What is masking and why does it happen? Why is my child different at home than at school or vice versa? Why can my child hold it together in some environments and not others?
Masking is the term used when people with neurobehavioral struggles “mask” them in certain situations. This term is often used in regard to Autism, but it also happens in those with other neurobehavioral challenges. This may be why some children seem to have fewer issues at school than at home. This is also why many children can go for long periods of time or even reach adulthood without a diagnosis.
Common masking techniques may include holding eye contact, rehearsing social skills, mimicking behaviors of others, scripting conversations, or even working so hard to ignore overwhelming sensory stimuli. Overall masking is incredibly physically and emotionally draining, and it is linked with an increase in depression and anxiety.
Having environments that support regulation can help to decrease masking because you are working to support regulation and the child feels safe to learn these strategies. Taking time to focus on social skills in an environment where a child feels safe will give them the opportunity to truly learn the skills and not simply mimic them.