On masking (my diagnostician)

There is this strong movement in an autistic community that is called anti-masking. That means being against any attempt to behave like neurotypical people do. It makes sense, in theory, but I tried that and, as much as I’m glad I did, it’s only for experience as it really didn’t bring me happiness.

It’s tricky because I do understand that some of ours autistic behaviours bring us sense of calm, but then, the truth is, let’s be honest about it, people judge, and the worst what may happen is if they judge you without giving you any hint that they did it because you’re still judged but don’t even know it. And if you don’t know it, you can’t use your experience as a learning curve and you get stuck in a vicious circle of making the same mistake over and over.

However, what I am agains is the masking that goes with absolutely no understanding of what we do and why – that is what’s happening when one is not aware of their autism. We then only focus on ‘how’ and that brings terrible results no matter how much effort we put in. I was there, believe me, and it felt horrible every single time after I did it. How it may look like? An autistic person can for example use a statement they heard a few days ago from somebody else to respond to comment. The autistic person may think that the statement is fun and demonstrates confidence while in fact it’s sarcastic. No one is laughing, no one seems impressed and people may even look like they don’t know what to do with themselves (yes, we can usually get that bit right) and the autistic person doesn’t know why this is happening. Perhaps, they think, others are intimidated by their intelligence? This approach to masking is a sure recipie for fail.

Over the last couple of years I worked out how to mask in a different, more productive way – by starting with asking myself what the other person perspective on the situation is. Obviously it doesn’t bring perfect results, or certainly not every time – I am still autistic at the end of the day – but it works much better.

That change started with my diagnostician, commenting on me that I can’t see other person perspective. She didn’t elaborate on it and changed the subject when I tried to find out what she meant (by this day I have no idea where she got that from) which seemed really strange at the time, for an autism specialist – I mean the fact that she didn’t want to explain what she meant. But then, what happened with time was, that as I kept asking myself what it was that she meant, I started focusing on it and with time my understanding of social situations changed. I basically started focusing on exactly that – other people perspective. If she had explained that statement to me I’d listen and nothing would change. I’d end up explaining to myself that I am like that because I’m autistic and nothing can be done about it.

I sometimes think about her now – she must have known, obviously, that will be the end effect her comment would have on me and I wonder where she got that knowledge from. This is certainly not written anywhere in books or articles about autism. Is this something that she came up with herself? But how? And then, if she’s such a good specialist, why she’s only a diagnostician in the town of Swindon? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Whatsoever.

Perhaps the community will find her one day and I can talk to her again. However, I will wait till this happens naturally. I really don’t know what’s happening for her in her career right now and if, possibly, Simon Baron-Cohen and the likes don’t give her any troubles. I wouldn’t want to make anything worse for her.

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