Autism and Work: To Disclose or Not

With all of the issues that come with a diagnosis of Autism, there is the seemingly unanswerable question surrounding the issue of whether or not you should disclose your Autistic status.

Arguments have been made in favor of both sides, and I’m working on figuring it out. I’ll be posting one example of each, and then a conclusion if I have one.

I brought this question up first to the therapist who tested and diagnosed me. His answer was short, and straight to the point.

“No, do NOT tell a prospective employer about your Autism. It’s none of their business.”

I wasn’t really comfortable with what this therapist told me, so I went to talk to a small business owner. She and her husband run a high-end art gallery.

Her answer was more thoughtful and had more detail and nuance.

“If I went through the trouble of hiring someone, and they told me after-the-fact that they were Autistic and needed some special considerations, I’d not be happy. I would be angry, and I would feel betrayed by that person. To me, it’s best to always be up-front about anything about you that might be of concern.”

It’s kind of like the boss telling everyone, “You can wear a Hawaiian shirt on Casual Friday… if you want.”

This statement leaves things in a state of ambiguity.

If you DO wear a Hawaiian shirt on Friday and nobody else does, then you’re the gullible rube. But if you DO NOT wear a Hawaiian shirt on Friday, then you’re not a team player.

No matter what you do, no matter what you choose, it will be used against you.

I could NOT tell them about it, which would make conversations VERY difficult when it comes time to addressing a performance issue that will inevitably come up.

I could also decide to TELL them directly in an interview. If they need a disability hire to meet a quota, then it will work. However, more than likely, telling them this up-front will result in them telling you, “Thank you for your candid answers. We’ll be in touch.”

That’s code for, “You didn’t get the job.”

I would opt to tell them instead of hiding it, for a few reasons.

  1. I trust that small business owner more than the therapist who tested and diagnosed me. That’s a sad statement, and one of many reasons why I stopped seeing him as my therapist.
  2. Attempting to hide my Autism amounts to masking, which is VERY unhealthy because it is emotionally draining and unsustainable.
  3. They’ll find out anyway, so no need to dance around it.
  4. If they don’t want to hire me because I am Autistic, then I’d not want to work there.

The last one is troublesome because the majority of employers would not want me there.

The hard truth is that employers don’t care about YOU or ME, or anybody. All they care about is the bottom line. With this in mind, it makes sense that they would not care to hire me in the first place, when they can get a “normal” person on staff.

If I tell them, then they’ll thank me for being candid and we’ll be done.

If I DO NOT tell them, they’ll find out and trouble will come up.

There is no winning situation in this for me. This is why Autistic adults like me enjoy a 90% unemployment rate. We have talents and abilities. We just struggle to make eye contact, we’re not good working on the phones, we may not speak up in a meeting, we may say something that is too harsh because we spoke too quickly, or any other issues that are caused by Autism.

We might even have an Autistic meltdown, which is similar to a panic attack, even though it might look and sound like a childish temper tantrum.

Compassion is necessary to get Autistic people into the workplace. The problem is that there is no entry cell on the spreadsheet for waste-of-time garbage like compassion or Humanity.

The only way I can think to end this is to recount a brief conversation that I had with my mechanic in California. I’d taken my car to the dealership to get a faulty airbag replaced. The dealership later called me to say that they installed the “wrong part.” The later tried to say that it was someone else’s airbag.

This lead me to not trust that they had actually done the work. This car was on the road for 15 years with a faulty passenger airbag.

With that, I asked my mechanic if he could check to see if they actually did the work. He said that there was no real way for him to tell, and that he really didn’t want to get involved in it.

He suggested that I sell the car, but I told him that I couldn’t have a clean conscious if I sold a car with a defective airbag to someone else.

He looked at me and said, “You have a good heart. The world needs more people like you.”

To that, all I could reply was, “The world doesn’t want more people like me. We’re not profitable, and kindness is a weakness to them.”

This video is mistitled, because the issue IS NOT the “rejection.” Rather, the issue is that workplaces constantly assault and overload the senses of the worker, as well as the applicant, to the point that it is unbearable.

If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading!

Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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