The decision to share any diagnosis is not always easy. It can be difficult to balance keeping your information private with the desire to be your authentic self. If you decide that you do want to share your diagnosis with your loved ones, below are some tips to help you start the conversation.
Disclosing to family and friends:
How do I tell them?
Once you know whom you want to share that information with, bring it up in conversation. Or send an email to give people time to process if you feel nervous about speaking about it. Remember that you do not have to do this by yourself. If you are concerned about the possibility of your diagnosis being invalidated, having someone there to back you up can help you feel more confident.
It can be helpful to highlight some struggles they know you have had in the past and say that you now understand why that has been an issue for you. For example, “Dad, you know how I get overwhelmed in crowded places and struggle making friends? Well, I decided to go to a doctor so they can help me understand why. The doctor diagnosed me with autism. I learned more about it and I realized that my doctor is right.”
How do I communicate my needs?
Think about what sort of support you want from the people in your life. Do they need to be more understanding that you are not comfortable in certain social situations? Do you want them to be more sensitive to your need for downtime? Do you need them to stop pressuring you to do certain activities that overwhelm your senses?
It can be helpful to link your needs to a previous conversation and then set a time limit. For example, “Mom, I know you want us all to go to the beach next weekend. I have told you before that I don’t enjoy the sun, sand, or screaming seagulls and am tired after spending all day there. It is hard for me to manage my sensory processing differences at the beach. It took me days to recover from our last family day there. I am willing to go with you all for 1 hour, but after that I am leaving.”
What if they don’t believe me?
It can be difficult to have the people you love 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”.