Know how most people discover I’m autistic?
“So I read your LinkedIn . . .”
“I came across your site the other day . . .”
“You have a certain set of mannerisms that, while well cloaked, seem to match criteria relating to . . .”
“A colleague shared your blog with me . . .”
Most people discover I’m autistic, because they have to discover. I don’t directly tell them.
Disclosure is DIFFICULT. Even in the most inviting of circumstances, it’s a daunting revelation, and for as freely as I publicize it here, I’m reluctant, timid—scared—to bring it up.
While I imagine it has its degrees of difficulty for others, here why I’d imagine we’re not rushing to tell you we’re autistic:
There’s a stigma. It’s that uncanny valley effect that affects those with hidden disabilities and different abilities, especially those mentally. The revelation just doesn’t elicit the same kind of empathy and understanding; it’s challenging. People’s preconceived, embedded notions of autism haven’t been elevated enough to where I’m always comfortable disclosing in person.
The reactions are unpredictable. I have a hard enough time with people and unpredictable reactions anyway, so I’m guarded on that front even regularly. Have they been positive for me thus far? Thankfully, yes. That is, of those who choose to tell me. Are others betrayed? Concerned? Doubting? Of the array of reactions we could expect, it’s burdensome to predict and account for all of them.
It raises questions. Right away, people take your disclosure or discovery and compare you to their understanding of autism. I’m not exactly like everyone else with autism, and they are not all like me. Sometimes people don’t know what to do with that info. It’s not that they ask more questions – it’s that they don’t. What do they think of me now? How did this affect how they treat me going forward? What have I done? It raises questions — from me!
The environment isn’t always right. Do you know when people prefer to tell you things? It’s not always when the moment is right, but when the environment is right. It’s not just about a safe space: it’s a space secure, inviting.
This is where you can help. You can make more of these right environments.
Are you the type of person who invites open discussions? Appreciates the unique attributes people bring? Asks good, curious questions? Reinforces positives aspects of a person’s growth? Cares in challenges and challenges in care?
I’m not the only one with this ‘open secret.’
My hope is that others like me will find further fertile environments to be open, bringing their whole autistic selves out more openly, and making this less of a secret.