Awareness · School · Workplace

Should You Disclose Your Neurodivergence?

So I usually don’t write neurodivergence-related blog posts that are commonly written, but I have only seen this commonly discussed in online support groups and not WordPress blogs, so you get this little treat from me. I usually hear this question in autistic spaces, but this may be something discussed in ADHD groups or learning disability support groups as well.

Typically, people say the answer is no. There you go. End blog! Wait, come back! I’m kidding! We discuss things here.

Oh thank goodness you’re back! Let’s first talk about why it is suggested not to disclose your neurodivergence.

  • Negative biases. This one is a major one that encompasses many other downsides to disclosing you’re neurodivergent. When it comes to neurodivergence, people only see the struggles. If you check off autism when you are asked in job applications about disabilities, you might not get an interview despite you being under a protected category. Note: I have not seen ADHD as a disability listed under job applications. Your abilities may come into question before you are given a chance. I’m a lead of a small team at work and I worry that disclosing my autism would cause my leadership abilities to come into question when I already don’t have leadership experience.
  • People won’t think you’re actually neurodivergent. People have pre-conceived notions on what someone who’s autistic looks like or how someone with ADHD acts like. However, what if you don’t “seem” neurodivergent because you present differently than what people thought years ago? Studies about neurodivergence focused on boys, so it wasn’t expected for girls to be neurodivergent either, and no one learned about non-binary genders until about 10 years ago. Maybe you did better in school than the stereotypical neurodivergent person. Or maybe you’re intellectually gifted as well (discussion about gifted and neurodivergent people can be found in this post).

Is there an advantage to disclosing you’re neurodivergent? Yes! Here are some advantages.

  • Challenging stereotypes. I’m going to use autism as an example as I am autistic. People who think of autism think of autism before it was considered a spectrum. They think of people who rely on 24/7 care from their parents or siblings. They don’t think of people like actor Dan Aykroyd or university professor Dr. Temple Grandin. If I disclose my autism, it will help people redefine what it means to “look autistic”. I can help show people that it’s possible to get a degree or to work a full-time job, though as I talk about in this post, I don’t want parents to set unrealistic expectations for neurodivergent children.
  • Getting the help you need to be successful. At some point in our lives, everyone regardless of whether they are neurodivergent or neurotypical need help to get something finished. However, neurodivergent people may need extra help. Before you can ask for any accommodations, you need to understand your strengths and challenges. This is because each neurodivergent person is different and not everyone needs the same accommodations. Look at accommodations that will help with your challenges and see if they would be considered reasonable accommodations in school or work. AANE posted an article last month that can help supervisors become more inclusive of neurodivergent people (Note: AANE is an autism support organization, so while this article has suggestions that can cover ADHD as well, there is a bit more focus on autism). Anyone who is a supervisor should read this to jump start their learning and support efforts.
  • You might be the source of support for other neurodivergent people. A note of caution: If you want to be a source of support for other neurodivergent people (or do any form of neurodivergent advocacy), figure out your social, emotional, mental, and physical limits first. Neurodivergent people are the best sources of support for other neurodivergent people because neurotypical people often get things wrong. Thus, some neurodivergent people have blogs, YouTube channels, and TikToks dedicated to educating about neurodivergence. Neurodivergent people might also seek advice from you. However, make it clear to everyone that they should look up sources for themselves, too. This is especially evident when people of privilege ask marginalized groups for resources instead of taking the time to do the research themselves. Yes, it’s good that they’re looking for sources created by marginalized people. No, it is not our sole responsibility in life to provide sources to people.

Do I disclose my autism? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I only disclose my autism when the need occurs. For example, I disclosed my autism when I hosted the first Disability Day of Mourning vigil at my church back in March 2022. I disclose my autism when there are discussions about autism. Very few people at my job know that I’m neurodivergent (I didn’t use the autism label), but I am considering disclosing my autism to my boss soon.

Awareness

What to Do If Someone Says “Asperger’s”

Warning: As you can see in the title, I will be using the term “Asperger’s” in this post. I will also mention autism elitism, Naziism, and murder. Please stop reading if these are triggers for you. Thank you.

In 2013, the DSM V came out and removed the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and brought Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) into the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, people still use the term “Asperger’s” when they talk about themselves. First, let’s take a look at reasons why someone may say they have “Asperger’s” instead of autism.

  1. The person was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome back when it was a separate diagnosis.
  2. The person lives in a country that still has Asperger Syndrome as a separate diagnosis.

The only difference between Asperger Syndrome and Autistic Disorder is that people with an Asperger’s diagnosis did not have significant speech delay. Thus, if I had been diagnosed sooner, my official diagnosis would have been Asperger Syndrome.

So besides the fact that there is only one major difference between Asperger Syndrome and Autistic Disorder, what is the harm in saying “Asperger’s”?

Asperger Syndrome was named after Hans Asperger, born as Johann Friedrich Karl Asperger. While he wasn’t a Nazi himself, he was aided and supported by Nazis for studies about autistic children. The children in his study were often sterilized and/or sent away to be euthanized.

There are also concerns about elitism in autistic communities. Asperger’s may be seen as the “better” autism. The “smarter” autism. They are called “high-functioning” autistic people, with that label ignoring their challenges.

Okay, now that I gave brief reasons why the term “Asperger’s” is considered a harmful term, what should you do if someone says “Asperger’s”? Well, that depends on your comfort level. Some people don’t like confrontation, so those people might not do anything. However, if you want to say something, follow these tips:

  • Calmly explain why the term “Asperger’s” should not be used. Key word: calmly.
  • This applies moreso to making this comment online, but might work if you hear someone say the term: If someone already told someone to not say “Asperger’s”, don’t say it too. People already don’t like being corrected, but the person may feel attacked if multiple people tell them the same thing about being wrong.
  • If you get pushback, tell people that autistic people know themselves best and how non-autistic people don’t always have our best interests in mind. Just like the first tip, mention this calmly.

Sorry for the long wait between blog posts, but I hosted my church’s first ever Disability Day of Mourning vigil and I needed to plan and prepare. I can’t promise to post more often as work has gotten busier.