Sunday, September 25, 2022

Autism How To Stop Masking

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Who Can Offer Support

Autistic MASKING: how do we do it and should we stop?
  • Beyond Autism helps children and adults with autism to live beyond their condition, ensuring that they are able to access a full range of opportunities and experiences. They offer training and support for parents and professionals, and work with young adults to develop their skills without masking their symptoms.
  • Ambitious About Autism offers specialist educational services and employment programmes. They also campaign to raise awareness about autism, which is essential for a reduction in autism masking.
  • The National Autistic Society helps to support specialist schools, families, employers and other organisations to become autism-friendly. Their mission is to change the attitudes and perceptions towards people with autism.

What Are The Signs Of Autism In Girls Is Aspergers In Girls Overlooked

Because ASD is a spectrum, every individual with autism differs from another. People with autism do not all share the same mix of traits. People can be anywhere on the spectrum, sharing some traits and not others, but most people with autism are labelled as either high-functioning or low-functioning.

Is Autism Inherited From The Mother Or Father

The researchers discovered that women passed on just half of their structural variations to their autistic offspring, a frequency that would be anticipated by chance alone, implying that maternal variants are unrelated to autism. Surprisingly, dads passed down much more than half of their mutations.

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Autistic People Are All The Same

There is a broad spectrum of people who are autistic, and even though many may share similar traits no two autistic people are the same

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How Masking Affects Getting A Diagnosis

Taking off the mask: could you? SHOULD you?

Getting a diagnosis as a woman may be a lot harder for us.

We want the validation so we dont feel imposter syndrome and question if we really are part of the autistic community.

Clinicians see autism traits as strictly male traits, and instead of recognizing we have the same traits, we get labeled with other conditions instead.

They see our sensory overload as just a woman being overly emotional.

Our desire to connect with others through shared special interests gets us labeled as self-obsessed, and they diagnose us with a mental illness instead.

If we were born with a mental illness along with autism, they may dismiss our autistic traits as part of our condition.

All of this makes getting a diagnosis as a woman a lot more challenging.

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Becoming Someone Socially Acceptable

Weve been told since we were small children how important it is to become socially acceptable.

There are entire therapies, such as ABA, built around teaching autistic children how to hide who they are. If we get pressured into submission, perhaps they think we can pretend to be more like a socially acceptable neurotypical person.

We may not fully understand what exactly makes someone socially acceptable to a neurotypical, and they leave us confused while trying to decipher this strange world that is nothing like our own.

Autistic people can communicate love and connection through shared special interests.

If we find someone who shares our special interest with the same intensity, we feel like finally we found someone we can be ourselves with. Perhaps this is our version of becoming socially acceptable.

How Do We Avoid The Consequences Of Masking

How have I avoided the consequences of masking? Ive learned that I can still mask, but that there is no reason to be ashamed of my autism. But its not just about changing the way I think of my autism. Communicating with neurotypical people and letting them know how they can best support me has been helpful. And in turn, if youre a neurotypical person, communicating with your autistic friends can really make them feel happier and included.

A person splashes colourful pigment powders on themself. Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash

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What Are The Symptoms

Symptoms that may indicate masking for some could be signs of developing communication and social skills in others.

In addition, autistic folks who need minimal support may have different approaches to social communication than someone who requires more substantial support.

To help determine whether masking is occurring and whether its helpful, consider consulting with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional who specializes in ASD. They can offer insight on masking behaviors and help determine the next steps.

Signs you or someone you support may be masking include:

  • Mirroring others facial expressions or social behaviors
  • Rehearsing or preparing scripted responses to comments
  • Imitating gestures such as handshakes or initiating eye contact
  • Noticeable difficulty with disguising autistic traits in unfamiliar environments
  • Shutting down or experiencing emotional dysregulation after lengthy social engagements

What Are The Signs Of Autistic Masking

Autism, Masking, and Why Sometimes I Can’t Stop Smiling

Masking, a social survival strategy, will look different depending on the individual. Here are some signs of masking behavior from the Healthline post Autism Masking: To Blend or Not to Blend:

  • forcing or faking eye contact during conversations
  • imitating smiles and other facial expressions
  • mimicking gestures
  • hiding or minimizing personal interests
  • developing a repertoire of rehearsed responses to questions
  • scripting conversations
  • pushing through intense sensory discomfort including loud noises
  • disguising stimming behaviors

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What Is Autism Masking Understanding This Complex Survival Strategy In Adults

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group

Medical professionals have learned a great deal about autism over the years, but there is still a lot unknown.

Autism can be explained medically as a bio-neurological development disability, but to get into the nuanced details is quite a bit more complicated.

The degree to which a person can show patterns of autism varies by a great deal, so there isnt truly a one-size-fits-all description of how it impacts each individual person who has it.

Autism in adults

To that end, there is a growing number of adults who are learning they have autism.

Perhaps they had traits in their personality they knew made them feel different, or maybe social interactions were always a struggle for them.

For many of these adults, theyve learned to autism mask, which is a quite complex survival strategy for people with autism, and theyve likely done it without even realizing what they were doing.

Before we get into that, its important to understand some signs of autism in adults. To name a few, they might include:

  • Self doubt
  • Isolation or loneliness

But perhaps one of the most important effects is it can lead to a delayed autism diagnosis.

People who spend years autism masking might end up feeling like theyre not good enough, and that alone can be traumatic.

How we can help and support

Graham Media Group 2022

The Three Characteristics Of Autism

Before we dive into the topic of camouflaging or masking, lets discuss some definitions of autism.

According to the DSM-5, autism spectrum disorder is characterized by difficulty in social communication, difficulty in social interaction, and the occurrence of repetitive behaviors and interests or activities.

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How Masking Changes As We Age

When we become adults, our masking changes to suit different aspects of our lives.

Once we decide we would like to seek a romantic partner, we learn how to mask while dating so we can find someone who will like us and love us.

There can be a fear in autistic adults of not being loved for who we are, and after spending our childhood believing we must be someone else to have others like us, we may never unmask around our romantic partner.

After we reach the workplace, they may reprimand us for engaging in natural autistic behaviors, and we feel forced to hide ourselves at work.

We feel like we have yet another area of our lives where we have to pretend to be someone else to become more socially acceptable.

Autism & Social Masking

The autism diagnosis means we sometime stop faking/masking neurotypical ...

When we autistic people mask socially, we do it to avoid the consequences the neurotypical world gives us for existing differently.

There are so many facets of masking, and it becomes this complicated internal web we get trapped in, unable to get out.

One place we can start learning to unmask is to look at why we feel such a strong need to mask.

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Autism Masking In Women

When you are an autistic woman, you can struggle to have professionals, and others take you seriously.

Society expects all women to be nice and well behaved. Assertiveness is seen as a masculine behavior, and something women should not display.

Autistic men can say exactly whats on their mind, live their lives with logic instead of emotion, and its seen as a positive trait. However, when autistic women do the same thing, society shames us for being ourselves.

Common Signs Of Autism In Girls:

  • A tendency to mimic others in social situations
  • Passivity, often perceived as “just being shy”
  • One or few close friendships
  • A tendency to “camouflage” difficulties
  • Developmentally appropriate language skills
  • A vivid imagination
  • Less severe and frequent repetitive behaviours

This could lead them to get another diagnosis or fail to be diagnosed at all, she said.

More research is still needed to understand why more males get diagnosed with autism than females.

A meta-analysis published in 2017 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found there appeared to be a diagnostic gender bias for the condition, meaning girls who met the criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder were at disproportionate risk of not receiving a clinical diagnosis.

Dr Midford specialises in diagnosing autism and said the disorder’s markers were often not detected in girls in early life because they were adept at what is known as “social masking”.

She said autism was originally thought to be a male-dominated disorder, and all the early work around autism involved boys, and in fact women and girls presented different symptoms to men and boys.

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An Introduction To Autism

Autism is a fairly common developmental disability that occurs in people of all ages. Even I have it! A well known coping mechanism among people with autism is masking. Masking, to put it simply, is an effective way of hiding your neurodivergent symptoms when among others. Lets consider stimming, for example. Stimming is a way to let out energy, and using masking to suppress that urge is, well, tiresome to say the least. For me, I stim through shaking my hands or pressing my fist into my face. This helps me shake off all the built up energy. Shaking your hands is one of the most common ones, but there are many other ways to do it.

So, whats the big issue with masking? Masking your symptoms can be very dangerous, and not just physically. Masking has, in a myriad of ways, negatively impacted my life. I started to mask once I got into kindergarten. I knew I had to once I started to receive negative responses from peers after stimming or expressing my special interests. As I grew older, I was surrounded by the negative stereotypes of an autistic person because of social media. The r slur was being used like the class sharpener. Everyone would use it. Here are some of the many issues Ive struggled with from masking my symptoms at work, school, and home.

Existing In A World Not Made For Us

Autism Masking What Is It? – (What YOU NEED To Know)

The neurotypical world can be the most confusing place, full of unspoken social rules. It can seem like neurotypicals are obsessed with social interaction. Their entire lives revolve around it.

Sometimes we just want to be left alone so we can unmask and exist peacefully within ourselves.

Even as an adult, our special interests can become our refuge.

We may also have hypo or hypersensitivities to sensory stimuli, which makes navigating the world a lot harder. Its like it traps us in a whirlwind of sensory overload.

Autistic people have their own worlds, full of our own social rules. The world we want to live in is a lot different from how the neurotypical system works, but within our own community, we understand each other.

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How Do You Spot Masked Depression

General aches and pains, such as headaches, backaches, and musculoskeletal aches, as well as nonpainful symptoms like changes in appetite and libido, lack of energy, sleep disturbances, dizziness, palpitations, dyspnea, and gastrointestinal tract disturbances, are all physical symptoms of masked depression.

How Can Autism Masking Be Prevented

The most significant way that autism masking can be prevented is by regular training in identifying autism, and identifying the condition as early as possible.

The earlier a diagnosis is given, the more support the child can receive, and the more likely that their experiences throughout school will be positively impacted. If a child is given an early diagnosis, they may come to terms with their condition more quickly, which can aid the development of identity and security in who they are.

When children are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, they are often in a misplaced school setting , and given activities that are unsuited to their needs. This can damage their self-esteem, causing them to stand out against their peers, pushing them to try and mask their symptoms, which can be exhausting and mentally damaging.

Learning settings and workplaces need to ensure that they are taking all measures to tackle bullying of individuals who display symptoms of neurodiversity. You can read more about inclusive practice by visiting our knowledge base. Bullying is a significant factor in autism masking, and inclusion and anti-bullying policies should clearly outline the steps taken in cases of bullying.

You can read more about neurodiversity in the workplace by visiting our knowledge base.

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What Are The Signs Of Autism Among Individuals Who Mask

To the naked eye, an autistic person who is masking his/her traits can appear neurotypical they are engaged in conversations, and can respond to social cues without problem. Without an educated awareness of the phenotype of camouflaging and the distinction of autistic behaviors in comparison to neurotypical behavior, it is easy for some men and women on the spectrum to fit into the crowd.

In an event where a person with ASD is masking and has not been diagnosed here are some subtle signs that one can look for to spot ASD traits:

Ways To Prevent Autistic Burnout

Stop Making Autistic People Mask. Being âweirdâ? doesnât hurt anyone ...

Autistic burnouts for me feel like the puzzle pieces in Tetris falling so fast you dont have enough time to line them up before they reach the top and the videogame is over, burnouts leave me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Ron Sandison

By Ron Sandison

Ive experienced many autistic burnouts with relationships, academics, employment and stressors of life, Ive learned to recognize the triggers to my burnouts. Some common triggers for my burnouts include over commitment, anxiety, change in routine, lack of sleep, and sensory overload. When I have an autistic burnout my brain goes blank, making it difficult for me to communicate ideas or make decisions, and I experience both physical and emotional exhaustion. Autistic burnouts cause us to be less productive and lack motivation for achieving our goals and take care of ourselves.

Amelia Blackwater, a blogger with autism, describes some causes of burnout on the spectrum,

Autistic burnout is usually attributed to prolonged masking or mimicking neurotypical behavior. However, burnout can also be caused by not getting enough time to oneself, stress, sleep deprivation, illness, and sensory or emotional overstimulation.

(Blackwater, Amelia. How Burnout Impacts My Autism The Mighty, 12 December, 2021.

Make a list of triggers that lead to your burnouts and write down coping skills you can incorporate when you feel overwhelmed. Please share in the comment section below your triggers and coping skills.

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‘people Lose A Sense Of Their Actual Identity’

Yenn Purkis is an author, presenter and autism advocate living in Canberra.

Mx Purkis said masking had affected their life, and they believed many autistic women became adept at “masking” and suppressing their outwardly autistic traits.

“It is not really a very positive quality as it means people lose a sense of their actual identity,” Mx Purkis said.

“It is also evidence of the fact that a lot of the world views autism as entirely negative and often discriminates against autistic people.

“In an improved world, autistic people would not feel the need to mask in order to be accepted â we would be accepted as we are.”

Masking Autism In A Jarring Neurotypical World

Fast-forward a few years and I tried again, this time to study experimental psychology at Oxford. It was glorious to feel intellectually stimulated by the subject of the human mind, and I could work passionately for all hours and avoid the clubbing and the more socially overwhelming aspects of university without anyone thinking it strange. I had found my intellectual niche: I could pursue my special interest people and I even found a new special interest in rowing.

The neurotypical world can be jarring, but I learned at Oxford that autistic people, like orchids, can flourish in an environment that suits us. For instance, I know of a successful autistic man who loves board games, and he works in a board game café. I would like to believe that there is a niche out there for every autistic individual, even if it might require a little understanding from others and some adjustments such as removing bright lights to reduce sensory overload.

At this stage, my mental health was the best it had been for a long time. However, bad things can happen unexpectedly. I was walking across Magdalen Bridge in Oxford with my good friend Tess in 2012. We were carefree, chatting about our gap year together and enjoying the sunshine.

I poured my limited mental energy into my academic studies to hide my growing unhappiness, and I won a competitive scholarship to begin a PhD at Oxford. But I still felt different and had never truly dealt with my mental health problems.

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