So when is a good time to disclose your condition? It varies so much depending on circumstance and personal preference, but here is my top five list of times I've found it helpful to come out of the autism closet....
'Shouldn't they like me for me, why do they need to know?' Indeed, if you're looking for a quick hook-up then great but if you're in for something long-term, well if you're an aspie then it's part of you that might be relevant to let them in on at some stage. In a relationship my aspie tendencies can make relationship dynamics a bit different to what might be expected. A great example is if I'm not feeling good then I need alone time; yet in a relationship there is an expectation to talk. Do I want to be leaving a girl feeling like I'm rejecting her when I'm just trying to fend off a meltdown? No, of course not! But with open communication it's easier to talk about these situations. I try and approach the subject of autism early in the dating game. 'Hi I'm Steve, I'm autistic' will send 'em running, but casually steering the conversation towards the subject after a few dates seems to work well. It also gives a clue as to their preconceptions.
'I dated a guy once, he was well fit, but then he said he was autistic. I was like yeaugghhh!'
This one clearly wasn't to be the love of my life - at least I knew before getting too involved!
Employment is a big issue and a big part of life. For me it is a no brainer, my employers need to know! For many, the opposite response would be heard. But why not be open with the people you probably spend most of your day working alongside? Perhaps it comes down to this question...
'What if they discriminate!?'
Yes this is a real and ever present thought with employment. The hard answer is, yes they might. It's a hard fact of life that people can sometimes be small minded idiots and no amount of laws and legislation can change that - this is exactly why I see it as essential to be open about it! Think about it, a large portion of your life is spent at work. If your potential management are unsupportive or discriminatory then perhaps it's better to find out before accepting a job with them?
Assuming that you are not in possession of a magical neurocloaking device which enables you to completely hide all aspie traits, it is likely that at some point it will come out anyway. I feel more comfortable knowing I have allies I can turn to if I get into difficulties. I've had many times in my working life when I've had to address issues. It's never easy but when the condition is already out in the open then it is easier to address the problem directly. For instance simple communication difficulties can be addressed so much faster if you aren't tiptoeing around not revealing yourself as autistic.
The benefits for me in disclosing this with management has far outweighed any negatives I've ever encountered. Adjustments, flexibility and genuine caring support from colleagues - all of which wouldn't have happened if they hadn't have known.
Who and when to tell? I'd always say your line management should know, but not necessarily all your colleagues. I think by posting this blog everyone knows in my case, but for you, use your discretion and seek advice from someone you trust.
When to tell? Again up to you, but Preferably before having a meltdown at work. Believe me, having a meltdown at work if they haven't been told about your condition is MESSY!
Travel can be a very stressful thing and navigating airports, train stations and bus depots triggers sensory overload. You are trapped with bright lights, noise and people. By letting staff along your way know of your condition you often find people go out of their way to ease your journey. I always get pre-boarded on flights as this helps me settle before the masses arrive. Sometimes it is possible to be met and escorted or found a quiet room to wait.
5. Leisure Activities
I was always naturally private about my diagnosis. 'I don't want charity' I'd say and would never use the word disabled. Until one day. I don't know what it was but something flipped and I just thought why not! 'I'm disabled!' I chirp while waving my disabled badge at everyone. Doors open, prices drop. Bonus.
Sounds like a great discount scheme but it's actually very helpful and allows for access to places and activities that otherwise would be a strain. Take theme parks for example. Most offer a queue jumping scheme for those with proof of disability. Sounds like a good perk but unnecessary? A 2 hour queue with 200 other noisy people with no clear way out with bright lights on a hot day. OVERLOAD! For most it's an annoyance, but for me it could trigger a meltdown very publicly that renders me out of action for weeks. I'd just have to avoid that ride altogether. The queue jump makes it possible, and why not? Shouldn't we get access to attractions as well?
Thank you for taking the time to read this list. Please I'd love to hear your thoughts on where is and isn't good to disclose your condition, let me know via Facebook or by adding a comment. If you've enjoyed reading this please feel free to share it.