Masking is a form of identity management involving consciously or unconsciously suppressing aspects of identity and action. Often seen in socially marginalised groups, it is found to contribute towards poorer outcomes for autistic people and is related to higher prevalence of suicidality, exhaustion, burnout, and mental health difficulties. Though masking has been predominantly framed as a social strategy to ‘blend in’ with neurotypical (non-autistic) people, emerging research suggests that masking can also form as a response to stigma and from traumatic experiences.
Taking an intersectional lens to consider how autistic identity may interact with other aspects of selfhood, the authors will provide a holistic understanding of the most up-to-date evidence with the aim to develop solid knowledge and practice in health and education.
Amy Pearson is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland and an autistic autism researcher. Her work focuses on understanding the impact of interpersonal victimisation among autistic people, and the relationship between autistic identity and masking/stigma.
Kieran Rose operates the Autistic Advocate, delivering specialist training and consultancy in autism and neurodiversity. He is a published research partner with the Institute of Leadership and Management on the experiences of neurodivergent people in employment. He is a Research Associate at the University of Sunderland, co-producing qualitative research into different areas on autism with his research partner, Dr Amy Pearson.
2. Setting the scene: social context and background
3. Deconstructing current ideas around masking
5. Intersectionality: understanding masking as a stress response
6. Masking and gender
7. Masking and trauma
8. Development (of identity; of masking) and processes
9. Mechanisms of masking
10. Projecting acceptability
11. How to (safely) foster authenticity – boundaries, safe spaces etc.
12. Conclusions; summary; moving forward