Women with Autism – Beware we wear masks (well supposedly anyway).


I think it’s interesting that many of the articles I’ve read all state, in one way or another, that girls and women on the Autism Spectrum are hard to diagnose because they “mask” their symptoms.

Yet when I look back on my life I don’t see any evidence that I “masked” any of my symptoms at all.

In fact, more often than not, my symptoms/differences were repeatedly pointed out to me and criticized by others.

So what I tend to see, when I look back, is the exact opposite of the claims made by others that women and girls “mask” their differences.

All throughout my  childhood  there is clear evidence that although those around me knew that I was ‘different’, no-one was prepared enough to take any steps toward understanding either how or why my behaviors were so different to those of the children around me.

So for me, I find the statement that girls/women on the Autism Spectrum “mask” their ‘differences’ to be both a very misleading and a potentially harmful one.

One that in a round – about kind of way, ends up placing the blame for the lack of awareness regarding females with Autism, right back at our own feminine feet.

After all, we were the tricky ones who were supposedly “masking” our own behavior’s in order to evade detection.

Is it just me or is anyone else  beginning to feel slightly perplexed by the repetition of this very insidious form of circular  reasoning?


14 thoughts on “Women with Autism – Beware we wear masks (well supposedly anyway).

  1. So true. I believe the masks here are actually on the viewers and skew and distort all that they see. Masks the viewers wear of gender expectations and early social role training. As a male I was supposed to be seen, which had there own repercussions. I remember girls that for reasons unknown to me at the time, I felt a kinship with and a compassion for who they were. I imagine now, no, I am certain now, that those girls were you…

  2. I think that this circular reasoning always goes back to Eve and the apple. When you consider that the snake represents knowledge in Greek mythology, it makes sense that anything to do with us and understanding is meant to penalize us in Western society.

  3. I’m not trying to be critical, but this post shows the danger of generalizing your own experience to everyone else. If you have visible traits that make you obviously different from the norm, masking is difficult, if not impossible. Many women and girls on the spectrum have no outward traits that immediately mark them as different, and do mask in order to fit in. I’ve read a good number of those articles myself and I don’t remember that any of them said that *all* girls and women on the spectrum use masking.

  4. I dunno…. I tend to think we do wear masks, but no more than any neurotypical person. Everyone wears masks to some extent. I just don’t think we do it more than anyone else.

  5. my daughter is on the autism spectrum and has never “masked” her behavior or symptoms..I’m glad I paid attention to it at a young age, so I could get her the help she needed. 🙂

  6. Not so for me. I guess I could be considered one of those females. I don’t see it as anything deceptive or negative on any level. It is just another facet of our unique abilities. There are those NTs that are going to say what they want to say about us and they aim to use our words against us; to deface us and devalue us so that all arrows point to them and what they want to deem as “truth.”

    We are an incredible on all areas of the spectrum, but let us also remember that we are on a spectrum. No one is just like the other. So I think it is quite fitting that you have not had this experience. I have. Once again, it is proven that we are different…

    I have always felt like an alien in my own skin. Trapped in an environment that is completely foreign to me, yet I still call it home. There are certain aspects to being and feeling this way. So as one form of coping, in some, a skill emerges. This by no means develops overnight. Intense study of the complexities of emotions and reactions is needed. This skill can be a product of trauma, ridicule, teasing, bullying, coping, etc…or is could be a product of extreme curiosity or obsession about human nature. I have such an obsession.

    I have studied human behavior for most of my life. I find it fascinating on all levels. My mind is able to encapsulate and categorize the different measures of human behavior. These behaviors are mostly categorize by purpose rather than by complexities because many human characteristics are used or dare I say seemingly most useful in a fake/falsified sort of way. Humans seem to thrive in that which is not real or chose to manipulate situations/events for desired gain. I can’t understand why this is so, but it is. An example…When I was a child, I wanted to have very long fingernails. I begged and begged for one of those little kits, Lee Press On Nails, I think it was. My mom finally gave in and allowed me to purchase a set. I turned my focus to mastering everything that I could with my new long fingernails.

    On day after completing my homework, I showed the practice writing page to my dad. With disgust in his voice, he stated that my writing was horrible and it needed to be redone. I then took the page to my mom, her words and emotions were nearly the same. I found this result to be quite unexpected. I worked very hard on my writing and with great scrutiny was careful to double check letter development, spatial preferences, pencil pressure and neatness. I was confused. My parent’s reaction was not logical given the level of effort I put into the assignment. I thought about all events leading up to the current and determined the possibility of their being an undesired element in the equation. Upon careful examination of all factors and by process of elimination, evidence of the damning element in question came into being. It in fact appeared to be my new fingernails. I removed them and waited an appropriate measure of time before a second presentation of my assignment was conducted. As I suspected, my parents reaction proved my theory correct. They both went on an on about how wonderful my assignment looked. That this time all of the letters were perfect and neatness impeccable. Funny…in there determination to deter me from wearing my new nails they did not realize that they were looking at the exact same paper, presented only minutes ago. I learned a great lesson that day. Humans take pride in lying and manipulating to gain desired outcomes, much like those who take our words and use them against us today. This is proven to be a common occurrence.

    That being said, perhaps we should not rest our minds solely on the actual masking of one’s self or the perception there of, but to look more closely at the development of the skill and the reasoning behind the masking. Indeed, I am sure, behind this development lies something much more stimulating.

    Now that we see the underlying truth behind marginally unethical reactions to our being, let us also remember within our own scrutiny of others and study of one’s self, not to forget that we are the epitome of neurodiversity and many of us strive to be appreciated for being so.

  7. I tend to believe that a lot of it is that it’s a lot more difficult for a woman to receive a proper diagnosis. I’ve known lots of undiagnosed girls on the spectrum (disclaimer: my word does not override a professional’s).

    As for why, I think people just tend to pay less attention and write it off as something else.

  8. I masked more as i became aware of what exactly- it was to fit in -i mimick behaviour of other girls,still never fit in lol. But til this day i mimick women,and without a real strong female mentor or role model-i just had to go by classmates,observing.

  9. I never “masked” anything, and I know a lot of people noticed my differences, but just preferred to think of it as a personality problem! Especially with children, I don’t see how little girls would be able to “mask” their symptoms any more than boys would.

    1. I agree with you Angel…. I think those that do ‘mask’ their symptoms as children are taught to do so…. which means that someone in their life, had to be aware enough of their differences, to teach them that ‘masking’ those differences was necessary. And when I say that they were taught, I don’t mean that someone sat them down and told them to do so… there are many ways that adults show their disapproval towards a child’s behavior….. so it’s a process of being taught that many may not even be consciously aware of.

  10. I am an Autistic woman who feels very isolated and alone and I would very much like to get to know other women like me. Is their anyone out their? Hazel

  11. I appreciate your thoughts on this, but also like Catana, I also wonder if you are trying to generalise based on your own experience, which differs significantly from my own. I have spent my whole life trying to ‘act normal’ and learning how to be. It’s not that I’m being fake, it’s just that since a child I was made hyper-aware that I was not acting in the right way or being misinterpreted as rude or shy or not in the real world – and that this was leading to rejection (first parental, then school peers). It’s also a feeling of not understanding what is going on but not wanting to be found out and so trying to mimic what others would do so not to get unwanted negative attention. I too have been obsessed with behaviour my whole life to the point where it is the subject of my work. As a child I was constantly doing impressions and commenting on what people were doing (and then being told off). I’m now 30 and only recently diagnosed, but to do so I had to explain the level of mental attention that goes into a simple conversation. From a young age I learned (perhaps wrongly) that I couldn’t be myself and be loved. As a teenage I was then consumed by trying to know ‘how to be myself’ in the way that other people seemed to be at ease and able to be themselves – leading to depression. As an adult I now feel that it is as if I am speaking ‘their’ (NTs) language, so I am able to participate socially, but can only do so for short lengths of time and have to spend a lot of time before hand getting ready and imagining what might happen, and afterwards analysing what happened. I think my need for acceptance has fuelled a sense of having to pretend I know how to navigate social situations intuitively an learning how to act that way, but also how to mentally read enough to know the appropriate behaviour – through painful trial and error. I still get it wrong lots of course, but am a lot more forgiving thankfully. I also wish that I could feel free enough to let the more natural self show but have too much conditioned fear to do so.
    I post this because I feel that those who have felt this social pressure to the degree I have are at a certain disadvantage to understanding themselves and their differences and needs – both because of a lack of diagnosis and because of a lack of self-knowledge from spending so much time compensating for a difference that becomes more and more invisible, and acting like someone else.

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