I presume if you’re interested in neurodiversity (and I guess you are if you’re on my blog) you might have heard about unmasking movement. It has nothing to do with taking off the masks we were supposed to wear because of Covid pandemic.
Masking is all the effort autistic people do to appear neurotypical, and I do admit it is an extreme demand for us and it may cause meltdowns. So some autistic people came up with the idea that we should stop masking and just ‘be ourselves’. And believe me, I tried that. I was diagnosed 6 years ago so I had plenty of time to see how unmasking works, and I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t.
One of the problem with unmasking is that I pretty much don’t have any demeanour, just totally none. Everything that I do around other people is form of acting, absolutely everything, there is no ‘me’ when I’m with others, not even with my partner. So if I want to unmask I need to ignore people totally and only talk to them when I actually need something practical from them. But then, what people think is, that I don’t need any social interaction, which is not true. I still need social interaction and the only way of getting my social needs met is by playing a role, which is masking.
I am now trying to refrain from playing a role of confident and lively person, as that is too difficult, and would be especially impossible to keep playing it consistently. Instead I choose to play a role of a polite introvert, which is much easier, but again the problem is I don’t really think I’m an introvert. Therefore once in a while I allow myself for an outburst of extraverted energy that, I suppose, is confusing for people. But still, all of that is masking, just in a way that works better for me and isn’t very taxing.
The other thing that I don’t like about ‘unmasking movement’ is that I really believe that we should make an effort to see things from another person perspective. And to be honest that isn’t that difficult, after I’ve done it a couple of times. Unmasking doesn’t allow for that, instead it all focuses on us, up to a point when it can get very sad.
So basically I saw that post today on one of my Facebook groups. It was by a neurotypical wife of an autistic man, and a mum to an autistic child. She complained that their child, autistic as I said, is very sensitive to how his autistic dad talks: child feels rejected by dad’s harsh tone of voice. The mum was asking how to handle that and asked for autistic people only to comment. There was one single advice there: please explain to the child that dad doesn’t mean anything wrong, he’s just like that.
And I thought, seriously? Clearly the fact the child is autistic is not preventing them from being put off by harsh tone of voice, so it is not true that autistics will always be able to communicate well with each other, so why no one says that the dad needs to practice to talk in a more gentle way?
Neurotypical parents constantly look for ways to improve communication with their kids so why are we not expecting even this tiny effort from an autistic parent? So that they didn’t need to mask? And instead we require the child, also autistic, to understand.
Is that really what we want from an autism awareness?
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