This isn’t a nice post. It’s about masking, ABA, crafted narratives, and how people so easily dehumanize others.
So, a narrative developing now, which seems to be coming out of “I’m Not Autistic But I Play One In Research”:
That what is being “masked” is necessarily someone who has no inherent desire to interact, know and learn about other people. Who has no initiative to laugh, play, understand, express, feel joy, love, interest, pain, curiosity…
That really, the “mask” MUST be one of prettiness or interest or one to make us more lovely or socially intriguing and lively. But this is not accurate.
I remember several years ago talking to someone about #autism and them telling me I can’t be #actuallyautistic because, basically, when I was younger I was too interactive with other people.
I didn’t fit in this little box labeled “Autism” that everyone seemed to find in their PCPs office under an issue of Highlights or after a PTA meeting or in a free mailing from fucking Dr Oz like 20 years ago.
Aside: this box only exists because it makes it easier to think about if you aren’t autistic.
Eventually I learned that my interaction with people was frequently Wrong. I got in trouble for saying hi, for asking questions. For not understanding space, that people owned things or claimed seats. That relationships had hierarchies and “blood relative” was a thing that was particular- apparently.
I couldn’t just be nice to people because apparently there was too nice. It’s not… nice to be nice? It wasn’t about safety, it wasn’t about being annoying, exactly. It was all just wrong for reasons I didn’t know.
When I think about that conversation, I wonder just how Human autistics are allowed to be in everyone else’s mind.
Masking is as much about oppressing (reducing) who we are as it is about flat out falsifying (adding to) who we are.
Don’t wear earplugs, don’t cover your ears, don’t leave the room if it’s too loud, don’t hum to yourself if it’s too high pitched. Don’t think about being upset at a noise that causes you both physical and psychological pain.
Cover that up.
If you have difficulties falling in line, there is always Applied Behavior Analysis.
ABA is harmful not only because of all the ways it is inflicted on people. The reason it exists is because some people are uncomfortable with how (almost exclusively autistic) people naturally navigate the world.
Look at that again- you don’t like how I use my skills I am born with to try to navigate the world- this world that you have set up for YOU. Instead of developing those skills and providing tools to take advantage of and amplify them, ABA wants to take away those adaptations entirely. “Practitioners” of ABA force a new set of rules which are more difficult and unnatural, and use coercion and punishment to achieve this. ABA methods include shame, hunger and appetite manipulation, shock and other physical punishments.
ABA aims to reinforce that:
who you are, how you interact with the world, gain information, express your thoughts, feelings and needs, and how you would otherwise develop mutual understanding and connection with other human beings is inherently wrong and needs to be drilled out of you.
When you encourage masking- when you support and participate in ABA- when you promote, partner with and contribute to organizations like Autism Speaks- what you say is this:
It is more important to leave people feeling lost, without a sense of self, without ways to strengthen resilience, without multiple ways to communicate, with coping methods of last resort like self-harm or suicide… than to accommodate, celebrate and promote the value inherent in individual cognition, perception and communication styles.
You aren’t helping people with ABA. You are hurting them.