Ask the Experts: What is Camouflaging or Masking?

The team at Living Communities explain the strategy of camouflaging or masking used by those with autism or ADHD.

Camouflaging or Masking refers to strategies used by autistic and ADHD people to mask or hide social difficulties and the still present stigma connected to disability.

Neurominorities show differences in social communication and interaction, focused interests, and sensitivity to sensory stimulation.

Although autism is identifiable from infancy, and ADHD can be identified from early childhood, diagnosis occurs across the lifespan, with many neurodiverse people not diagnosed until adulthood.

Diagnosis in adulthood is potentially related to camouflaging of autistic characteristics.

Camouflaging refers to strategies that mask social difficulties and enable “passing” as though non-autistic in social situations.

It can include the use of techniques to appear socially competent, such as rehearsing facial expressions, eye contact and social scripts.

Understanding camouflaging is relevant to the mental health of neurodiverse people.

Research has shown people relate camouflaging to experiencing greater mental and physical exhaustion.

Understanding behaviours that negatively impact on psychological wellbeing, such as camouflaging, is imperative.

However, without masking and camouflaging many neurodiverse people report experiencing difficulty getting jobs and qualifications or issues with social exclusion. They may even risk verbal and physical assaults.

Schools, workplaces, social circles, and research institutions should address neurotypical privilege.

They should empower diverse neurominority leaders and support them to drive systemic cultural change.

This is how we can remove barriers to unmasking, and improve life for neurominorities at work, school and in broader society.

More information at:

Read next: Ask the Experts: Supporting families with Living Communities

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