Should I disclose my ASD condition on my new job?

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franklin.jr
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15 May 2018, 11:06 pm

Everytime I enter a new job, should I disclose my ASD condition to my new employers? In my last job, I did it just before I began working, thinking they would have any sort of interest in autism, but instead, after some days I was targeted with shouts, screams, false accusations, scandals, lies, and finally dismissed.

This is why I don't know whether it worths speaking my mind just after entering the new job. Could you please share your experience with me on this matter?



EzraS
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15 May 2018, 11:14 pm

It's none of their business.



kraftiekortie
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15 May 2018, 11:50 pm

You learned your lesson: Don’t tell them!



Raleigh
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15 May 2018, 11:55 pm

It's better not to tell them in my experience.
The time that I did, so may prejudiced, stupid assumptions were made about me I still haven't recovered from it.


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16 May 2018, 12:50 am

Should you disclose that you're autistic? That's a difficult question because there are too many unknown factors in your post.

1) Will your autism prevent you from doing your job? Will you require some sort of accommodation for continued employment?

2) Are you in the United States? If you're in the USA, are you familiar with your rights under the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act? The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to people with special needs. Being yelled at as you were and bullied is illegal under the ADA and if you had any documentation of systemic workplace harassment, you could actually sue your former employer by citing violations of the ADA for having fostered and/or tolerated a hostile work environment.

3) Why do you think anyone (other than your boss) would need to know about your autism unless you need a work related accommodation? In thinking about the average person, I think that unless this person has a relative who is autistic or unless this person works in a field where autistic needs have to be considered such as the health care industry or education, most people don't care about autism. I think that the average person is woefully uninformed as to what autism really is.

I'm autistic. I didn't learn I was autistic until 4 years ago. Prior to that time, I tended to flit from one job to another. I moved whenever work related stress reached a breaking point for me. I moved with the hope that eventually I'd find someplace where I felt as though I fit in and where I wasn't so stressed out.

My only regret regarding my clinical diagnosis is that I wish I had known earlier as I might have made other career decisions than the ones I made when I was ignorant of my condition.

I learned I was autistic while teaching in Las Vegas. I didn't particularly enjoy living in Las Vegas because I've always had a thing about crowds, noise, and congested rush hour traffic. I much prefer living in quiet rural areas. My school was also overcrowded. Although the school had only been designed to accommodate some 2200 students, we were about a thousand students over capacity. The end result was that our classes were HUGE. I teach Culinary Arts and my kitchen only had 7 work stations. The work stations were each designed to accommodate 4 students and in theory I should have had no more than 28 students per class.

The school assigned me 54 students per class. It was challenging to teach in an overcrowded kitchen but my situation was no different from those of other teachers. Some teachers even had as many as 65 students!

It was really stressful having to work in this sort of environment. When I learned I was autistic, I put in for a transfer and moved to a rural area. Since I still work for the same district, I make just as much as I did when I worked in Vegas but my LARGEST CLASS only has 18 kids. My smallest class has 7.

After moving to my new school, I told the principal that I was autistic. I did so because I'm prone to work related stress and I was hoping that she could help me stay put so that I wouldn't follow my old routine of working until I get stressed out prior to transferring or resigning and moving away.

My colleagues know that I'm autistic but I haven't told the students, nor do I intend to do so because it's really none of their business.

My building administration has been really helpful and I'm glad I told them.

For example, last year I was asked to cater breakfast for some visiting guest speakers. I set up breakfast buffet in the faculty lounge but mindful of the fact that teachers and staff love free food, I decided to put a, "PLEASE DON'T TOUCH" sign on the table. Since I thought this phrase might be a bit harsh, I decided to lighten it up a bit by writing the same message in 20 different languages.

When a colleague walked into the lounge and saw the buffet, I showed her the sign. I thought she would be amused. I was wrong. The woman began screaming, "GET THAT SIGN OUT OF MY FACE! HOW DARE YOU INSULT ME! I HAVE NEVER TAKEN ANYTHING THAT I WASN'T SUPPOSED TO. YOU ARE THE MOST RUDE AND MOST VILE MAN I HAVE EVER MET! GET OUT OF MY FACE!"

I was so startled and upset that I literally couldn't talk. I was unable to articulate that this had been a joke. I certainly hadn't meant to accuse my colleague of stealing food.

I stumbled out of the lounge, made my way to the Culinary Arts kitchen, locked myself in, and found a dark corner. I collapsed in a ball on the floor, crying. It's a good thing that I had a first period prep with no students because I needed time to pull myself back together. At the start of 2nd period, I had calmed sufficiently to open the adjacent classroom door. Since the students were taking a written test, I passed out the test. I then went to my computer and wrote an email to the principal which I cced to the colleague who had yelled at me.

I explained what had happened. I apologized for having upset anyone. I offered my immediate resignation.

The principal came to talk to me and brought along the Dean of Students who covered my class as a temporary sub. She took me to her office to find out what had happened. She then called in the other teacher who told me that she had yelled at me because all she saw on the sign were the words, "PLEASE DON'T TOUCH." Since she didn't speak any other language than English, she disregarded all of the other languages on the page. After having read my email, she understood that I had not intended any insult. Although she regarded my humor as being rather peculiar, she apologized for having screamed at me and she asked me not to leave the school. She told me that she knew many students who loved being in my class and she also said that she always enjoyed the aroma that permeated the entire school whenever we were in the kitchen.

The principal begged me not to resign and asked me if I needed to take the rest of the day to recover. I told her no and returned to my class. Although I spent the rest of the year in fear that the other teacher would yell at me, my colleague made a point of never again raising her voice to me. It's also helped that on days when we cater a faculty luncheon, she always compliments our food.

In thinking about what happened, I think my principal acted as a mediator to resolve this misunderstanding as part of the ADA's reasonable accommodation requirement.

By way of another example, one reason I like teaching is because I get summers off. Since I'm a reclusive introvert, when I'm on vacation, I go into what I sometimes think of as submarine mode. I secure the doors. I turn off the phone. I "run silent and deep" keeping to myself and not really talking to anyone over the course of the entire summer.

The only problem with being a reclusive introvert is that when the time comes to go back out into "the world," it's really stressful. There's a part of me that simply doesn't want to do this. I am often tempted to take my clinical diagnosis and to get a letter from a psychologist citing my inability to work due to interpersonal stress. I could then stay home for forever and a day while collecting disability.

I've never actually applied for disability, but I think it about at least once a week because the lure of being a recluse is sometimes really strong.

At the end of the last summer, I wasn't emotionally prepared to return to work. I didn't want to interact with anyone and yet there I was in the school cafeteria with faculty and staff from two schools milling about, shouting greetings at each other and making a lot of noise.

Knowing that I'd be stressed out, I had brought my laptop and some headphones. I sat on the far edge of the cafeteria, turned on some music, and cranked the sound up. I focused on sketching out instructional units for the year and began fitting them into our school calendar ... but the constant movement and all of the noise was really upsetting and I unexpectedly found myself on the verge of tears.

I was lucky that my building administration was looking out for me. I was also fortunate that they understand the legal term, "reasonable accommodation." The Dean of Students approached me and asked me if I was okay. One look at me told her that I wasn't and so I was excused to return to the solitude of my kitchen where I got back into the swing of things by taking things out of storage and getting the kitchen ready for a new school year.

Classes started just a few days later ... but the brief respite I was given really helped in getting me emotionally ready to face a new school year.

As things turned out, this was a really good year ... perhaps my best ever. I even scored a near perfect teacher evaluation. Had it not been for the support of my building administration, I'm not sure if I would have lasted that first day.

I hope the story of my experiences will help you.

In getting back to your situation, I only think you should divulge your condition if this will somehow benefit you. Based upon the experience you described with your last employer, I would question whether you actually need to tell anyone about your autism unless they have an actual need to know.

People can be terribly unkind and those who are different can easily become targets for bullies.

Think about it. We live in a male dominated society and the way we raise boys is different from the way we raise girls. Girls are encouraged to be nurturing and sensitive. While girls in our society are encouraged to talk about their feelings, boys who show emotion are told to "man up" and to stop acting like whimpering sissies.

Given these irrational and dysfunctional gender norms, is it any wonder why some people (usually guys) become bullies?

I'm sorry you had this experience but telling people like this that you're autistic is akin to putting a target on your back. Why invite trouble if you don't need to?



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16 May 2018, 3:19 am

I would think holding off until you know the people and company culture a little would be good, just so you can try and sense how it may go down if yo do disclose



Belushi87
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16 May 2018, 3:30 am

it depends. in my situation, if i knew i was going to get the job or if there was part of the job i knew i was going to struggle with then i might tell them to give them a heads up. i always felt that if i did mention i had aspergers, then i felt like it would be a disadvantage of getting the job because they may feel like i won't be able to do the job properly.

if you know the job ahead of time and know what you would be doing and its something you can learn without problems then keep it to yourself, but if its a job that is going to take you a little while to understand then mention to the manager and/or the person thats training you so they can take their time and not feel like they have to rush you because they need someone to do it right the first time.



kraftiekortie
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16 May 2018, 9:26 am

The ADA doesn't mean squat in most contexts in the US.

All the employer has to do for there to be a "legal" firing is to prove "performance issues." That is not hard to do. They can very easily leave out "because he/she is autistic" out of the reasoning for the firing.



Lonehiker
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16 May 2018, 9:37 am

I wouldn't disclose. There’s a lot of misconceptions and stigma attached to ASD and you may be discriminated against. In my experience there are many people who don't think people on the spectrum are suited for the workplace.



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16 May 2018, 5:39 pm

I agree with what many have said already; only disclose it if you need accommodations, or if you think your behaviours are in danger of being misinterpreted. It's very common for NTs to assume that a person who is standoffish or unsociable is behaving that way out of rudeness, it very rarely occurs to them to consider that you might have a social deficit.

If you are able to pass without too much effort, and you feel comfortable doing so, I would recommend it; it makes things much simpler. That said, if you're concerned about ever being reprimanded or fired for autistic behaviour that you can't control, definitely disclose to your supervisor; if they ever try to fire you just because of your disability, you have legal grounds on which to fight back.

For me personally, my autism is severe enough that I can't pass. I had to tell my employer, because I have a lot of accommodations that I need in order to function, and my behaviour is clearly different.

Don't be shy about requesting accommodations if you need them though; the law is on your side, and you are entitled to them. I would only tell people who need to know, like your supervisor, not the whole workplace. Your supervisor is bound under HIPAA law to maintain confidentiality in such matters, and is not allowed to discuss your disability (except, I believe, with their own supervisor) with anyone else without your permission.


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16 May 2018, 7:38 pm

How does one even go about disclosing if one wants to? My manager already knows, since it was he who first suggested to me the possibility that I might have ASD. But nobody else does, and I'm pretty sure not HR either.

Not saying I necessarily would want it officially on the record, but it would be nice to have some idea how to go about doing that.


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16 May 2018, 9:59 pm

Just don't. Why give someone a reason to bully you?



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16 May 2018, 10:04 pm

EzraS wrote:
It's none of their business.


What he said.



TechnicallyCalm
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16 May 2018, 11:37 pm

Good to know.

I will not make this mistake.


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franklin.jr
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17 May 2018, 1:00 am

I just read each and every message you people sent me, and I'm so thankful for each feedback I got. And, about disclosing my ASD condition to future employers, my conclusion is: it depends on the situation. First I must spend some time observing the environment.

Normally I don't immediately disclose my ASD condition - so far only a few employers knew about it since I was diagnosed some years ago. However I tried to make a "bet": what would happen if I decide to openly disclose my ASD diagnosis to a completely new employer who never heard about me before. Being fired after some weeks or even days is not new to me, but I thought I could give it a try - that is, disclosing it in advance just after signing my work contract. Besides, there would be only females with varying ages in my team and I took for granted that their maternal instincts would lead to an easier integration with me. After learning about my condition, the consulting company would send me to their client, and after a few days I was thinking about who would be the first ones to be noticed about my health issue.

What an immense regret. I was fired after just some days under a wave of scandals, slanders, shouts and hysteria, like if I was a serial harasser with only my eyes. I completely denied any attempt to harass my female colleagues, but my claims were totally ignored; I told them I was used to look elsewhere because of previous traumas and my own brain functioning but I was already fired at that moment; I recalled them I told about my ASD and that it was included in my health insurance contract attached to my job contract, but to no avail. Of course there's another side, I am an ordinary straight man who enjoys appreciating female beauty, but I had no intention to cause any sort of trouble or even flirt with anyone there, and any discomfort could be freely discussed, I would teach them about my ASD and learn with them about what to do so both sides would have benefits. But I was treated like an ogre, and now I'm definitely disappointed.

I live in Brazil. Few jobs, low salaries - and so much ignorance around ASD.

I will return to my physician and therapist in some days, and I think this will be a sad day where I will talk so much about my recent disappointment. I was so hopeful that I would be accepted and people would find a way to take me as I am because they had no complaints on the quality of my work. Anyhow now I am free of what would be a terrible job - come to think of it, what would happen to me if I spent one year being treated and seen with suspicion like a wacko; it would be useless to tell them about my ASD condition and it would probably be a reason for immediate (but, obviously, not mentioned) firing.

Next time I know what I will do - not telling anyone until people start questioning me about my personality and my increasing silence and isolation. I think this will allow me some time to work at the same place, people will get used to my low profile and quiet presence, and eventually try to dialogue in case anything happens. Sure it's not 100% guaranteed, unfortunately I always have to cross fingers and hope to be accepted, but at least it relieves me for some time, given that I will not be immediately exposed without having written a single line of code. This, in case my strategy works, which is not necessarily the case - but at least I will try to go unnoticed for a while.

Thanks again.