Why My Daughter’s Ability to Mask her Autism Brings me Zero Comfort

Why My Daughter's Ability to Mask her Autism Brings me Zero Comfort
photo credit: Le Coin de Mel

Another post I’ve been wanting to write for too long, but have only managed to do so in my head until now. Another post I’m hesitant over pressing publish on. I’m not entirely sure why, when I so desperately need to get these words out. I’d like to talk today about my eldest daughter Polly’s autism masking skills.

I went back to work when Polly was eleven months old. She was at day care two days a week, and did a full year at pre-school. She then did two years in mainstream school before we made the decision to home educate her.

Polly learnt her autism masking skills at a very young age

In many respects, she’s the master of disguise. I’ve heard words to this effect countless times from friends and family.

“She’s the perfect angel when she’s with us.”

“She puts my own kids to shame.”

“I wish my own kids were as well behaved as Polly is.”  

I’m not a tiger mum, and I’ve never been a fan of chameleon-like behaviour. I’m very much a what you see is what you get type of person. The masking is perhaps the hardest thing for me to understand about Polly’s autism.

Other people telling me that my daughter is the perfect child, can also feel like there’s a hidden meaning behind their words.    

The trouble is, all the masking is exhausting

It brings me little comfort to know that Polly goes to the effort of masking her autism for others. Because she so often treats her family like pieces of dirt.

That might sound harsh, but in the last few days I’ve been kicked, hit, punched. I’ve had things thrown at me, and been told that I’m hated. For many years this pent up anger was directed at her younger brother and sister. We’ve had to work relentlessly hard for Polly to truly understand that it’s not acceptable for her to be so violent towards them. I’m pleased to say that things have massively improved on that front. Finally the out and out spitefulness has (thank the heavens) abated.

Now it’s directed towards me instead

autism maskingIt should go without saying that I’m happy to be the punching bag, if it means my little ones aren’t copping it. But where does it stop? I’ve read so many heart wrenching stories of ultra violent autistic tweens and teens. 

Worse still are the stories of autistic adults in their twenties, who are depressed. Who self-harm, and starve themselves. Who are so miserable at their core, and don’t know how to get back to happy. 

I might be completely wrong, but it feels that Polly’s autism masking is at the root of her sadness. That she’s perpetually exhausted by feeling she has to behave differently depending who she’s with.    

So how do we get her to stop masking, and just be happy to be herself?

I don’t have the answers unfortunately.

Home education is helping, without a doubt. We’re making our way through a fantastic autism workbook, which is enlightening. I constantly praise her for her efforts, and try and explain in depth why she is or isn’t allowed to do certain things. I tell her we love her, and offer her hugs multiple times throughout the day. We’ve even swapped gymnastics for jui-jitsu.

We are so bloody consistent with our parenting it makes my head hurt.

But still this aggression. This violent streak that just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

I know that worrying won’t help, but it’s a parent’s prerogative right?

I guess for now, I can only hope that the things we are doing will make a difference long term.

Does your child mask their autism? Do you have any advice for me? I’d love to hear from you!

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