Masking Asperger Syndrome

Masking the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome is very common and is the reason diagnosis can sometimes be difficult.  The only place a child with Asperger Syndrome is unlikely to mask, is in the home.  This is why the condition is so often missed by professionals that might spend less than an hour a day with your child.

How often have you spoken to your childs school to be told he/she is not having any difficulties? I know I have and I was told the same for years.   I know how frustrating it can be and chances are if your reading this, you know too!  My son had been masking his symptoms at school and nursery for 10 years but at this point it was becoming more difficult for him to control and cracks began to appear.  It was only when he reached the age of 11 and he was beginning to melt down in school every day, that they took any notice.

Girls often go undetected.

Girsl tend to be a little better at masking

Girls sometimes find it even harder to get a diagnosis because they are better at masking their symptoms than boys.  They are also eager to copy the actions of others to make sure they don’t stand out.  Because they are stereotyped as being shyer than boys, shyness is one of the symptoms that can make diagnosis difficult.  You can read more about it here.

A child with Asperger Syndrome will often bottle up their frustrations during school time and let their emotions out when they get home and feel safe, leaving the family to take the brunt.  

So how do I know if my child is masking?

We must remember that symptoms of Autism can vary greatly.  No two people with Autism are the same and this is especially true of Asperger Syndrome.

A brilliant example of Masking happened for us yesterday on a visit to CAMHS.  An urgent referral was made for my son to meet with a psychologist and a person from the neurodevelopmental team to discuss a recent bout of depression.

Before the meeting started I could already see Alfie was beginning to mask his symptoms. He was smiling and chatty, which he hadn’t been before we left the house. In fact he hadn’t been this way in a long while.  

I know! Lets talk today about your favourite thing!

The meeting started off with them asking him what he liked to do with his time.  His mood became even more elevated as one mention of ‘Freddie Mercury’ or ‘Music’ and he starts to pay attention.  He can talk all day on the subject because ‘Music and Freddie’ are his thing!  His life revolves around these two subjects.

He spoke about his love of performing and how he is in his element on stage, receiving attention but without having to socialise on a one to one basis.  Of course he was in his element!  I cannot tell you how frustrating this was for me as a parent.  We got the same response as we got the last time we went to CAMHS: ‘He is not depressed’.

The first song Alfie ever wrote courtesy of Vic studios.

When you look at the photograph below, of course he doesnt look depressed! Alfie is doing what Alfie loves more than anything in the world, performing as Freddie.

Photgraphy by Alasdair Mackin of Celtic Camera Photography, Llangollen.

Ummm………….hello……..you were talking about everything he loves in life.  You dont have to be a genius to know that this is going to make him happy and not appear like he needed any help from you!

Photography by Alasdair Mackin of Celtic Camera Photography, Llangollen.

At home he barely speaks, does not go out, has been threatening suicide all over social media and doesn’t really make an effort to interact with family members, unless they want to talk about music, Freddie Mercury or Queen.  He has no other interest and no friends outside school to interact with. 

Singer Song writer

The only things he likes to do are write and compose his own songs or study Freddie Mercury intensely on YouTube.

Both the GP and the school were extremely concerned about his wellbeing and mental state, so much so that they both referred him for a CAMHS reassessment.

Another waste of time….

So although he is in fact very depressed, talking about his favourite interests meant he was able to mask his symptoms beautifully.  I hope this offers some clarification of what masking is.  Please feel free to share your experiences because it might help others in the same situation.

Needless to say, we had another wasted visit to CAMHS.

Bye for now 

Rachel x

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