Telling Your Employer About Your Autism — Do You or Don’t You?
I haven’t told my employer about my autism and it’s something that I frequently think about. I’m good at a certain set of skills precisely because of my autism. I’m bad at another set of skills because of my autism. Anyone who has worked with me for more than ten minutes has already had experience with both of these realities. They know that I’m good with patterns and math and the details of rules and specific facts. They also know that sometimes I struggle with social interaction and the niceties of what is “chit-chat.” Also, that I struggle with nuance, jokes, any communication that is delivered other than verbally, with hypercorrection and more.
So why haven’t I disclosed my diagnosis?
Sometimes I just don’t want my workspace to be a place where I have to talk about my autism.
Sometimes I’m afraid of whether or not my employer will slot me into a category that will make my future trajectory less than it might be.
Sometimes I worry that co-workers will think less of me, avoid me, or not want to associate with me.
Sometimes I worry that prejudice will limit me.
I wish that I felt like talking about my neurodiversity were an advantage in the workplace, but right now, I don’t think it is. No matter how “diverse” my workplace wants to be, it’s still a stigma to be autistic. And then there’s the problem of people thinking that I’ve gotten to where I am today because I was given a pass at some point along the way and didn’t have to work as hard as everyone else, which is totally untrue, but still a fear of mine.
I long for a world where disabilities are welcomed and not seen as something to be spoken of quietly, in the background. I long for a world where companies don’t just say they will make accommodations if necessary, but actually want to have a diverse workforce because it actually makes them better at seeing the world in new ways. Someday, there will be CEOs and PR people and politicians and inventors and scientists and artists and writers and they will be able to talk openly and easily about their diversity — if they want to and when they want to. I long for a world in which we are all seen as more than a collection of our abilities and disabilities, but are welcomed as fully human in all of our parts.