To mask or to camouflage are words used to describe children and young people who are trying to hide parts of themselves. They often do this as a way of fitting in.

5 cartoon figures, one is in a wheelchair.  All of different ethnic heritage

Masking may involve hiding certain behaviours. Behaviours the person finds comfort in, but fear others would think are weird.  Behaviours such as stimming or intense interests.

It can also mean copying the behaviour of those around them. They might see behaviours and learn complex social language to survive in social situations.

The strategy of masking shows how clever young minds are at finding ways of coping. This is whether they know they are doing it or not.  Yet masking is exhausting.

You do not have to have a special educational need or disability to mask.  Masking can be used as a way to cope by everyone in some areas of their lives.

5 cartoon people, one is in a wheelchair.  All of different ethnic heritage

Pupils can become quite adaptive at masking during the school day. Once at home (in their safe environment) they could display more stressed behaviours.

These advice pages are a quick guide to practical strategies that a child could try. This is to prevent autistic burnout.

We want schools to understand that although they may see a model pupil within the school, this could be very different at home.   A young person’s tired and distressed presentation at home could have long term mental health effects on the whole family.

A child’s school day can feel like a roller coaster. This can cause a child’s stress bucket to fill up throughout the day and spill over once they are home. The strategies recommended could help empty that bucket throughout the day.  This will help prevent reaching crisis point at home.

We hope a young person is supported to understand that all humans have different likes, dislikes and preferences in social situations.

Recommended books

The Kids Guide to Staying Awesome! by Lauren Brukner.