by Erica Leung~Often people will ask me whether or not to disclose to someone that they are Autistic. My answer to this is yes and no depending on the situation. The reply you provide will either be a help or hindrance so it is best to use discretion wisely.
Based on my personal experience, if you are applying for a job and get called in for an interview *DO NOT under any circumstances reveal to a potential employer that you have Autism. Although companies say they offer equal opportunity employment, the reality is people are scared of unknown differences. When I was interviewing for a position at a well known investment bank I made a mistake in the fifth round of the interview to reveal to the company representative that I was Autistic. Right after that statement I knew my bridge had burned twice over. The person’s behavior went from outgoing to standoffish and the environment turned colder than Antarctica.
That following Tuesday I received a phone call from the HR director telling me that “We are sorry but we made a mistake. There isn’t any position here for you”. I know this is their way of covering their reputation rather than telling me the truth. One if there was not a position open then there would not be a reason to hold five rounds of interviews. Secondly, I am sure they do not randomly meet people just for kicks. I will go to my grave knowing that having Autism was the reason I got denied that job.
If you are in a situation such as living in an on campus apartment where you will be with the same people for eight months out of the year then I think it is fine to divulge this to someone. However you need to be 1000% sure that the person you are about to tell is really your friend. Everybody will seem nice at the beginning but it is only a matter of time before one’s true colors are exposed. For me, it took two solid months to decide who my friends were and weed out the ones that were only nice to me because of my possessions.
The first person in the apartment that I felt comfortable telling my secret to was my friend who worked at the Disability office. After I told her it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. She told me she already figured it out before I said anything and it was not an issue for her. In fact she became my on campus “mom” and helped me work out a lot of my problems.
*The choice to disclose one’s disability is a personal decision. I cannot provide a definitive recommendation because everyone’s story is unique. The best advice I can give is to share my story of both positive and negative results and what I learned from my experiences.
Others may disagree regarding disclosing to an employer and may prefer not to work for someone who wouldn’t be accommodating or accepting from the start. More employers are becoming educated about autism and some are even seeking out individuals with autism whom they know will be particularly skilled at certain jobs. However, this is just the beginning and there’s still a long way to go, especially in the current job market.
If you do reveal that you have some challenges it’s best to first point out all the positives that they would bring to the workplace, for example, making you more efficient, detail-oriented, honest and trustworthy, but that you may need instructions repeated or written. Some may choose to wait until issues arise when on the job to have this conversation. There are several books by Temple Grandin and others about employment for individuals with autism, how to be successful and how and when to handle the disclosure issue.