Telling Work Friends About Autism

It’s been a year since I have been diagnosed with high functioning autism. In this time I have told only a few close family members, my boss at work (who I believe has kept it to himself) and a couple of friends who would have seen this website.

I have mainly kept being autistic to myself and been surprised that the news hasn’t spread more with the few people I have told (which is good that all these people can be trusted). There have been a few times that I almost let it slip and on almost all of those occasions I was glad I kept it to myself. This was mainly because it was to colleagues that I am not that close to and hardly ever speak to.  I just ended up being in a position where telling them would have answered why I find a couple of things at work difficult that they can do naturally.  Therefore helping them to understand why I struggle.

There are a few people at work that, I have always believed, it would be a good thing that they know I have high functioning autism (or Aspergers). So they know the reasons why:

  • I sometimes pull strange expressions
  • Say the wrong thing
  • I am overly withdrawn and in my own world
  • Never go to social events or parties
  • Hide behind a smart phone or computer
  • Eat lunch alone

I also felt like I was holding something back from them and that I am in a close enough friendship that they should know this about me.

So just yesterday I was having a conversation with two of my closer work colleagues about my high qualifications and grades (such as a first class honours and masters degree) and past experience of being a college tutor.  They were genuinely shocked as to why I am not currently in a much better paid job and could not understand why I do the job I do.  So I told them that it is probably due to me having high functioning autism.

Within an hour they told two more people (who are their two closest work friends). So there is a very good chance that most people know now but then again perhaps only several know. At the time I was unsure if I did the right thing or not and part of me wishes that I had just kept it to myself. I’ll probably find out more over the next couple of weeks but I’m half hoping that people forget, as I’m certain they will over time, and see me for just me and not care wether I’m autistic or not.

When I told my work colleagues they were very surprised and shocked, and certainly had no idea that I am autistic, which made me realise that my boss had not told them beforehand and that I’m also very good at playing the normal role after a lifetime’s worth of practise and constantly pushing against the many anxieties I have faced in the past and still face on a regular basis even now.

I made a decision several months ago that if I apply for another job I will declare that I am autistic and be open about it, as I am certain I would have a better chance at getting a job (if the employment practises are fair to people with disabilities) than if I kept quiet about it. So in the future more and more people will probably find out anyway.

I have read many blogs that give advice on whether to tell your colleagues about having autism. One person told his colleagues, thought it was a good idea and found them to be supportive, then left soon after this saying it was for reasons unrelated to his disclosure. Two others had good jobs and said they found it beneficial and their boss and work colleagues were supportive. The best advice I have read was from a blogger that said be very careful about what you say to others as what you say can never been unsaid.

I agree with the general advice that it is very dependant on your individual circumstances but I have taken a risk in telling people and I hope it gives me more benefits than drawbacks. I’ll keep updating the blog to let you know either way 🙂

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Update 1: it has been a month since I told my work friends about autism.  Although I told these two people I haven’t directly told my closest friends at work, which I want to, but I am sure the news would have been passed on to them anyway.  It seems that most people are more friendly to me these days so I am sure they know.  A lot of people are just treating me the same, which is what I hoped for.  Being autistic I just want to pass as someone who appears to be normal and fits in with everyone else which I have spent my life trying to achieve.  I have come to the realisation that I am the odd one out, and in order to be successful in this society I have got to adapt and fit in the best I can. Rather than hoping society changes and makes allowances for all my differences (which we are many years if not decades from achieving). I will still do some things differently, as I am autistic, and some thing are too difficult to ever change but I will make positive steps to fit in where I can.


 

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