The mask & me: Exploring the correlations between autistic masking and performance

Author Identifier

Mariah Ann O'Dea

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Performing Arts Honours


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Supervisor

Frances Barbe

Second Supervisor

Renee Newman

Third Supervisor

Emma Fishwick


This research project aims to question the current perceptions of Autistic Masking through the context of performance. Masking is often perceived as having a negative impact on autistic people, and the current theoretical research in Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) reflects this. However, by examining the correlations between performance and Autistic masking, this research looks at what the positive aspects of masking may be. This is particularly focused on people who have received a late diagnosis of ASD where masking is deeply embedded within their identity, as this project is applied through an autobiographical lens of my personal experiences of late diagnosis, and career as a performer. This will inform a practice-led performance approach to investigate how Autistic Masking could be reframed as a skill for an Autistic person to develop greater agency and control over their masking, and in turn over their identity.

The performance practices utilised within this research include devising and writing comedy and stand-up comedy, devising and writing story for live performance, improvisation, hula hooping, podcasting, and elements of burlesque. The use of multiple types of performance practices broadened the research, making it more nuanced in its application relating to Autistic Masking, pertaining to the varied experience individuals have of ASD. Each practice taught me more about my diagnosis. For example, it was found that writing helped me gain greater clarity on my experience and thoughts of ASD. Hula hooping was found to be related to stimming; a self-soothing technique often related to Autistic people. Comedy helped to express the emotions that came with late diagnosis. Burlesque allowed for self-acceptance and embracing individual differences. All approaches take some level of masking, but they also allowed a space to share my voice in a way in which I had full control of, within a framework that had a beginning, middle and end.

The final outcome of this project is a solo performance where I share my story of ASD late diagnosis, and masking after this research, as well as an outline of ideas from the findings for a future resource or presentation. The performance, although personal, shares information vital to the experiences of ASD and Autistic masking in a more accessible and relatable way. It shows the impact of a diagnosis, but also the power of being able to reclaim masking on the terms of the individual, and for the audience to broaden the understanding of what Autism can look and feel like that cannot be found on Google.



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