their true selves. 

•Masking can lead to loneliness, depression, self-harm, self-medication, anxiety anger and is most notably it is exhausting.

If you suspect a student is masking, talk to your educational team, a special education teacher, school counselor or other professional. Getting others involved will help support you as an educator to determine the next steps to take in helping the student.

7 thoughts on “What is “masking” and autism?

  1. Sarah

    I often wonder if my middle son who has “aspergers” does this. He is 13 and has become acutely aware of how he’s different ; aware of his struggles.

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      1. Authentically Human

        When we finally received a formal diagnosis for my son, we told him and he cried for a few minutes. But then he quickly got to work “helping his gaming buddies how to play Minecraft because ” it is his gift that comes with autism. So, he generally felt releaved to finally know why he was “different” and why he has certain challenges in his life. Now that he’s nearing 14, he periodically expresses his frustruation with having autism. He has lost a number of friends during 8th grade because he takes sarcasm very literally and very personally. He lashes back with hurtful words that his group wouldn’t tolerate and literally “kicked him out of the group” over a group chat. He is working to make new friends but he connects better with kids he meets while playing fortnight. He seems happiest when not seen while doing something he’s very good at with other kids who are also really good at. He will be going to the public high school come September. He’s very independent and it’s clear he does better with kids in small groups or one on one. A bigger school awaits him where he will hopefully befriend older kids in various classes and after school activites (like the marching band which he committed to already.) I’m hopeful but cautiously hopeful for him.

  2. Lana Cole

    My son doesn’t doesn’t have autism, but a traumatic brain injury, yet he has many symptoms on the spectrum. He has done this “masking” for years. It made it difficult for even me to recognize the extent of his needs. Wonderful post!

    Reply

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