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How "unmasking" leads to freedom for autistic and other neurodivergent people | npr lifekit


Social psychologist Devon Price has published a book called "Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity," which explores the concept of "masking" in the autistic community. Masking refers to the strategies and behaviors that autistic individuals may use to hide their disability from others, and can manifest in two ways: camouflage, such as faking a smile or eye contact, and compensation, such as scheduling ghost meetings on a calendar to allow time to recharge. Masking is often used as a coping mechanism and may be more prevalent among marginalized groups, including women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals, who may feel more pressure to conceal their disability. Price suggests that unmasking starts with unlearning shame and recommends exercises such as going through a day without trying to read other people's minds and without apologizing excessively, and allowing oneself to express passion and joy.


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Roughly 2% of adults in the United States have Autism Spectrum Disorder – that's about 5.4 million people over the age of 18. And a lot of them go through their lives "masking."

Social psychologist Devon Price explains that masking is any attempt or strategy "to hide your disability." Price's new book, Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity, explores masking, and how to "unmask" and live more freely.

In addition to hiding from others, Price says masking is also a coping mechanism. "You know that if you show your discomfort with eye contact, people will find you untrustworthy and treat you very differently," he says.

Masking manifests itself in two ways: camouflage and compensation.

Camouflage includes behaviors like, "faking a smile, faking eye contact by looking in the middle of someone's forehead," Price says.

This is where compensation comes in. Price does this, for example, through scheduling ghost meetings on his calendar to give himself time to recharge.

"And that's really what most masked autistics end up having to do, because a lot of us receive social input, our whole lives, that there's something off about us," he says.

While masking is employed by many autistic people, people in marginalized groups, including women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people might feel even more compelled to camouflage their disability.


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