Autism at Work: Thoughts on Disclosing Autism, Aspergers, Neurodiversity

autism at work disclosure Aug 11, 2019

Disclosure is a complex subject. You don’t have to tell your co-workers. It is totally your choice and there are a number of areas to consider when making the choice. Even if you decide now is not the time you can always decide later it is the time. Following are some areas to consider and a few thoughts around them.

 I believe the most important item to consider is the motivation and the potential benefits. I think motivation falls into a few categories, self-identity, understanding of co-workers about a large part of who you are which they may notice on their own, as a proactive approach to avoid negative interactions in the future, because it seems the right thing to do, to allow you to advocate for autistic adults openly, or any of a range of personal reasons. I don’t think the reason is of great importance on its own, but I think a solid assessment whether disclosing will accomplish the object. Some reasons take more thought than others to truly evaluate. Take self-identity. If like me part of your identity is built on being autistic then it is an easy decision. Disclose in a way to help others understand what autism is for you specifically. I have a Co-Worker self-advocate tip sheet that can help with the process.  Other reasons take more thought as you need to consider the group you are with and decide if disclosing will accomplish the objectives you seek.

 Consider the environment. You are working at a leader in space technology among other things. As in many things dealing with adult autism there is little research on prevalence in differing careers. General consensus is the autism rate runs highest in physicians, information technology/programmers, engineers, lawyers, professors, and accountants. The other observation that has wide consensus is as you select the higher performing of the profession the autism or functionally autistic rate increase beyond that for the industry as a whole. Having hung out with a number of engineers and techs from multiple of the major name aerospace companies in the area, I can assure you autism runs rampant. My guess is you have a similar concentration of neurodiverse and autistic or functionally autistic co-workers. If this is true you then have a safe and easy place to disclose. If you do you may even find other eventually coming to you and asking about autism as they notice much of what you mention or do applies to themselves. Great opportunity to help other who may not know anything other than they are different but no idea what it is or if there is anything to do about it.

 You will also want to think about the work relationships you have formed. Are they open minded people and if not, are they closed minded in a way that would be accepting of an openly autistic co-worker? What are the elements the relationships with each team member is founded on? If it is shared interests in or outside of work or just that you are on the same team and work together. Shared interests reinforce the relationship and would make it much more tolerant of disclosure.

 All in all disclosing is something totally up to you. Really consider if it overall will make you happier, more comfortable, self-satisfied, or further you position and career. For myself, I prefer to disclose as soon as it seems to be appropriate. With my international efforts in autism in adults I likely have a little more pressure to disclose as a simple Google search will out me. Better the subject is approached and presented the way I want it instead of in a Google search.

 If you do believe disclosing is what fits best for you I would be happy to set up time and we can discuss the dynamics and come up with an approach most like to accomplish what you want.


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