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To Tell or Not To Tell: Issues of Disclosure in the Workplace
Whether or not to disclose your diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) — and when and how — are often difficult decisions. The decision to disclose varies from situation to situation and individual to individual. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities; however, each individual person needs to decide whether or not to disclose disability information and if so what information to disclose.
There are many reasons you may want to disclose your diagnosis. One big reason is that disclosure is necessary before requesting and receiving accommodations at work. In addition to helping to secure accommodations, there are several benefits to disclosing your diagnosis. For example, disclosure may help to:
- Provide an open exchange about how your disability may affect your work;
- Make you feel more comfortable during an interview or a conversation because you know you are being honest and not trying to hide anything;
- Give the employer a chance to decide if the disability is going to interfere with work;
- Explain any unusual behaviors to your colleagues or future colleagues;
- Find people who will be supportive of you.
However, disclosing your diagnosis may also have some negative consequences, including:
- It may cause you to be excluded simply based on your diagnosis of ASD;
- It may prevent you from ever knowing if the diagnosis, or something else, got in the way of being hired, getting a promotion, or getting a new assignment;
- It may get in the way of the process of finding work.
Issues of disclosure are closely tied to the concept of self-advocacy. If you decide you want to disclose your diagnosis, you should be able to understand ASD and be able to talk about it, label it, and discuss how it may interfere with work. If you are seeking accommodations at work, you will need to discuss which accommodations you need and how they will help you to be successful in your job. If you have difficulty disclosing your diagnosis, a job coach or professional counselor can help you practice talking about ASD and what ASD looks like for you in your day to day life. Sometimes, they can accompany you when you tell your employer.
Often times, an employer will not know much about ASD or may only know what they have seen in the media. You may want to come prepared with educational materials to help your employer and staff to understand and know how to offer support.