Autistic masking and camouflaging – concealing Autistic traits and “passing” as non-Autistic – are linked to negative developmental consequences including stress, mental illness, identity loss, and suicidality. Recent psychological literature on masking and camouflaging seeks to urgently address these issues – yet overlooks relevant sociological research. This study uses Sara Ahmed and Frantz Fanon’s work on masking, alongside Judith Butler’s concept of performativity, to formulate distinct sociological definitions for Autistic masking and camouflaging. I offer a qualitative critical discourse analysis of 2018’s #TakeTheMaskOff neurodiversity activism campaign, alongside psychology masking/camouflaging literature, to question the social drivers of masking and camouflaging. Autism is widely understood as an “invisible” disability. However, I found that the necessity of masking and camouflaging to avoid discrimination renders Autistic people a “visible Neurominority group.” Proposing a new Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity, I argue that Neurotypical hegemony, invisibility, and majority group privilege are key social drivers of masking and camouflaging.
Autism is predominantly understood as a psychological disorder, characterised largely by “deficits” in “social approach,” “social interaction,” and “maintaining and understanding relationships” (CDC, 2020). However, this perspective and its assumptions have become increasingly questioned in recent times. In July of 2018, a panel of Autistic Neurodiversity activists began #TakeTheMaskOff: an online campaign highlighting social discrimination against Autistic people, thereby challenging the medicalised view of Autism as a “social deficit.” Organisers included Kieran Rose of The Autistic Advocate (Rose, 2019), Hannah Quinton of Do I Look Autistic Yet? (Quinton, 2019), Lyric Lark of Neurodivergent Rebel (Lark, 2019), and Sara-Jane Harvey of Agony Autie (Harvey, 2018). Akin to the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo hashtags, which emerged with the respective goals of challenging the oppression of People of Colour and sexual assault survivors, the #TakeTheMaskOff hashtag used Autistic perspectives to discuss and critique the oppression of Autistic people. #TakeTheMaskOff argues that social discrimination against Autistic people is reflected by the prevalence of masking and camouflaging: the processes through which Autistic people conceal their Autistic traits in social settings dominated by Neurotypical norms (Allely, 2019). The present study aims to highlight how this Neurodiversity Movement campaign can improve research understandings of the social drivers of masking and camouflaging. The importance of researching this topic is highlighted through Autistic calls for social acceptance in the absence of masking and camouflaging (Bradley et al., 2021), alongside new research linking masking and camouflaging to poor mental and physical health (Cage et al., 2018; Lai & Baron-Cohen, 2015; Sasson & Morrison, 2019).
While minority groups with visible differences are often described as “visible minority groups,” Autism is commonly conceptualised as an “invisible” or “hidden” disability (see, for example, Fletcher-Watson & Happé, 2019; Miller at al., 2021). However, nearly three-quarters of Autistic people report masking and camouflaging consistently to avoid being perceived as visibly Autistic (Cage & Troxell-Whitman, 2019). If masking and camouflaging are required to prevent otherwise visible Autistic traits from being seen, would the Autistic community be better understood as a “visible Neurominority group”? Hahn (1988) explains that “throughout history, perceptible features such as racial or ethnic characteristics, gender, and aging have formed an important basis for prejudice toward minority groups” (p. 44). Hahn applies this logic to argue for a Minority Group Model of Disability, situating physically Disabled people as a marginalised visible minority group relative to the privileged, Abled majority. This study further explores these concepts by arguing for a new Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity, using the examples of Autistic masking and camouflaging.
As the author of this piece, it is important to note my positionality as an Autistic sociologist. I am hereby able to offer insight into masking and camouflaging based in both sociological expertise and lived experience. In addition, as a gender-queer woman, I am critical of the original “camouflage thesis” on Autistic masking, which posits that girls and women are underdiagnosed due to their feminine predisposition towards empathy, caregiving, and relationship skills, which have the effect of masking or camouflaging Autistic traits (Head et al., 2014). Several recent studies have since proven that Autistic people of all genders mask and camouflage (Cage & Troxell-Whitman, 2019; Hull et al., 2017) – indicating that this phenomenon cannot be explained as a strictly biological sex- and/or gender-based set of social skills.
To correct such misunderstandings, Pearson & Rose, 2021; see also Mandy, 2019) call for the use of lived experience and social theory to explore how society perpetuates masking and camouflaging. Similarly, Hull et al. (2017) advocate for qualitative research into the lived experience of masking and camouflaging, arguing that “studies of camouflaging in [Autism] cannot progress until a conceptual model of camouflaging has been produced, so that subsequent research has strong theoretical grounding” (p. 2521). Several prominent Autism researchers agree that further theorising and refining definitions of masking and camouflaging can benefit this field (Lai et al., 2021; see also Fombonne, 2020), and this study aims to fill these gaps in research.
One example of definitional uncertainty is evidenced by the terms masking and camouflaging often being used interchangeably (see, for example Allely, 2019; Cage et al., 2018; Cage & Troxell-Whitman, 2019; Gould, 2017). Hull et al. (2019) offer a notable exception in their work on the Camouflaging Autistic Traits Questionnaire (CAT-Q), which identifies traits of masking and camouflaging in Autistic adults, specifying that masking is only one component of camouflaging – which they argue also includes assimilation and compensation. To further build on Hull et al.’s (2019) distinction and respond to the abovementioned concerns over the undertheorisation and underdefinition of these terms, I propose a distinct conceptual definition for each: camouflaging is defined herein as a form of assimilation with Neurotypical social norms (i.e., making “normal” eye contact). This also includes what Hull et al. (2019) refer to as compensation, given that they conceptualise compensation as making up for “deficits” in neurotypical social skills, which can also be considered assimilatory. Comparatively, masking is conceptualised herein as the concealment of externally noticeable Autistic traits (i.e., avoiding finger-flapping). Put simply: camouflaging is the external process of not being visibly recognised as Autistic; and masking is the internal process of noticing visible Autistic traits within oneself and acting to conceal them.
While Hull et al. (2019) demonstrate that masking and camouflaging develop as two distinct processes amongst Autistic people, this study builds on their foundation by offering social, cultural, and theoretical context that can improve research understandings of why this is the case. In other words: what are the social and cultural drivers of masking and camouflaging, and what can these drivers tell us about how and why masking and camouflaging impact the development of Autistic individuals? Finally, if, as the research canvassed below demonstrates, Autistic people are developmentally disadvantaged by masking and camouflaging, are there any converse positive consequences or privileges experienced by Neurotypical people who do not have to do so?
To accomplish these aims, and merge both social sciences and psychology literature on these topics, I begin with a literature review of Disability studies and Neurodiversity scholarship that will form the foundations of my proposed Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity. I then offer a critical theory section, introducing Sara Ahmed’s (2007) exploration of “White invisibility,” alongside Judith Butler’s (1988, 1990, 1992, 1993) concept of gender performativity, as theories of high relevance to Autistic masking, camouflaging, and visible minority group status. Finally, building on these foundations, I offer a critical discourse analysis of both #TakeTheMaskOff Tweets and recently published psychology-based participant studies on masking and camouflaging. This critical analysis explores potential social drivers of masking and camouflaging – including Neurotypical hegemony (cultural dominance), social discrimination against visible Autistic traits, and Neurotypical violence – chosen due to their prevalence in both #TakeTheMaskOff weekly themes (outlined in the Method section), and the below psychology and/or sociology literature on masking and camouflaging. Finally, to establish what form Neurotypical privilege may take in this context, I explore the developmental consequences of masking and camouflaging in relation to Autistic mental health and well-being. Several Neurotypical majority-group privileges, alongside visible Neurominority group status for Autistic people, are found to be key social drivers of masking and camouflaging.
Scholarly Background: Towards a Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity
While minority social group identities are not widely defined or explored in the Neurodiversity context, the Minority Group Model of Disability posits that Disabled people constitute a minoritised social group, experiencing exclusion due to discrimination, stigma, and their perceived inferiority relative to the Abled majority (Hahn, 1988, 1996; Wasserman et al., 2011). The high relevance of this framework to Neurodiversity is supported by Singer’s (2017; see also Bertilsdotter Rosqvist et al., 2019) view that Autistic people should be considered a “neurological minority,” and her focus on shaping the Neurodiversity movement “in the mould of the feminist, gay liberation or disability movements” to achieve “minority rights” and emancipation (p. 304). However, Singer situates her work within the Social Model, and does not explicitly mention the Minority Group Model of Disability – leaving a gap that the present study attempts to fill.
Having first emerged a decade after Singer first conceptualised neurodiversity, the field of Critical Disability Studies (see, for example, Campbell, 2008; Goodley, 2013; Delgado & Stefancic, 2013; Meekosha & Shuttleworth, 2009; Shildrick, 2013; Vehmas & Watson, 2014) can also lend much to understandings of Neurodiversity. Critical Disability Studies uses non-disability-specific examples of marginality – alongside critical race, queer, and feminist theory – to create more nuanced understandings of disability as a minoritising and marginalising social construct. This study aims to highlight how both Critical Disability and Minority Group Model approaches can combine with the field of Autistic masking and camouflaging to merge their shared interests in addressing how societal (in)equality is shaped by stigmatised visible minority traits.
This study is therefore distinguished from the Social Model and field of Classical Disability Studies by exploring how a Critical Disability approach can establish a Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity. This approach is characterised by its intersectional use of critical race, queer, postcolonial, disability, and feminist theory to critique understandings of Neurodiversity. Collins (2015) explains: “The term intersectionality references the critical insight that race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, ability, and age operate not as unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but as reciprocally constructing phenomena that in turn shape complex social inequalities” (p. 2). Crenshaw (2017) specifies that intersectional studies go well beyond individual identities, focusing instead on the questions of which social and institutional structures result in the marginalisation of some social identity groups, but not others. In taking this intersectional approach, I explore how structural and cultural inequality relate to the social exclusion of Autistic people as a visible Neurominority group in the absence of masking and camouflaging.
As such, situating this study within its field(s) is a complex task. My approach is markedly different from most Neurodiversity research, which is predominantly situated within Classical Disability Studies and the Social Model (see, for example, den Houten, 2019; Fletcher-Watson et al., 2019; Kras, 2009). Therefore, I propose collectively referring to traditional neurodiversity research within the Social Model framework as the field of Classical Neurodiversity Studies. While I draw influence from this field, I do not situate my work within it. Rather, I situate this study amongst the first attempts at bringing together the concept of neurodiversity with Critical Disability approaches, to branch off methodologically into a field of Critical Neurodiversity Studies. Furthermore, I propose that the theoretical component of this study be conceptualised as Critical Neuro Theory: defined herein as the intersectional application of critical disability, race, queer, feminist, and/or postcolonial theory to expand Neurodiversity into a field of its own (as opposed to the traditional use of Social Model theory to situate Neurodiversity as a paradigm belonging exclusively to Classical Disability Studies).
The nearest existing example to my approach is the edited collection Neurodiversity Studies: A New Critical Paradigm (Bertilsdotter Rosqvist et al., 2020). The collection indicates that Neurodiversity studies should begin to engage in greater depth with intersectional theory from the abovementioned critical social science fields. However, a book review by Dind (2021) asserts that these calls reflect the editors' views on where the field should begin heading, rather than gaps the book alone can fill – indicating further research is needed here.
In an approach referred to as Critical Autism Studies, O’Dell et al. (2016) argue that Neurotypical majority cultural norms for functioning shape understandings of Autism, and explore how the concept of “Neuro-Culture” can help to build better understandings of neurological difference. Highlighting some potential developmental consequences of a minoritised Autistic culture, Botha and Frost (2020) argue that Autistic people experience several key aspects of “minority stress.” Minority stress was first theorised by Meyer (2007) to explain the poor mental health experienced by gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities relative to their heterosexual counterparts. Theorised causes of minority stress include: everyday discrimination; expectations and experiences of rejection; “outness” (varying levels of disclosure due to risks of negative consequences); physical concealment of minority traits; internalised stigma; poor well-being; and psychological distress. Botha and Frost (2020) found that these minority stress factors all negatively impact Autistic development.
Sasson and Morrison (2019) illustrate the urgent need for further research into how masking and camouflaging specifically may relate to minority status and stress, indicating that they “can be stressful and exhausting” alongside being “associated with anxiety, depression, and poorer self-image” (p. 51). So prevalent is poor mental health amongst the masking and camouflaging Autistic population that, often, it is co-occurring mental health conditions which lead to late-life identification of Autism in adults, rather than the clinical recognition of Autistic traits specifically (Lai & Baron-Cohen, 2015). More concerning yet, a Swedish study shows an overall Autism suicide rate 7 times higher than the average for the general population (Hirvikoski et al., 2016), and a recent American study found a disproportionately high rate of Autistic self-harm, and an Autistic life expectancy of only 36 years – half that of the general population (Guan & Li, 2017).
While masking and camouflaging are not solely to blame for these staggering statistics, Cassidy et al. (2019) found an increased risk of suicidality amongst masking and camouflaging Autistic adults, due to a sense of “thwarted belonging.” Perry et al. (2021) similarly found, firstly, that Autistic masking and corresponding well-being challenges can be partly attributed to experiencing perceived social stigma against Autism as a social identity, and secondly, that social stigma is even more detrimental to Autistic well-being than camouflaging itself. Cage et al. (2018) also argue that social stigma against Autism contributes to anxiety and depression and creates significant pressure to mask and camouflage. Drawing upon sociologist Goffman’s work on stigma, Pearson and Rose (2021; see also Milton, 2013; Sasson et al., 2017) found that Neurotypical stigma against visible Autistic behaviours is a social driver of Autistic masking, while Miller et al. (2021) describes masking as a stigma response to minority group status.
The foundations for a critical Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity – and the corresponding recognition of Autistic people as a visible Neurominority group – are also laid by Autistic academic Nick Walker (Walker & Raymaker, 2021), who coined the term “neurominority” in the 1990s. Bascom (2012) similarly refers to Autistic people as a “social minority group,” while Chapman (2021) makes one mention of “Neuro-minorities,” used in passing to define the Neurodiversity paradigm as “the theoretical and ideological shift towards reframing those who fall outside neurocognitive norms as neuro-minorities” (pp. 57–58). In public discourse, Autistic Rights Movement advocacy group Aspies for Freedom argued in 2004 for the United Nations to recognise Autistic people as a minority group (Seigler, 2021). Radulski (2020a, b) used the phrase “minority neurotypes” in a keynote presentation for Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2020, and subsequently in a blog discussing Neurodiversity accessibility in the COVID-19 work-from-home climate.
If Autistic people can be considered a marginalised minority group, what does this tell us about the converse privileges of the Neurotypical majority? Hode (2012) addresses Neurotypical privilege in an unpublished short essay. Bertilsdotter Rosqvist et al. (2020) and Perry and Herrera (2014) both make one use of the term “Neurotypical privilege,” but neither focus on conceptualising it. Riley (2019) also mentions “Neurotypical privilege” (p. 138), citing a blog (Bev, 2009) influenced by the concept of White privilege. Kapp (2020) argues that “People who are not discriminated against on the basis of their perceived or factual neurodivergences arguably benefit from neurotypical privilege” (p. 3). The present study uses key social theory on majority group privilege in the context of sex, gender, sexuality, race, disability, and ethnicity to conceptualise Neurotypical privilege within the proposed Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity.
This approach aids in situating Neurotypical Neuromajority privilege as a similar social force to more established concepts such as White privilege and sexual privilege. I use the terms majority neurotype and Neuromajority to refer to the social identity grouping of the Neurotypical neurotype, which is culturally understood to have “typical” developmental, cognitive, and behavioural patterns, constituting the normative and dominant standard for neurological functioning. Conversely, the terms minority neurotype and Neurominorit y1 refer to social identities and groups that are culturally understood to have “atypical” neurodevelopmental, cognitive, and behavioural patterns – this includes, but is not limited to, Autism, ADHD, or Dyslexia. However, the primary focus of the definition developed in this study rests on conceptualising Autistic masking and camouflaging as the processes through which marginalising visible Neurominority traits are concealed.
Walker and Raymaker (2021; see also Runswick-Cole, 2014) caution that neurotypes should not be viewed as hard-wired innate differences between brains, while Yergeau (2009) critiques the presumed biological binary between Neurotypical/Autistic. It is therefore important to clarify that I will not argue that different neurotypes have or lack clear medical or biological demarcations, nor will I seek to define such categories. Singer (2017; see also Bertilsdotter Rosqvist et al., 2019) explains that Disability Studies:
Build[s] on the work of [philosopher] Foucault [arguing] that discourses around disability arose as part of the 19th century drive to classify, control, and regulate the body, the means by which the “classifiers” (doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.) gained power at the expense of the “classified” (p. 538)
Miller et al. (2021) highlight how minority and majority group status play into this dynamic:
Twentieth century psychological research was grounded in the assumption that the majority of the population display “neurotypicality” or an “average” brain in which cognitive, motor, and sensory processes function in mostly similar ways… Neurodevelopmental differences such as autism were classified as “disorders” that varied from the assumed norm (p. 2)
In this Medical Model, diminished capacity for functionality, social inclusion, economic productivity, and overall quality of life amongst Neurominorities results in their classification as biologically atypical. However, Hull et al. (2019) note that “autism is currently conceptualised at the behavioural level because there are no reliable biomarkers for the condition” (p. 820). An overreliance on the Medical Model assumes that differences in societal participation between neurotypes occur entirely due to biological disability. However, in the case of Autism, diagnostic labels are assigned on the basis of falling outside of sociodevelopmental norms for behavioural functioning – not biologically observable differences. In saying this, I do not argue that there is no biological basis for differences between neurotypes – this is simply not the focus or scope of the present study.
Applying these ideas to the context of masking and camouflaging, I explore the ways in which neurotypes operate as socially constructed identity categories, demarcated by what our behaviour signifies to others about our brains, and their level of perceived “functionality” and “ability” relative to cultural norms for Neurotypical functioning. Accordingly, I use the terms “majority/minority Neurotype” to highlight the respective social groupings of privilege and marginality of those who either adhere to or violate cultural norms for neurocognitive development, functioning, and behaviour – but not to biologically distinguish between these individuals.
In doing so, this study aims to highlight the hegemony of Neurotypical behavioural norms. As articulated by Hall in Varela et al. (2011), hegemony refers to “ruling or dominant conceptions of the world [emphasis added]… the taken-for-granted: what the world is and how it works… ruling ideas may dominate other conceptions of the social world by setting the limit to what will appear as rational, reasonable, credible [emphasis added]” (p. 34). As articulated above, neurodiversity theorists including Singer, Yergeau, and Walker explain that the dominant medical discourse of psychology classifies individuals as either Neurotypical or Disordered – “setting the limits” of which social behaviours “appear” (sometimes visibly as with visible Neurominority groups) “as rational, reasonable, credible.” I argue that Neurotypical hegemony operates as a dominant discourse classifying neurotypes relative to their perceived functionality within cultural norms for social, neurocognitive, and behavioural development (Neurotypical) or outside of them (Neurominorities).
Highlighting the potential relevance of Neurotypical hegemony in relation to masking and camouflaging, Milton (2016) explains: “Autistic people are some of the most marginalised in society, historically depicted as embodying ‘deficits’ in their social being, incapable of full socialisation and personhood” (p. 1405). This marginality, I argue, is reflective of Neurotypical hegemony. In the next section, I explore the established concepts of heterosexual and Western hegemony, which their respective theorists argue are key drivers of gender performativity, and masking by People of Colour under Western colonialism. In doing so, I attempt to theorise Neurotypical hegemony and privilege as key social drivers of Autistic masking and camouflaging.
Towards Critical Neuro Theory: Conceptualising Masking and Camouflaging
While masking and camouflaging are relatively new topics of interest to Autism researchers, sociologists and critical race theorists have long discussed these concepts in the context of cultural and racial privilege and marginality. Sara Ahmed’s (2007) concept of “White invisibility” draws upon the works of critical race scholar and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon. Fanon’s (2000) celebrated book Black Skin, White Masks explores how the hegemony of White, European cultural norms leads many Black people to endure the psychological toll of masking or downplaying the social elements of racialised Black identities, to avoid the stigma which arises from violating cultural norms in colonial societies. Exploring both the topics of Fanon’s identity as a Black man, and her own identity as a Muslim woman in the West, Ahmed (2007; see also Morsi, 2017) explains “Colonialism makes the world ‘white,’ which is of course a world ‘ready’ for certain kinds of bodies” (pp. 153–154). Ahmed is referring to the ways our cultural norms shape the way our bodies are expected to look, behave, and take up space in public settings – and in most Western nations, this culture, and its corresponding colonial social structures, are based on foundations of White and European hegemony. Ahmed (2007) elaborates:
When we talk about a “sea of whiteness” or “white space” we are talking about… [how some bodies] become hypervisible when they do not pass [as White]… You learn to fade into the background, but sometimes you can’t or you don’t. The moments when the body appears “out of place” are moments of political and personal trouble (p. 159)
What Ahmed refers to as “fading into the background” goes beyond skin colour, also encompassing the avoidance of violating hegemonic Western norms for behaviour and culture. As Fanon discusses in Black Skin, White Masks, while a Person of Colour may be visibly identifiable as a minoritised and racialised identity, many people opt to moderate their behaviour, clothing, language, tone of voice, and overall self-presentation to mitigate the stereotypes and stigma associated with racialisation and minoritisation. This can allow for less overt levels of “visibility” and socioeconomic exclusion within a society where whiteness is dominant and privileged. Indeed, our very cultural idea of a “visible minority” rests on the premise that the default person – the “invisible norm" – is White. The normativity of whiteness is so entrenched into Western societies, that White people do not always recognise the privilege that they have in existing without being visibly racialised or minoritised. I draw influence from this theory to conceptualise the privilege that Neurotypical people experience as the hegemonic majority. To do so, I explore how the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign, alongside scholarly research, describe masking and camouflaging as “blending in” with Neurotypical invisibility.
Similarly, as Ahmed and Fanon highlight how the invisible norm of whiteness renders all others visibly non-White, Judith Butler (1988) explains that compulsory heterosexuality alongside heterosexual hegemony – the cultural dominance of heterosexuality – shape our social norms for gender and sexuality. When Butler (1988) writes that gender is a “constructed identity… a performative accomplishment” (p. 520), what they refer to is the repetition of certain behaviours that allow one to fit into a culturally constructed definition of what it means to be masculine or feminine – based on the idea that each gender is the ideal other half of the heterosexual whole. Butler argues that gender performativity entails shaping our image, behaviours, and social interactions in ways that influence how others categorise us as “man” or “woman” – or, if we fail to fit within one of these categories, we become a member of the visible sexual minority. Take, for example, those who fail to uphold the boundaries of binary gender: a man wearing make-up becomes effeminate; or a woman with hairy legs becomes butch. As in Ahmed’s description of racial normativity, each of these examples become “visible” by standing out in the crowd of invisible heterosexuality in a patriarchal social structure reliant on heterosexual hegemony.
Briefly touching on performativity, Walker & Raymaker (2021) explain: “Just as the prevailing culture entrains and pushes people into the embodied performance of heteronormative gender roles, it also entrains and pushes us into the embodied performance of neurotypicality” (p. 9).
Further highlighting the relevance of queer theory to Autism studies, Walker (2021b; see also Jack 2019; Walker 2021a; Yergeau 2018) uses the term “neuroqueer” to refer to “the practice of queering (subverting, defying, disrupting, liberating oneself from) neuronormativity and heteronormativity simultaneously” (para. 10). As I further elaborate below, queer theory’s concepts of gender performativity and heterosexual hegemony are useful in theorising Autistic camouflaging – which I argue entails avoiding “visibility” through the performativity of social norms perpetuated by Neurotypical invisibility and hegemony.
Critical Disability scholar Ellen Samuels (2017) cautions theorists to avoid employing critical race and postcolonial theory as metaphors for disability, arguing that this appropriative approach often leads to an oversimplification and undernuancing of theory – and the same argument can certainly apply to the use of queer theory. Therefore, while I engage with postcolonial, critical race, and queer theory below, I do not conflate the experiences of racial, gender and sexual, and neuro marginality, nor the social structures of colonialism, patriarchy, and ableism, which, while deeply intersectional, each have distinct and culturally, historically, and politically unique characteristics. I rather seek to follow in the tradition of Critical Disability Studies by theorising more culturally informed and intersectional understandings of Autism as a marginalised and minoritised social identity.
This study uses the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign, alongside psychology participant studies on masking and camouflaging, as its primary data sources. The #TakeTheMaskOff campaign is particularly well-suited to explore qualitative accounts of Autistic masking and camouflaging informed by lived experience. It included a 6-week platform, with each week featuring a key component of masking and camouflaging, as prioritised by Autistic people (Rose, 2018):
What does masking involve?
How does masking relate to stimming?
How is mental health impacted by masking?
Is masking linked to burn-out?
How is masking shaped by diagnosis and self-awareness?
How can autistic people unmask?
The announcement of #TakeTheMaskOff, as provided by the organisers of the campaign, informs the Autistic community that the campaign was designed to both respond and contribute to existing research on masking and camouflaging (Rose 2018):
Research is starting to show that Masking is a direct lead-in to the very early Autistic average age of death… [Therefore] we would like as many people as possible, to not only read, watch and share what we’re offering, but to take part too. Everything we post under these subjects... will have the hashtag #TakeTheMaskOff… (para. 3–5)
Twitter’s popularity in the social justice realm has resulted in researchers exploring similar campaigns such as #MeToo (Schneider & Carpenter, 2019) and #BlackLivesMatter (Lundgaard et al., 2018). These studies offer a good precedent for ethical and methodological technique, as does Social Media Research: A Guide to Ethics (Townsend & Wallace, 2017). Taking influence from these approaches, the #TakeTheMaskOff Tweets from this campaign were accessed by searching the #TakeTheMaskOff hashtag on Twitter. A total of 58 Tweets from 44 different Twitter accounts were included in the data pool for this study. In addition to reflecting the weekly themes and goals of the campaign, these Tweets were purposefully selected based upon the following factors: they contain information indicating that the author is Autistic through self-identification and/or diagnosis, and the focus is the lived experience and/or social drivers of masking and camouflaging. All data is anonymised through assigning each Twitter user a participant number. While this sample is relatively small, I support and contextualise this data with empirical studies on masking and camouflaging with larger sample sizes.
As these data are sourced from social media, demographics are unavailable. However, the only resources required to participate in #TakeTheMaskOff were a Twitter account, a device with internet access, and English language skills. It is likely that the campaign enjoyed a reasonable degree of diversity relative to the Autistic population in Western societies. I also explore masking and camouflaging as they relate to various demographics, outlined in both #TakeTheMaskOff and participant data from other studies. Several Tweets wherein someone discusses how their racial identity relates to masking are prioritised for inclusion in the empirical analysis. In analysing these Tweets, I furthermore prioritise engagement with scholarship on the topic of, and authored by, members of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities, to foster intersectionally informed research.
Responding to Hull et al.’s (2017) abovementioned calls for a qualitative theorisation of masking and camouflaging, I use the method of critical discourse analysis to garner sociological insight into these processes. Discourse in this context is defined as “a broad conglomeration of linguistic and non-linguistic social practices and ideological assumptions that together construct power or [discrimination]” (Schiffrin et al., 2001, p. 1). In this paper, critical discourse analysis entails using established sociological theoretical frameworks – namely, White invisibility and performativity – as a lens through which to critically analyse examples of language, social practices, ideology, and culture sourced from both #TakeTheMaskOff Tweets and psychology-based masking and camouflaging literature.
Critical discourse analysis requires that the units of evidence comprising of the discourse (in this case, the discourse is the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign Tweets, alongside participant data sourced from previous studies in this field) is critically analysed in context with social theory. Accordingly, these results are critiqued and theorised through a sociological lens (or pair of “theory glasses,” if you will). These “theory glasses” allow for the data herein to be picked apart in great detail, thereby analysing the discursive and linguistic nuances of masking and camouflaging descriptions offered in each Tweet and study. While many participant studies in psychology aim primarily to produce data and results tested against a pre-stated hypothesis, the current study has a key aim of developing new theoretical perspectives and understandings to help researchers sociologically contextualise both these existing psychologically oriented studies and results, and the new #TakeTheMaskOff data.
Findings: The Social Drivers of Masking and Camouflaging
Allely (2019) explains that “the term masking is used to characterise aspects of camouflaging which involve an individual hiding the features of their [Autism]… [by] developing different personas or characters to use during social situations” (p. 7). Autistic people often describe their social “personas” within Neurotypical norms. Participant 26 explains: “Autistic masking is where an autistic person, often through intense effort, masks their natural autistic tendencies in order to blend in with the non-autistic majority [emphasis added] around them.”
Supporting Participant 26’s view that masking involves blending in with a non-Autistic Majority, Cook et al. (2021) found that a key component of masking/camouflaging involves “modelling neurotypical communication” (p. 5). Similarly, Crompton et al. (2020) found that minority status negatively affects how Autistic people perceive their Autistic identity, and increases “pressure to conform to the communicative styles and preferences of the non-autistic majority” (p. 1443). Jaarsma and Welin (2012; see also Ortega, 2009; O’Dell et al., 2016) explore the idea of “Autism as a Culture,” drawing upon an article by Davidson (2008) who proposes that, like Deaf, Black, or Queer communities, Autistic people constitute a minoritised culture. In this argument, Autistic culture is defined primarily by differences in communication and language – indicating that Autistic culture exists outside of established boundaries for the hegemonic Neurotypical majority.
Participant 43 also describes masking as a process which requires them to conceal and perform traits associated with Autism and Neurotypicality, respectively, with the goal of “passing” as “normal” by adopting the social behaviours of the Neuromajority: “#TakeTheMaskOff is a campaign advising [Autistics] to be themselves. Many of us reduce stimming, pretend to enjoy eye-contact, pretend to listen when we can’t understand, and/or don’t wear our noise cancelling headphones to appear normal.”
These statements reflect Judith Butler’s (1988) explanation of performativity as “a stylised repetition of acts… a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment” (p. 520). Camouflaging is a “performative accomplishment” which allows Autistic people to “pass as normal” by “blending in” with the invisibility of the hegemonic Neuromajority.
Participant 14 describes the discomfort of camouflaging with the Neurotypical Majority:
I realized the thing I hate most about masking is the feeling of wearing someone else’s skin in an almost silence of the lambsish way. I have to disassociate from my body while still operating it like a puppet and it just makes my flesh crawl
Butler (1992) similarly describes performativity as the “repetition of oppressive and painful norms” (p. 84). Sasson and Morrison (2019; see also Sasson et al., 2017) found that, based on first impressions alone, Neurotypical people articulate a “reduced desire to hang out or start a conversation with [Autistic people] and even reported they would feel a greater level of discomfort sitting next to them” (p. 51). Sasson and Morrison (2019) argue that Autistic peoples’ awareness of this negative response contributes significantly to the pressure to mask and camouflage by “behav[ing] in more neurotypical ways” (p. 51). In a study by Cage et al. (2018), only 7% of 111 Autistic participants felt accepted by society. Head et al. (2014; see also Cook et al., 2018; Milton & Sims, 2016) demonstrate that Autistic children disproportionately report higher rates of feeling ostracised, isolated, and socially excluded than their Neurotypical peers. A participant study of 262 Autistic adults by Cage and Troxell-Whitman (2019) found that the most common reason participants gave for masking was “Fitting in and passing in a neurotypical world” (p. 7). Neurotypical hegemony means that the Neuromajority have the benefit of shaping cultural norms for society and communication that reflect their own traits and characteristics, rather than the minoritised characteristics of Autistic culture and communication. This allows the Neuromajority to enjoy the privilege of invisibility and “fitting in” without the same level of attention on masking and camouflaging required of Autistic people as a visible Neurominority.
Discrimination against Visible Neurominority Traits
Conversely, many Autistic people report experiencing discrimination against visible minority traits. One stigmatised visible Autistic trait that #TakeTheMaskOff prioritised is stimming: self-stimulatory behaviour which can involve a variety of sensory stimuli (taste, touch, sight, smell, or hearing). Stimming can occur both in times of contentment and distress, and can take many forms including rocking, pacing, vocalising, and beyond (Wiskerke et al., 2018). Kapp et al. (2019) also report that stimming can increase focus, mitigate sensory overstimulation, and even serve as body language – factors which can all significantly improve internal and social functionality. However, as the following #TakeTheMaskOff Tweets demonstrate – and as I further explore below – many Autistic people feel immense pressure to mask their stimming to avoid the negative consequences of being perceived as a “dysfunctional” visible Neurominority by violating Neurotypical behavioural norms.
In campaign Week 2 on stimming, Participant 42 explains:
I worked very hard on my mask. It was acceptance of the true risks in public, it was wanting to live, it was the shame. Unfortunately, I correlate it to current chronic pain issues. In a way, I was killing myself to live
Participant 42 explains that the masking through resisting the physical urge to stim – a process which requires constant physical exertion and discipline in the act of sitting still (Hull et al., 2017) – in fact resulted in worse medical health and reduced bodily functionality. In a 2019 Tweet, reflecting on #TakeTheMaskOff, Lyric Lark, one of the campaign’s founders, described the participants’ views on masking and well-being as a “Reminder that functioning labels describe an autistic person’s ability to ‘appear normal’ (from the outside). They don’t describe the way that person experiences being autistic.” Just as Participant 31 describes above, “functionality” and “capability” refer not to internal functionality, but rather to avoiding visibility and discrimination as a Neurominority in settings dominated by Neurotypical hegemony.
Participant 31 shares their experience of masking stimming in professional settings:
I’d love to #TakeTheMaskOff and stim to my heart’s content, but I feel I would be judged. Not because people would know I’m autistic, I’m already out, but because I worry it would make them think I was somehow less. Less able, less mature, less together, less professional
In this example, the Autistic person is known by their colleagues to be Autistic, but they fear that appearing visibly Autistic by stimming in front of their colleagues would cause them to be viewed as incapable, immature, and unprofessional – or, in other words, less “functional.” Again, we are reminded of Butler’s view that performativity is “internally discontinuous”: The external world assumes that to successfully camouflage as Neurotypical is to be high functioning. However, to “function” in this context, refers not to the biological essence of being functional, but to the external perception of social “functionality.” The successful construction of a “functional” social identity is achieved through masking and camouflaging with hegemonic Neurotypical social norms – thereby minimising the effects of discrimination as a visible Neurominority. Neurotypical hegemony drives masking and camouflaging by situating Neurotypical behaviour as the peak of normality and “functionality,” conversely rendering Autistic behaviour “dysfunctional.”
Perry et al. (2021) assert that “when a group is stigmatised, group members seek to regain a positive identity… attempting to ‘pass’ into a higher status out-group… Camouflaging may involve dissociating from the autistic in-group to ‘pass’ as non-autistic… in response to stigma” (p. 2).
Garfinkel (1967; see also Milton, 2013) argues that, for marginalised groups, “passing” as a more privileged identity is “the work of achieving and making secure [the] rights to live in the elected [identity]… while providing for the possibility of detection and ruin” (p. 137). Accordingly, Hull et al. (2017) found that Autistic people mask and camouflage “to obtain jobs and qualifications which respondents felt were less accessible when they were more visibly autistic” (p. 2524–2531). A 2013 German study (Vogeley et al., 2013) similarly indicates that Autistic people experience high under/unemployment rates. Many Autistic people remain “in the closet” in professional environments where they do find employment (Davidson & Henderson, 2010), as they are likely to be socially excluded when “coming out” as Autistic (Cage et al., 2018; Cage & Troxell-Whitman, 2019). Masking and camouflaging are, for many Autistic people, a means of achieving economic and social participation by performing the hegemonic and privileged traits of invisible Neurotypicality – thereby avoiding the social and economic “detection and ruin” they face when discriminated against as a visible Neurominority.
In keeping with these findings, a camouflaging study with 132 participants (Bernardin et al., 2021) found that while Neurotypical people do report adopting normative behaviours to experience greater social success, Autistic people report camouflaging specifically to “avoid negative consequences” (p. 4). Similarly, Hull et al. (2019) found that masking is a response to “the identification of being autistic rather than to the presence of specific autistic characteristics” (p. 828). Autistic people develop masking and camouflaging skills not due to the mere presence of Autistic traits within an individual – for example, the mere urge to stim itself does not result in masking and camouflaging – but due to discrimination against their visible Neurominority traits within a Neurotypical hegemony. Neurotypical invisibility and hegemony, and the corresponding social discrimination against visible Neurominority traits, are key drivers of masking and camouflaging.
The potential for “detection and ruin” explored above extends far beyond the context of professional reputation. Being recognised as a visible Neurominority is described by some Autistic people as a risk factor for experiencing physical violence. Hull et al. (2017) identify physical survival as a common reason for masking and camouflaging amongst Autistic people: “Many described being ostracised, verbally or emotionally attacked, and some even reported physical assaults when they had not camouflaged… [Many] viewed their camouflaging as a defensive strategy protecting them from discrimination” (p. 2524–2531).
Participant 23 highlights how intersectional norms for a White, Neurotypical majority can impact people minoritised by both racialisation and neurotype (see also Brown & Onaiwu, 2017; Lilley et al., 2020):
White-passing #actuallyautistic people need to think a bit more carefully about telling #POC [People of Color] to #TakeTheMaskOff. For many of us, wearing that mask in a bigoted society is what has kept us alive. We’d love to take it off as freely as you all seem to be able to, but it’s not safe
Participant 19 further explains: “#TakeTheMaskOff doesn’t touch on the intersectionality of also being black. And the disparities we face in our own community being different. This affected my mental health the most for I wasn’t accepted by my peers or my people.”
As in the #BlackLivesMatter campaign – which highlights systemic racism and violence against Black populations – these participants indicate that the social drivers of masking and camouflaging are intersectional for some People of Colour: many of whom must conceal a visible minority neurotype through masking, alongside blending in with White and Neurotypical invisibility. Neurotypical violence is a key social driver of Autistic masking and camouflaging.
Developmental Consequences of Visible Neurominority Status and Neurotypical Privilege
The necessity of Autistic masking and camouflaging to mitigate visible Neurominority status poses significant risks to developmental and personal well-being. This is evidenced both by research, and #TakeTheMaskOff’s inclusion of weeks focused on the relationships between masking, and mental health and burnout. Hull et al. (2017; see also Bargiela et al., 2016; Mandy et al., 2012) demonstrate that while Autistic women can often “camouflage their ASC [which contributes] to them achieving socially desirable outcomes” – including employability and social relationships – this comes at the cost of “high levels of subjective stress, anxiety and exhaustion” (p. 2521). Participant 13 elaborates:
Nothing I hate more than that dissociative state of masking that turns on automatically when you are feeling at your most depressed and someone interacts with you... It's like being dunked in water and pulled out again, and so disorientating
This participant alludes to the mental discomfort of encountering Neurotypical invisibility – likening masking and camouflaging to “being dunked in water and pulled out.” Ahmed (2007) explains invisibility similarly, asserting that “comfort is a feeling that tends not to be consciously felt… You sink. When you don’t sink, when you fidget and move around, then what is in the background becomes in front of you” (p. 163). The Neuromajority may not consciously notice themselves being invisible by sitting still, making eye-contact, engaging with the “right” tone of voice, or going without supports like noise-cancelling headphones or sunglasses – sensory elements fade into the background, and social interactions unfold comfortably as if spoken in a native tongue. However, what many masking and camouflaging Autistics describe feeling is the discomfort of working to become invisible – to avoid fidgeting, to find the right posture, eye-contact, and tone, and conceal any discomfort from the sensory and social environment in front of them. In an environment dominated by Neurotypical hegemony, comfort favours only the privileged majority who, in turn, assume that social comfort, and the relatively greater levels of social inclusion associated with it, equate to developmental and biological superiority, as opposed to the well-being benefits of social privilege.
Participant 8 offers additional insight: “It’s amazing how much my mental health has improved ever since I stopped trying to pass as neurotypical! Don’t ever let anyone tell you to sacrifice your comfort because you might end up ‘looking autistic’.”
Participant 30 further explains:
Something that I’m loving about #TakeTheMaskOff is the acknowledgement that masking is essential for many autistic people in order to survive, and the feeling that the goal is not just “be yourself” but “tear down the systems and culture that make it unsafe to be yourself” [emphasis added]
While Autistic marginality includes the developmental disadvantages of experiencing the physical, emotional, and psychological detriment of social assimilation as a visible Neurominority group, these patterns create the converse experience of privilege for the Neuromajority. These findings support the arguments for a new Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity, alongside the existence of Neurotypical privilege, invisibility, and hegemony.
Future Research Implications: Neuroarchy as a Social Structure?
Conceptualising Neurotypical privilege has important implications for the field of Neurodiversity research. One key concept which may be of use to the field in the future is that of the patriarchal social structure (a hierarchy of gender and sexuality privileging cis-heterosexual masculinity). Bertilsdotter Rosqvist et al. (2020) argue for critically theorising “neurodivergence/autism research and the hierarchies between neurotypes.” Is it possible that some of the trends in inequality outlined herein relate back to a Neuroarchal social structure: defined as a hierarchy of neurotypes privileging Neurotypicality?
Feminist Walby (1989) defines patriarchy as an organised social system characterised by six structures: the patriarchal mode of production (the use of familial and domestic structures to reproduce and reinforce male domination in society); cultural institutions and norms (gendered discourses on femininity and masculinity); compulsory heterosexuality (the hegemony and cultural dominance of heteronormativity); patriarchal professional and economic relations (the exclusion and segregation of women in paid work); male violence (a pattern forcing women to change their behaviour due to fear of experiencing male violence); and patriarchy as a state practice (formal governmental structures that support patriarchy). Indeed, Milton (2016) argues that feminist Marion Young’s “faces of oppression” – which similarly include “capitalist economic exploitation,” “marginalisation,” “powerlessness,” “cultural imperialism,” and “violence” – can aid in theorising Autistic social inequality. The present study’s scope does not allow for a thorough and nuanced exploration of these concepts. However, in elaborating on Walby’s six structures below in the context of Neurodiversity, I offer pointers as to how this theory may become useful in future research.
Walby (1989) describes the patriarchal mode of production as the exploitation of women’s labour in the household, and the corresponding exclusion of women from the professional realm. Women’s rights opponents in the 19th and 20th centuries asserted that “the physical, intellectual, and psychological flaws of women – their frailty, irrationality, and emotional instability” were akin to “great temperamental disabilities [emphasis added]” (Baynton, 2005, pp. 564–565). From a human neurological diversity perspective, the idea that women were “the second sex” (de Beauvoir, 1952) was, and still is, rooted in the concept that men constituted the more “evolved” human neurotype. The male brain was thought to function logically, scientifically, and rationally at a higher level than the smaller and more emotionally driven so-called “female brain” (Rippon, 2020). This logic was, in turn, used to justify the exclusion of women from the public sphere – resulting in male domination over economic and professional life and the patriarchal mode of production.
The Social Model of Disability similarly emerged through sociologist Michael Oliver’s (1990) use of Marxist theory to argue that Disabled people are seen as incapable of labour, resulting in their stigmatisation as an unproductive burden in the capitalist context. Oliver argues that, like women in Walby’s patriarchy, Disabled people are not necessarily biologically incapable of inclusion, but are excluded by a mode of production built to benefit the Abled population. The Minority Group Model builds upon this foundation by arguing for legal rights for Disabled people as a minority group in the workplace. Similarly, the professional inequality reported by Autistic people in the context of masking and camouflaging indicates that the Neuroarchal mode of production, alongside Neuroarchal professional and economic relations, are of potential benefit to the field of neurodiversity.
Potentially indicating Neuroarchal cultural and institutional norms, this study shows that Neurotypical invisibility allows Neurotypical people to experience privilege by virtue of going unseen as a member of the Neuromajority. Similarly, Neurotypical hegemony is explored above as a key social driver of Autistic masking and camouflaging. The prevalence of Autistic masking and camouflaging, despite the corresponding negative consequences for well-being and mental health, may also indicate the existence of Compulsory Neurotypicality as a social structure perpetuating Autistic inequality. Further supporting the potential usefulness of these topics to the field of Neurodiversity, this study also indicates that Autistic people report changing their behaviour patterns through masking and camouflaging to avoid the threat of physical attacks, abuse, social exclusion and isolation, and bullying. Walby similarly specifies that “male violence” causes women to change their behavioural patterns to avoid such consequences.
Finally, the existence of the neuroarchy as a governing state practice may be a useful concept to the field of Neurodiversity, as evidenced by the Minority Group Model of Disability, which originates partly from a civil rights legal model arguing for minority status for marginalised state citizens (Owens, 2015). Walby (1989) argues that patriarchy as a state practice, like the mode of production, intersects with each of the remaining five social structures. This may also be true in the context of a potential neuroarchy: state governance is evidenced by the capitalist economy in professional and economic relations, the neuroarchal social construction of minority and majority neurotypes is legitimised via legal recognition of diagnostic/disability status, and so forth.
In context with an exploration of a neuroarchy as a concept to help theorise Neurodiversity, it may also be worthwhile to propose definitions for the following terms. In addition to the term ableism to describe stigma against disability, it may become necessary to create a distinct sociological concept of “neuroism” to refer to stigma arising from the belief that the Neurotypical population is superior to Neurominority groups – much in the way that sexism refers to male chauvinism as a cultural ideology. This could help to identify why Autistic people must mask and camouflage to avoid negative consequences when not “passing” as Neurotypical in social settings.
Secondly, in lieu of homophobia to refer to discrimination against, and fearfulness of, Queer “Others,” developing a concept for “neurophobia” may aid in articulating a fear or discrimination against Neurominorities who fall outside the social and behavioural boundaries of neuro-normativity. This might be helpful to explain, for example, the threat of physical violence experienced by Autistic people in the absence of masking and camouflaging. These terms, in addition to the concept of a neuroarchal society, may offer future research a useful means of conceptualising the broader, structural causes of social inequality which act as social drivers of Autistic masking and camouflaging. Following on from these feminist precedents, researchers can potentially begin addressing barriers to unmasking, and work towards improving social equity for Autistic people and other neurotypes.
Questioning whether Autistic people constitute a visible Neurominority group offers significant insight into the social drivers of masking and camouflaging, and their relationships to Autistic development. Emerging psychology research on masking and camouflaging shows that these behavioural processes carry significant developmental consequences for Autistic people, including poor mental health, exhaustion, suicidality, identity loss, and minority stress. However, the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign, alongside the literature canvassed herein, demonstrates an awareness amongst the Autistic community that concealing Autistic characteristics by masking, and camouflaging through the performativity of Neurotypical behavioural norms, can improve social and professional inclusion, and even maintain physical safety. These findings indicate that the potential barriers to unmasking include social and professional discrimination, and even physical harm. Neurotypical privilege, hegemony, invisibility, and Neuromajority status are key social drivers of Autistic masking and camouflaging.
Given the emphasis #TakeTheMaskOff places on advocating for unmasking, intersectionally informed research is needed to explore how social and cultural change may be able to make unmasking safer for Autistic people at various intersections of structural inequality. Accordingly, the current study is limited by the lack of demographic information available for the #TakeTheMaskOff participants, alongside the limited sample size, although this is, to some degree, addressed by contextualising #TakeTheMaskOff Tweets using larger participant studies. While #TakeTheMaskOff was criticised in some of the Tweets for not being intersectional enough – particularly in relation to calling for unmasking without adequate regard for the racialised experiences of (un)masking and camouflaging – this study is able to partly address this limitation through extensive use of critical race theory on masking, alongside prioritising the inclusion of several #TakeTheMaskOff Tweets authored by Autistic People of Colour discussing these themes. Further research is needed to examine how Neurominority status intersects with ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and/or socioeconomic status, and how camouflaging and (un)masking are shaped by these social identities and inequalities.
The use of #TakeTheMaskOff as a data source is a strength of this study, given its organisation by Autistic activists, and its social media platform offering accessible representation and participation to the Autistic community more broadly. However, as participants were found through their participation in online activism, they were not sourced through a topic blind recruitment process – highlighting a limitation of this study. It is likely that those who used #TakeTheMaskOff did so because they felt strongly enough about the relevance of masking and camouflaging to the social justice realm to participate in an activist campaign on these topics. These views may well be articulated in the discursive nature of the Tweets.
However, the Autistic perspectives represented in this study are invaluable in identifying masking and camouflaging as a social inequality issue related to visible minority status. Building on prior legal movements barring discrimination based on visible and/or somatic difference, this new understanding of Autistic people as a visible Neurominority group may open the door to future legal research and advocacy regarding greater social, educational, and workplace protections for Autistic people who either cannot mask, or who choose not to do so. Further research highlighting structural, legal, and institutional inequality, for example via theorising a potential neuroarchy as a societal barrier to unmasking, may prove highly beneficial here.
Intersectional and critical social theory can help take the fields of Critical Neurodiversity Studies, Neuro Theory, and psychology research into Autistic masking and camouflaging in promising new directions. Firstly, this study highlights some key social drivers of Autistic masking and camouflaging by demonstrating that the Neurotypical majority experiences privilege as the invisible, hegemonic neurotype. In addition, Autistic people experience oppression as a visible Neurominority group. A Minority Group Model of Neurodiversity, and the concepts of Neuromajority and Neurominority group status, can help to address some of the quality-of-life issues linked to masking and camouflaging, allowing researchers to begin working towards solutions for unmasking and greater social equity for Autistic people.
This research was supported by the author’s PhD supervision team: Assoc. Prof. Katie Wright, Prof. Cheryl Dissanayake, Assoc. Prof. Anthony Moran, and Dr. Anne-Maree Sawyer.
Statement of Ethics
Study approval statement: this study protocol was reviewed and approved by the La Trobe University Human Ethics Committee, approval No. HEC19488. Consent to participate statement: participant consent for use of public domain online social media data was not required. This decision was supported by the La Trobe University Human Ethics Committee, approval No. HEC19488.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The author has no conflicts of interest to declare.
This research project was funded by a La Trobe University postgraduate research scholarship, and a research grant from Mr. Andrew Eddy.
Elizabeth M. Radulski is the sole author of this study, and completed all research, writing, data collection, and theoretical contributions herein.
Data Availability Statement
This data forms part of an in-progress PhD study and is not yet publicly available.
I have capitalised “Neurominority/majority” as social identities, while “minority/majority neurotype” is a common noun.