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Camouflaging in relation to autism refers to the ways in which individuals with autism spectrum disorder hide or mask their symptoms and behaviours to blend in with those around them. This is often done to avoid drawing attention to themselves, to 'fit in' socially, or to avoid negative reactions from others.

Imagine you are in a new place where everyone speaks a different language and has different customs. To fit in, you might try to mimic the way they talk, act, and dress, even if it feels unnatural or exhausting. Similarly, people with autism might try to hide their natural behaviours or mimic social cues to appear more like their peers. For example, they might force themselves to make eye contact, mimic facial expressions, or suppress repetitive movements (like hand-flapping) that come naturally to them.

This camouflaging can be particularly challenging because it requires a lot of mental effort and can be very tiring. People with autism might spend a significant amount of energy trying to remember social rules, control their natural responses, and monitor their behaviour to ensure they are not standing out. This effort can lead to stress, anxiety, and exhaustion, and it often means that individuals with autism cannot fully relax or be themselves in social situations.

While camouflaging can help individuals with autism avoid bullying or social exclusion, it can also have negative effects on their mental health. The constant pressure to hide their true selves can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and a sense of not being accepted for who they really are. It’s important for society to create environments where individuals with autism feel safe and accepted, so they don’t feel the need to camouflage their true selves.

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