More on masking in autism
Masking in autism begins at an early age as children begin to realise the typical neurotypical encouragement to "be yourself" doesn't extend to being yourself when being yourself is beyond what they arbitrarily deem to be acceptable.
You couldn't make it up, could you?
As if that wasn't bad enough all by itself, masking is positively encouraged by well-meaning but sadly deluded people who say they want to help but end up making things worse.
Because the support systems, initiatives, therapies, and programmes developed ostensibly to help autistic children mange the many difficulties the condition presents are predicated on the idea of getting them to “fit in” to society.
Masking in autism places an unfair onus on autistics
Because it's essentially forcing us to conform to a world we don't fit into or understand.
More to the point, it's not as if neurotypicality is objectively any better or worse than being autistic. The only reason we're forced to conform to your idea of how people should be is that's how most people are.
The natural pressure of society and of our peers makes things hard enough as they are, but when we're encouraged (and depending on whom you listen to bullied, badgered, and browbeaten) to act in ways going against our true nature it can be crushing.
When a child has been through the system and reaches adulthood, the various support-services give themselves a pat on the back and send the "fixed" individual out into the world on his or her own (support for adult autistics is sparse everywhere, and practically non-existent where I live).
And that's bullshit, because they've fixed nothing, and the poor sod's problems are just getting started.
Newsflash for the hard of thinking: autism doesn't fade with age. We don't become "less autistic" through therapy, experience, or the passage of the years. What we do become is better at masking and (with luck) more adept at working with, around, and through our challenges.
I was diagnosed as an adult, well into middle-age, so while I experienced childhood as an autistic, I didn't have the experience of being labelled as an "autistic child".
Whether this is a good or bad thing is moot since it all happened a long time ago, but what I have been told by young adults, and have observed myself in initiatives aimed at the so-called "autistic community" in general, is these things are devised by neurotypicals based on what they think or assume we're going to find helpful.
I have personal experience of the owner of an allegedly "autism friendly" business blithely ignore everything and anything I said about my experience of his business as an autistic, and insinuate me I was "wrong". None of this was helped by his belief he was "a little bit autistic" himself and so magically "[knew] more than a bit about what it means".
No one knows what autistics want or need better than autistics do themselves
Few things rouse my ire quicker than the parents of autistic kids who think because they're genetically related or pushed a child out of their vagina it gives them the supernatural ability to divine child's thought processes and magically "know" what's best for them.
I didn't always know what was best for my kids, for sure. That's why when they were ill I'd take them to the fucking doctor.
Probably one of the best things you can do to help an autistic child learn and grow into their condition and figure out how to cope in an alien world is let them mix with appropriate autistic adults.
What we should categorically NOT be doing, ever, is placing the onus for acceptance in society on the autistic. Masking in autism is, in my opinion, a sign something has gone wrong somewhere because the person involved feels uncomfortable or threatened to the extent he or she dare not relax and act naturally.
Autistics are bullied, discriminated against, and generally treated as second-class citizens, the same as other disabled people and pretty much any minority you care to mention.
Expecting autistics to "fit in" and so avoid these things is qualitatively no different from expecting gay people to hide their sexuality or non-caucasians to hide their colour for the same reasons. I also think most autistics would do well to learn to be more resilient, too, because regardless of the rights or wrongs of any of this, it will always be with us.
Nevertheless, blaming autistics for the negative attention we receive is victim-blaming. It's like blaming women for wearing revealing clothes when they get assaulted.
Condoning programmes and other initiatives aimed at helping us "fit in" is bigotry.
And forcing kids into them is child abuse.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate