In this guest blog, I asked Malk Palmer, an autistic blogger, to share some information about a topic that many newly diagnosed adults worry about—disclosing an autism diagnosis to others. He shared some great tips and things to think about, and if you are considering having conversations with others on this topic, I think you’ll find some helpful information here!
Top Tips for Telling Others That You Are Autistic
Whether you are formally or self-diagnosed, a dilemma faced by most autistic people is whether you should share your diagnosis with others. This is an entirely personal decision, and there are no right or wrong answers. While disclosing to an employer, for example, may mean that you are legally entitled to reasonable adjustments where needed, you may also be concerned about negative reactions and being treated differently. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and this is a decision that only you can make.
Given that, if and when you decide to tell others that you are autistic, how do you go about doing so? Here are some top tips!
You are in control
You decide who to tell about your diagnosis, and when and how you tell them. Choose a time, place, and method of communicating that works for you. If you know that you communicate better by email or text rather than face to face or on the phone, have the conversation that way. A big part of disclosing that you are autistic will probably be sharing your preferences for things like communication, so start as you mean to go on!
Whether you have only just discovered that you are autistic or have known for many years, chances are that you will know far more about autism than most of the people that you tell. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of ignorance and misunderstanding, and comments such as “but you don’t look autistic” and “but X is autistic, and you are nothing like them” are all too common.
It can be helpful, therefore, to be prepared both in terms of what you want to say and for the questions you may get. Fortunately, you do not have to start from scratch here. While what you say is inevitably personal, there are a wealth of online resources that you can both use yourself and refer others to. The Autism Society, for example, has resources covering many different situations that you can encourage friends, family, or an employer to read.
Set out what being autistic means for you
One of the key messages you may need to get across is that all autistic people are individual and different from one another. It is important, therefore, to be ready to set out how autism impacts your life, the strengths that being autistic brings, and where you need adjustments or support.
This is particularly important when disclosing that you are autistic to your employer. Perhaps your diagnosis has explained why you have always found meetings so difficult, or why the bright lighting in the office gives you a headache. Be ready to explain things like your sensory differences, communication preferences, and any other needs, as well as areas where being autistic has a positive impact, like creative thinking, problem solving or hyperfocus!
You are not alone
Finally, get the support you need before, during, and after your disclosure. Include a trusted friend or colleague in the conversation however it takes place and explain to them in advance how they can best help you.
Disclosing that you are autistic can be scary, and unfortunately is not always the positive experience it can and should be. However, being open about who you are is a big step to finally being able to be your true self in every setting, and get you support that can make a huge difference. Whatever you decide, there is nothing wrong with who you are and how you choose to proceed. Do what is right for you.
Mark Palmer is an autistic freelance writer specialising in mental health, autism and neurodiversity. He can be contacted through his website www.markpalmerwriter.co.uk, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on LinkedIn and on twitter @MarkPWriter
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