For this project I interviewed neurodivergent individuals
and a friend who is pursuing a masters in Psychology.
Neurodivergence is an umbrella term used in reference to
dissimilarity in the human brain with reference to sociability,
learning, attention, mood and other cerebral functions in a non-neurotic sense. Neurodivergent individuals include those with diagnoses such as, but not limited to, autism, ADHD, sensory disorders, dyslexia...etc. Masking is an emerging research and term used to identify the camouflaging many of these individuals use subconsciously to adapt to their social environment.
Cara Waters is a former high school teacher getting a Master's degree in Child/Adolescent Psychology at East Central University. She will finish her degree in December.
"Neurodivergent individuals learn techniques of masking through observational learning; subconsciously scanning your environment and adapting to behaviors to better perform, it's observational learning. I believe masking would be an application of Alfred Bandura's social learning theory... considering how both your environment and your brain interact to sway human behavior," she said. "It is how your environment affects your personality manifestations."
Cara Waters (she/her)
Cara raved about this book during our visit and believes that everyone should read it.
"I am diagnosed with autism and ADHD. I use masking in my daily life. I kind of see it as two-fold, as a coping mechanism and also as a trauma response," says Elle Barnhart, of Norman. "Masking can be really exhausting because it involves focusing constantly on the people around you, mimicking behaviors, and that can end up taking a toll on your mental health. You're focusing so much of your time on the people around you and on how to copy their behavior," they add. Relating masking to the feeling of having imposter syndrome, Elle adds, "You get home and you take off that mask and you feel like, maybe nobody knows who you really are, that the entire world is seeing a version of you that you are putting forward, but its not a real representation... You know I feel like that a lot."
Elle Barnhart (they/them)
Katrina Ward (she/her) OKC
"I was officially diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum, Dyscalculia, Alexithymia, Aphantasia and its highly suspected that I also have ADHD... It's exhausting because I either feel like I'm being too noticeably 'different' from those around me or not truly myself. I've been in a relationship with Nate for six, maybe seven years and I still don't like, one hundred percent unmask with him. Which is sad to realize but I never really noticed I was doing this before."
"I have practice conversations for literally every conversation that I have and most of the time multiple of those, just trying to figure out what I'm trying to say and how to best say it. I didn't realize that other people don't do that for every conversation... Interacting for me is really exhausting, I do better in groups of just a few people but also one-on-one conversations feel very intimidating. Because there's a lot of focus on me and it always really throws me off when people are actually listening to me."
The inside Katrina's office is filled with art supplies and knick knacks aplenty.