I “Don’t Look Like I Have Autism”

But it’s getting harder to keep my mask on

Sarah Kat
5 min readMay 7


Woman hiding her face
Photo by Elizaveta Dushechkina via Pexels

I just made a little bit of a faux pas while getting my groceries for the week.

I was using the self-checkout (to avoid human interaction at the regular check out), when a baby next to me let out a scream. I accidentally blurted out “Jesus Christ”, immediately followed by “sorry, I’m sorry”. Cue the burning shame and embarrassment.

Babies scream, that’s life. I don’t want to be an asshole. And I’m not, not really. But I worry that I look like one. Incidents like this one are exactly why.

I used to be able to keep my reactions on the inside and a fake smile on the outside. But with age and fatigue, this masking of my true reactions has become much harder to maintain. Particularly with high-pitched noises.

It’s Sunday today, and thankfully, I have this weekend off. After a long week in an overstimulating workplace, I’m in desperate need of silence and stillness. Not babies and busy supermarkets.

I work in a hospital, which I absolutely love. But I must admit, it’s not the smartest choice of environment for me. There are a lot of alarms, ringing phones and people talking over each other — and that’s on a good day.

Looks can be deceiving

High functioning adults on the spectrum, and especially women, rarely “look autistic”. So when we accidentally drop the mask and react to overstimulation, it’s jarring to those around us.

I’ve recently starting sharing my Autistic status with my colleagues, because I want them to know why I jump in the air when the phone rings, or why I often have to put my earplugs in so I can type my notes.

On a shift at the hospital last weekend, I met an autistic man in distress. He was with his unwell Grandmother, had stepped outside for some fresh air, and then completely forgotten how to get back to her bed in the Emergency Department.

I found him wandering 7 floors up from Emergency, trying not to freak out.

Autistic people tend to find each other. It’s like we emit a little homing beacon vibration, and I’ve met some of my favourite people this way. So he found me, and I helped him…



Sarah Kat

Self help, neuropsychology, small business and marketing. An Elective Orphan and abuse survivor. https://bit.ly/highlights-email