I was making dinner and my son came in to me. He was 8 at the time and he came in flapping and jumping.
‘Mum’, he said, ‘I’m glad that people don’t know I’m autistic’. I became disheartened and hoped that, through the years of helping him recognise and understand himself, he could find a way to be himself. So I turned to him and said, ‘oh why is that?’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘X in my class who has an SNA, they know he’s autistic. But they don’t understand him and make things worse!’
I asked him how did they do that? He said ‘they keep interrupting him and he can’t finish the sequences and then he gets confused and more upset and frustrated. Then he starts screaming and they try to help by bringing him on a walk, but they just don’t understand and he never gets back on track. That’s why I’m glad they don’t know. ‘
And this is why my little boy ‘masks’. Not because he thinks he needs to fit in or be like everyone else, but because he feels he needs to to protect himself against people who don’t understand.
He knows the people who will understand, who are the very few and he can be himself around them. But his needs are compromised because he has built this mask of self preservation.
It’s time people started listening to autistic voices and the voices of the next generation. No child should have to feel like they are alone.