Adult Autism Diagnosis: Pros and cons of Disclosing you’re Autistic to Employer

As high functioning autism/Asperger’s is a hidden disability, it may not be diagnosed until adulthood.  Plus getting a diagnosis can take anything up to a couple of years.  Because of this, there will be a strong chance that when you find out your autistic/Aspie, you’ll already be working.

If you’re currently employed, when you’ve been diagnosed with autism/Aspergers, you’ll have the dilemma of who to tell.  You may decide to keep it totally private.  Or tell close family, friends and co-workers.  Then you have to make a hard choice of whether to let your work know.  This can either be the HR department or your current manager.

Benefits of Telling Work You’re Autistic/Aspie

There are some workplaces that see the vast advantages of employing and retaining autistics/Aspies. They’ll be proactive at making adjustments.  In a workplace like this there could be a great deal of benefits to letting them know about your diagnosis.  Such as:

  • Giving you good notice about any changes:
    • Such as hours, change of sites or work tasks
  • Tailoring your job to your strengths. Understanding you excel at some tasks, but find others challenging.
  • Making reasonable minor adjustments to your working environment. To reduce sensory overload.
  • Increasing flexibility over work hours. For example allowing you to reduce your working hours from full time to part time.
  • You will have extra protections through law. In the UK, it’s under the Equality Act 2010.

Drawbacks of Telling Work Your Autistic/Aspie

Depending on the type of place you work, there could be drawbacks in telling your work about being autistic/Aspie.  Including:

  • Direct or indirect bullying
  • Direct or indirect discrimination
    • Not being promoted
    • Being excluded by co-workers
    • Given all the bad jobs or hours
    • Denied training
    • Unfair pay
  • Co-workers and manager’s feelings towards you changing. Through not fully understanding what autism/Aspergers is.
  • You may want to keep it private.
  • You may feel that there is no reason to, as it will not affect your job.

My Story

I was officially diagnosed with high functioning autism/Aspergers in my mid-thirties.  After my diagnosis, I decided not to tell work right away, as it took me a while to get used to it.  Then it was always in the back of my mind.  I thought about going into my manager’s office, but there never seemed to be a right time.

Then my manager had an annual review with me, and I decided to tell him then.  It just felt like the right thing to do.  He was very understanding, as he has worked with people with disabilities his whole career.  I then decided to email HR myself to make it official.

Since telling my work it’s not really been mentioned since.  I get an email once a year from HR asking if I want a meeting, and if everything is going well.  I tend to reply that I’m fine and don’t need a meeting.  I do feel that my manager is more sympathetic to me since telling him about my diagnosis.  Plus it’s made a positive difference at work.

Making the Choice

Deciding whether you should inform work about being autistic/Aspie is completely down to you.  In these situations I feel it is always worth weighting up your individual pros and cons. But of course there can be unseen consequences to each choice we make.

It is usually right if you work in a company where:

  • You get on with your manager.
  • The manager keeps private matters to themselves.
  • The company understands disabilities.
  • They encourage applications from people with disabilities (not because they legally have to, but they genuinely want to – you can usually tell the difference).
  • They can understand the benefits to autism/Aspergers, as well as the negatives.

But it might not be the right idea if your manager and co-workers are the type that make fun of people with disabilities.  Or the type where you feel they may not understand, care or be sympathetic.  Instead it might be best to keep it to yourself, or tell them at a later date when you feel confident that it’s worth doing so.

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