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Home » An Muppets guide to Autistic Masking.

An Muppets guide to Autistic Masking.

An Muppets guide to Autistic Masking.

No matter how many families I support, by far the biggest common factor is schools not understanding masking; more worryingly it’s those that don’t even want to know/ learn.

The finer a child is in school, and the worse the meltdowns after school are, the more they’re masking.”

Common Misconceptions

  • “But they’re fine in school…..there’s nothing wrong…..schools not the problem, it’s home!”
  • “It’s not our problem…”
  • “It’s an attachment issue!”
  • “You just need to be firmer!”
  • If they were struggling, they’d tell us!
  • “No-ones that good an actor!”
  • Only girls mask!

All these and more, are phrases I’ve heard from parents, families, schools and professionals. Although masking is slowly becoming better understood, there’s still so much more to understand

Why can’t they just tell us?- it’ll be so much easier!”

If we could tell you we were struggling, would you listen? We can’t tell you because it’s taking so much energy just to get through the day!

Have you ever “put on a brave face”?

Masking is so much more. It’s holding in our pain/ worries/ anxieties, whilst trying to process a lot of information, remember it, recall it, whilst filtering other noises out; the lorry beeping, footsteps passing by, heavy breathing, pen scratching as others write, pages being turned, the clock ticking, the lights buzzing, remembering the social rules, smells from the kitchen, trying not to watch the bird out the window, or blink at glaring lights. Every noise, sight and smell blurring into one thing!!

For those that know me, who’ve seen me training, advising and supporting or sitting in strategic meetings.

Would you be shocked to know I’m often masking! That I plan in advance, every little bit, use alarms to remind me. That I use a note book to remember information later or questions I want to ask…..why? Because I forget otherwise!

That I use loud techno music to regulate/de-stress afterwords?

Then a few hours later, when I get home, exhaustion hits after just 2-3 hours of masking, imagine how it must be after 6 of holding it in at school!

How can you help?

Understand and support, it’s not done to annoy. Masking is a type of coping mechanism, like a stim. Stims help us regulate, masking help us cope.

Don’t force eye contact, if I’m not looking at you, I’m probably taking it in better. If I feel “forced to look at faces, the only thought going through my head is “must look at them….. must look at them…… must look at them….”

Don’t be surprised if we’re lipreading. I know a lot who lipread. It can be a visual mind jog of a word.

Is the Classroom?

  • Too bright/ too dark?
  • Too hot/ too cold?
  • Are the windows open (noise=distraction).
  • Are others talking at same time?
  • Are walls too busy?
  • Are there visuals available as well as verbally?
  • If any of this impacts you, imagine the overwhelmingness for Sensory or autistic children.

Sensory Spectacle have fantastic advice on sensory friendly classrooms.

  • I need Help!! I’m not fine!! Why can’t you see me struggling?!
  • The next time a stressed parent says “they’re masking!”, please listen. I guarantee you, that parent will heave a huge sign to the first person that genuinely can say “I understand masking, the coke bottle effect!”

    Just because a child doesn’t have an autism diagnosis, doesn’t mean they can’t mask! A diagnosis doesn’t suddenly make someone autistic, they’ve always been autistic! A diagnosis hopefully opens up more support- this isn’t the reality for most families.

    If you want to learn/ understand just one thing, please understand masking, there’s a reason we do it!

    We mask to cope!

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