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Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity

Devon Price

Personal Thoughts

Summary Notes

Masked Autism 

  • Many of them suffered from self-harm, eating disorders, and alcoholism. They were trapped in abusive or unfulfilling relationships, with no clue how to feel seen and appreciated. Nearly all of them were depressed, haunted by a profound sense of emptiness. Their entire lives had been shaped by mistrust in themselves, hatred of their bodies, and fear of their desires.
  • Gay and gender-nonconforming men often didn’t fit the masculine image of Autism well enough to be diagnosed.
  • Older Autistics never had the opportunity to be assessed, because knowledge about the disability was so limited during their childhoods.
  • This gave rise to what I am now calling masked Autism—a camouflaged version of the disorder that’s still widely neglected by researchers, mental health providers, and Autism organizations that aren’t led by Autistic people, such as the much-reviled Autism Speaks.
  • I’m also talking about any Autistic person whose suffering wasn’t taken seriously for reasons of class, race, gender, age, lack of access to health care, or the presence of other conditions.
  • When an Autistic person is not given resources or access to self-knowledge, and when they’re told their stigmatized traits are just signs that they’re a disruptive, overly sensitive, or annoying kid, they have no choice but to develop a neurotypical façade.
  • Similarly, Autistic people are born with the mask of neurotypicality pressed against our faces. All people are assumed to think, socialize, feel, express emotion, process sensory information, and communicate in more or less the same ways.
  • Unmasking has the potential to radically improve an Autistic person’s quality of life. Research has repeatedly shown that keeping our true selves locked away is emotionally and physically devastating.

Defining Autism

  • Autism is a developmental disability that runs in families[9] and appears to be largely genetically heritable.[
  • Autism is a developmental disability because compared to neurotypical milestones, it comes with delays: many Autistic people continue to grow in their social and emotional skills for much later in life than allistics tend to.
  • Autism is associated with specific and pervasive differences in the brain, which result in us diverging from neurotypical standards, in terms of how our brains filter and make sense of information.
  • Autistic brains have unique connection patterns that deviate from what is normally observed in neurotypical people. When infants are born, their brains are typically hyperconnected; much of human development is a process of slowly pruning unhelpful connections and becoming more efficient at responding to one’s environment, based on life experience and learning.

Together, all of this means that Autistic people tend to have the following qualities:

  1. We are hyperreactive to even small stimuli in our environment
  2. We have trouble distinguishing between information or sensory data that should be ignored versus data that should be carefully considered
  3.  We are highly focused on details rather than “big picture” concepts
  4. We’re deeply and deliberatively analytical
  5. Our decision-making process is methodical rather than efficient; we don’t rely on mental shortcuts or “gut feelings”
  6.  Processing a situation takes us more time and energy than it does for a neurotypical person

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity

Devon Price
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