DOI: 10.1044/2023_lshss-23-00037 ISSN: 0161-1461

Ableism, Code-Switching, and Camouflaging: A Letter to the Editor on Gerlach-Houck and DeThorne (2023)

Julie Roberts
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


This letter to the editor is in response to the Gerlach-Houck and DeThorne (2023) epilogue regarding their proposal for speech-language pathologists to offer Autistic code-switching (Autistic masking and camouflage) as a viable, non-ableist social communication tool that Autistic clients may choose to use in “high-stakes” social situations. In connection with Autistic code-switching, the authors reference “the debate” regarding code-switching in “African American Vernacular English speakers,” specifically, whether “standard” English should be encouraged as a way to access “conventional forms of success.”


Professionally training Autistic clients to “code-switch” with the goal of improving the client's chances of accessing conventional forms of success is essentially training Autistic masking and camouflaging. This type of therapy reinforces to both the Autistic client, as well as society, the position that hiding a person's Autistic traits is a pathway to acceptance and success. Autistic camouflaging has detrimental ramifications for mental health outcomes; perpetuates both internalized and societal stigma; hinders bias and discrimination deconstruction; reinforces ableist values; and fails to dismantle power inequities and social barriers that lead to marginalization, oppression, and exclusion.

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