We are Autistics Unmasked (AU), an up and coming non-profit organization working to uplift autistic voices while providing education and resources to the people in our lives so they can better understand us.
Our Co-Founders, sisters Kylia Kennedy and Safiya Yasmeen, saw a need for an organization ran by and for autistic people that would center BIPoC voices. A black founded and ran organization, every member of our team is #Actually Autistic with many of the leadership members being of the Global Majority.
We aim to provide a safe, intersectional space for autistics to advocate for themselves. We want to take control of the conversation around autism and let everyone know that nothing can be done for autistics without autistics.
We are a loud and proud autistic team breaking stigmas and encouraging acceptance. We’re taking a stand against things like ABA and similar therapies, and some of the “big name” organizations that would rather cure autism than help support and create a neurodivergent affirming society for autistic people to live in.
Why Autistics “Unmasked”?
“Masking” is a common occurrence among autistic people. Essentially, society puts this incredible pressure on us to act “normal,” so many of us develop masking as a survival mechanism. We sit on our hands to stop from stimming, force ourselves to make eye contact, study human behavior to get all of our interactions “right” (though we often don’t understand why they are “right”).
All this and more is considered masking and while at first glance it might seem like a good thing, for a number of reasons it is harmful both to society and to autistic people in society. When autistic people mask, it is physically, mentally and emotionally draining for us and often leads to meltdowns (which can be sometimes physically dangerous for us and others involved), shutdowns and burn out.
Masking also adds to the stigma that society already has about the Autistic Neurotype, that we can be “cured” or that our traits can be “minimized”. Society will continue to have this idea that since we “can” do these things that we should but, as you read in the paragraph above, masking is harmful for us.
This is why we have chosen the name Autistics Unmasked. We at AU believe that masking, while necessary for safety in some instances, should not be the default for any autistic person. We dream of a society where it is never necessary, not even for safety. We want to encourage all autistic people to explore what unmasking looks like for them and help to build a societal understanding of what autistic traits are so that it is safe to do so.