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Table 1 Distinctions between masking, shallow compensation, deep compensation and accommodation strategies, derived from Livingston et al. [5]

From: Quantifying compensatory strategies in adults with and without diagnosed autism

Strategy type


Specific examples

Overall characteristics

Masking (6 items)

Strategies that involve regulating (increasing/dampening) pre-existing social behaviours

Hold back your true thoughts and opinions; dress and speak like the group you are trying to blend in with; stand in a conversation but say/do very little

• Not very cognitively demanding/tiring

• Can become ‘automatic’ with time

• Enable one to ‘blend in’ or ‘go unnoticed’ in group situations or from a far

• Do not necessarily support active participation in two-way interaction

Shallow compensation (10 items)

Strategies that enable production of neurotypical behaviour (e.g. social behaviour) without solving the cognitive difficulty/difference in question (e.g. continued theory of mind difficulty)

Enact learned scripts and social rules to guide conversations; make or appear to make ‘appropriate’ eye contact; repeat and rephrase what your interaction partner says to give the impression of being a ‘good listener’

• Fairly cognitively demanding/tiring

• Less likely to become ‘automatic’ compared to masking strategies

• Enable reciprocal social interaction

• Not flexible across contexts, doesn’t always emulate natural social interaction and can ‘break down’ under stress/with constant use

Deep compensation (9 items)

Strategies that enable an alternative route to solve the cognitive difficulty in question (e.g. successfully solve theory of mind, albeit differently to neurotypical people)

Flexibly use built catalogue of possible interpretations of others’ mental states, based on a combination of multiple sources of information (e.g. logic, context, facial expression, tone of voice); substitute others’ values/interests with your own or those of a TV/book character to infer their mental state

• Can initially be challenging to devise

• Can become ‘automatic’ with time

• More flexible than shallow strategies

• Support genuine improvements in social cognition (e.g. theory of mind)

Accommodation (6 items)

Strategies that help accommodate, but do not necessarily alter, one’s cognitive difficulty/difference

Work in an environment where your social differences are actively accommodated; live in a foreign country so that your social differences are attributed to ‘being foreign’ by others

• May enable ‘good outcome’ (e.g. employment, good mental health) without autistic behaviour necessarily reducing

• May require additional support structures (e.g. family, financial resources)

• Can work alongside compensatory strategies, but are ultimately distinct