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Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 66
Gender: Male
Posts: 33,220
Location: Long Island, New York

15 Aug 2023, 6:54 am

Autistic teachers 'masking' who they are throughout their career

Autistic teachers working in Irish education have chosen not to disclose their autism to colleagues and felt compelled to "mask" who they are throughout their career, the first study of its kind highlights.

The finding is included in a new study from Dublin City University (DCU) by Claire O’Neill, an autistic teacher-researcher, who designed and conducted interviews with a number of autistic teachers here.

Teachers who took part in the study reported "masking" who they are to those around them while in school, an approach that cost them personally.

One teacher told the study they had always felt they would only be accepted as a teacher as “some squished version” of themselves.

“That’s holding me in, holding in my stims, that’s holding in my boredom at chit-chatting. That’s holding in my desire to talk about my subject, that’s holding in my desire to interrupt another teacher and say we said we do that, can we do it now. All those things can be really difficult, so I am a version of myself in a school.”

’It's torture'
Another teacher told the study: “It never felt right and I was always conscious of the fact that this is put on. It’s like shattering afterwards and you replay stuff you said, and you feel like a fool and it’s torture.”

Autistic teachers are a hugely under-researched group in Ireland, with no previous research exploring their experience, according to the study.

While the conducted interviews revealed relationships with colleagues were often more nuanced and challenging for autistic teachers, their different way of thinking was found to be key to how they worked, seeing their own ability to deeply focus on their interests or tasks as a strength of their teaching.

They also reported being able to develop deep and strong relationships with their pupils, something they felt was a particular strength.

The findings also suggest that knowledge and attitudes of non-autistic professionals working within the system have an impact on autistic teachers' sense of belonging and confidence in being their authentic selves in their roles.”

‘The study recommends there is a need to increase whole-school knowledge of autism and to encourage neurodivergent-friendly environments, as the findings suggest increased awareness is needed across the Irish education system. This includes initial teacher education, professional development, and support services.

Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman