Should you tell your employer you have Autism?

There is a time and a place for everything – choose your appropriate moment wisely.

It is probably not a good idea to mention this at the job interview, or application stage. The Autistic Spectrum is not widely understood by society, and we cannot expect that to change any time soon. There are innumerable organizations out there working to raise awareness, and encourage acceptance of people with ASD. Until we are more publicly understood, it is not advisable to mention this right away because most people still associate Autism with “disability” – the big D-word. Most employers will be confused, and perhaps afraid to hire you. It is probably best to wait until they get to know you better, or a situation arises that it becomes relevant to mention. While WE want to be understood, we also must have a level of understanding for the limitations of other neurotypical people.

For help understanding ASD and perhaps other helpful advice, please consult the book “Living Well on the Spectrum” by Dr. Valerie L. Gaus. Below is an exerpt:

Depending on your diagnosis and the extent to which your ASD differences have affected your work life, you may be considered a member of the class of people protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers are required to make “reasonable accommodations” for any employee with a disability who is otherwise qualified to do the job.

This law covers all types of disabilities, but disclosure and accommodation can be a very delicate issue for people with ASDs. ASDs are not obvious, like visual or other physical disabilities. Also, the needs of employees with ASDs will vary greatly from one person to the next.

This law covers all types of disabilities, but disclosure and accommodation can be a very delicate issue for people with ASDs. ASDs are not obvious, like visual or other physical disabilities. Also, the needs of employees with ASDs will vary greatly from one person to the next.

Because this is a legal issue, I advise you to consult an attorney specializing in disability law before disclosing to an employer. I always advice my patients to ask themselves the following questions and make sure they can come up with clear answers before moving forward on disclosure to any person. If you have any difficulty answering these, you may want to discuss the issue with a trusted person who knows you well.

  • Why do you want your employer to know about your diagnosis?
  • How do you think disclosing your ASD diagnosis to your employer will improve your work life?
  • Are you prepared to ask your employer to support you in a different way or to accommodate you in specific ways?
  • What are the risks involved in telling your employer?
  • If you are not sure about the risks because you do not know the person well, could you ask for an accommodation (such as a modified workday) without revealing your diagnosis?

There may be many reasons to tell your employer about your diagnosis – the work environment may contain unpleasant distractions for you (sounds, smells, lights), your co-workers may be unknowingly or purposefully offending you, etc. Telling your employer may at some point become necessary so that you can more properly, and efficiently function in the work environment. You should not suffer through a situation that could easily be remedied with the proper attention.

You do not deserve to be alienated on the job, or dismissed from your position because your co-workers or employers do not understand you. This is the most worrisome risk involved with telling your employer about your Autism. If your wish is merely to achieve some peace of mind, or reduce stress in your workplace, think carefully about how to approach your employer in a way that will be more encouraging and informative first, instead of filing a complaint. Filing a complaint rarely achieves the results you hope for – most neurotypical individuals will see this as threatening, and it could escalate an already tense situation.

As surely you are aware, most people understand very little about ASD. You do not want to come off as intimidating in this situation, as it will likely result in your termination from your job. Some examples of a positive approach below:

“I feel like the lighting in my work area is too harsh for my eyes, do you think a floor or table lamp might suffice instead?”

“If it is not too much trouble, do you think we could find out what is making that noise and try to fix it? I would be willing to help.”

“When my co-workers behave like this, I feel alienated and sometimes offended. Do you think you could ask them to be a little more understanding?”

The most important part of gaining the respect and understanding of your peers is to first, try to understand their perspective. If you can’t understand them, how can you expect them to understand you?

If you would like personal advice about these issues, please contact us!  We would love to meet with you to discuss these issues in person!

 

-Mandi Cook
Consurgo Services

  1. Anonymous Reply

    Do you have any advice in a scenario where the employer finds out about the diagnosis through other channels? (All innocently.)

Leave a Reply

*

Bad Behavior has blocked 103 access attempts in the last 7 days.