The decision to share any diagnosis with your workplace is not always easy. It can be difficult to balance keeping your medical information private with the desire to receive support and accommodations at work. If you decide that you do want to share your diagnosis with your workplace, below are some tips to help you start the conversation.
Disclosing to your workplace:
How do I tell them?
When deciding to share or not share your diagnosis, consider the employment situation carefully. If you are in a stable job, it is possible that the employer will be more willing and accepting of your autistic traits once they understand your diagnosis. Before you share, ask yourself if your employer fair when things came up in the past that required accommodation? How did they treat a different person at your company when they needed an accommodation?
You can choose to share only as much of your diagnosis as you need to get accommodations. For example, if the fluorescent lights at work are bothering you, you can ask your doctor for a note saying that you need to have access to different lighting or to wear sunglasses indoors to avoid headaches. The word “autism” doesn’t need to be included if you don’t want it to be mentioned. You can also try asking your boss for this accommodation before bringing a doctor note if you think they would be open to it.
If your needs are a bit more specific to autism, however, then it may be useful to have your doctor include that in a request for accommodations. For example, if you have trouble processing when someone tells you instructions, your doctor can say that you have auditory processing difficulties due to being autistic. The doctor can request an accommodation for all instructions be sent via email so you have a written record of what you were asked to do for each task.
Remember that disclosing that you are autistic to anyone at work does not give them permission to share that information with anyone else. This is medical information, and it is illegal to share that without your explicit consent. You can say that you are sharing this medical information only with them and that you do not want it shared with others. If your employer thinks another person at work needs to know to better accommodate your needs, make it clear that they need to discuss it with you beforehand.
What if they don’t believe me?
It can be difficult to have the people you work with deny your autism diagnosis. Click here to access our toolkit “Receiving an autism diagnosis later in life: A self-advocate perspective” and read the section “How to respond when people deny your diagnosis”.