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.

Workplace

What Truly Are the Best Jobs for Neurodivergent People?

Short Answer: Look at your (or your child’s) gifts and challenges.

One day at work, a co-worker said that autistic people and people with ADHD make the best programmers. I suck at programming so I knew that statement is false. This caused me to look online for the best jobs for autistic people to see how many lists mention computer programming. Many different lists had different answers for the best jobs for autistic people, but those lists failed to account for the varying gifts and challenges autistic people have.

There is a sentence I have encountered in autism resources that everyone should understand: “If you’ve met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person.” This means that no two autistic people have the same gifts and challenges. Actually, no two people with the same diagnosis (regardless of if a diagnosis falls under the neurodivergent label or not) have the same gifts and challenges. However, it seems like many of the articles about the best jobs for autistic people have the same answers for “What are the best jobs for autistic people?” Articles talking about the best jobs for people with ADHD have done better to emphasize that the best jobs depend on the strengths and challenges that someone with ADHD faces.

How come these ideas of jobs that work best for us come in a one-size-fits-all package if we don’t have the same gifts and challenges? Well, I don’t know. The articles can be a good starting point to figuring out what jobs fit your strengths while being accommodating to your challenges. There are also online quizzes that you can take that will take your strengths and display jobs that may work well for you. I remember doing those quizzes once or twice in school. It might take some trial and error to figure out what job is best for you.

For me, the jobs that work best for me are administrative jobs and test engineering. Both of these jobs typically have repetitive tasks and test engineers may have tests that need to be run multiple times during a project’s life span and those tests will have you following clear step by step directions. I have also rewritten test cases for clarity and to add additional test steps to test validation. I was very successful as a test engineer, especially when writing automated software tests. I miss being a test engineer. It played to my strengths and I wasn’t being micromanaged.

The job that is the absolute worst for me is software developer. I don’t have good problem solving skills, and you have to be able to solve problems when programming. I can’t think the way developers need to think and there are no step by step instructions on how to do a task. I also felt like developer jobs forced you to be micromanaged, which was anxiety-inducing. I have lost a job and got kicked off a project due to my inability to code. It was over 5 years ago when someone at work who has been diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities noticed that I may have a learning disability, long before therapists figured out something was up. I have ultimately realized that being a software developer is not for me and I have no desire to be a software developer again.

To summarize, the best jobs for me involve:

  • Clear step-by-step directions
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Writing clear directions once I figure out how to do something

and the worst jobs for me involve:

  • Being micromanaged
  • Problem solving
  • Programming
Workplace

New Work Project and Horrible Day

Today was horrible. I found out that I’m getting kicked off my current project at work because I’m not good enough at Java. I had a mental breakdown after work today because my dad is trying to force me to get a proper ADHD diagnosis even though I got a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. I feel like I will never be good enough in tech. I feel like my ADHD gets in the way of life. I can’t be medicated due to the mildness of my ADHD and my naturally high heart rate. I’m anti-marijuana so I can’t self-medicate to help with my issues (plus, cannabis use is a reportable offense with my job).

I want to quit my job because I’m not meant to be a programmer. I want to find a job that’s female-friendly and black-friendly. I need to figure out who I am and my purpose in life. I can’t do that. I’m at the point where I want to leave my life behind and join the navy. I’m seriously considering joining the military. It’s my last hope.

Mental Health · Workplace

I Was a Victim of Workplace Bullying

October is Bullying Prevention Month. There was also a recent workplace shooting two miles away from where I’m currently working. A coach in kickboxing told me that the guy was bullied at work. Due to these reasons, I must come out and talk about my experience with workplace bullying.

In August 2015, I finished a 20-week intensive developer training and started employment at a company. More than a month later, I was starting to have problems. One main problem was this one guy who joined my project team. He gravitated towards me because I have the same issues with programming that he does. He would show me things that helped him, but sometimes he would treat me as if I was cognitively disabled. At one point, he directly asked me if I have any learning disabilities because it seems like I did. It hit me hard because he has a few learning disabilities (turns out I have ADHD, but didn’t find that out until this past June. That explains why I have trouble thinking in ways programmers have to think). I was also told that I tried too hard to make friends with a group of people I started sitting with at lunch.

I tried to get my mom to get me evaluated for learning disabilities and autism, since many disabilities don’t get picked up as kids. Disabilities don’t always get picked up because people learn to adapt. She wouldn’t do it. I know she doesn’t want to think about having a child with specific issues. She had a younger brother with autism. I ended up having to see my third (and final) therapist after a mental breakdown at home where I said I wanted to shoot up my workplace. I was also having homicidal thoughts. I stress this part because if it wasn’t for the fact that we had metal detectors at both entrances of the building I worked at during that time, I would have been the one on the news. People would strengthen gun control (which is necessary, IMO, but don’t focus on that in your comments) to further stigmatize people with mental illness because of me.

So I saw a therapist on Thursdays once a week, then later once every two weeks. It wasn’t effective. I recently learned why therapy doesn’t work for me, and it’s due to an aspect of ADHD that describes me. That’s irrelevant, though. People started rumors about me and also actively tried to get me fired. I had to report the rumors to my mentor because if the higher-ups heard about it, I’d likely have been either terminated or put on a performance improvement plan (which almost always leads to being fired anyways). Many months in, every meeting with the exception of daily standup meetings mentioned how I need help with things. The team thought it would motivate me to become better, but I shut down. I stopped caring about work. I was only there to make money and leave.

Things got so bad that I started having physical manifestations of my mental health issues. I noticed a few bumps on my right hand. A few days later, they appeared on my left hand. Then they spread to part of my forearms. At this point, I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something. Even at my childhood friend’s sleepover for her husband’s birthday, I woke up with my arms itching like crazy. They have a cat, so I was scared I was finally becoming allergic. Luckily, as I discover a week later, was not the case. These bumps even spread to my face for a day. The Monday after my friend’s husband’s birthday, I got let go from my job as a part of a wave of layoffs. That night, I was at my itchiest. Then on Wednesday, my bumps were clearing up. I chalked it up to one of two things: a reaction to a different body wash due to my sensitive skin, or a physical manifestation of my anxiety disorder.

On Wednesday, October 11th, I celebrated a year with my current company. Even now, I have still have lingering issues with what I went through at my old job. One person described it as post-traumatic issues (but they are not a licensed therapist so I’m ignoring that statement). I am making sure I don’t do anything that will make me a target for bullying. I have sadly found a potential bully on my current project. I hope I won’t have to return to therapy because I might as well quit my job if that happens.

Workplace

First Week on New Project

So I just finished my first week on my new project, so I wanted to say something about it.

Day 1: Monday, October 2nd

There is a higher percentage of women on this team compared to my previous project. There is a higher percentage of people of color (people who are not white) on this team compared to my previous project. As a feminist and someone who wants the successes of black people to be brought out to the forefront, this makes me very happy. This day was just about being introduced to people, reading documentation about the software, and getting my laptop set up. You know, typical first day of work stuff. I found a thumbtack, so I’m going to tack the picture of my boyfriend from his Captain’s Career Course (and wearing eclipse glasses) onto my cubicle. It won’t stay up there long because he just did a phone interview to be put on the project I’m on and I don’t want to jeopardize my position on the project due to possible negative reactions to our relationship. At least I don’t need to find a picture frame. I also feel like I’m not going to feel a close connection with the developers there.

Day 2: Tuesday, October 3rd

I’m mad at my boyfriend so I didn’t take his picture to work today. Today was filled with more reading and setting up my laptop. I also had my picture taken for my access badge, which I hope to get soon. I feel like the cliques have already been established by the time I got here, so I’m just going to keep to myself. I also found out the company in charge of this project stays open on Columbus Day. Since my company counts that as a paid holiday, I can either take off that day or make it a floating holiday (which means I will work that day, and take off another day). One day, I’ll drive to the nearby Panera Bread to grab lunch, but I’ll wait until after I get my access badge so I won’t have to turn in my visitors badge every time I have to leave the office. Oh, and I didn’t get lost going to my cubicle. I was worried that the building layout would cause me to get lost.

Day 3: Wednesday, October 4th

Still more reading (though I think I’m done now) and still more set-up. Now I’m at the point where I’m just going to shadow people. For lunch, most of the developers went to a nearby Asian restaurant. Since I knew we didn’t have all the time in the world, I only ordered miso soup and a California roll. Service was really slow, even though there weren’t many people in the restaurant. I don’t think we’re going back since we were there for nearly an hour and a half. I’ll go to Panera Bread next week. I still feel like the social cliques within the developer team have already been established, so I’m going to stick with someone I know from my previous project when he starts next week. I already know I won’t like this project and I’m stuck here for three years. Hopefully Franklin gets approved to join this project because he’s my saving grace for this project.

Day 4: Thursday, October 5th

Kind of a boring day today. At least being at the nearby eye doctor during lunch made things less boring (the eye appointment went well today). I got to do a few things other than the usual first-week stuff. I got to test functionality and got to use something called Postman to test the back-end for a few things. Found out last night that my boyfriend didn’t get accepted onto my project because they felt like he didn’t have enough systems engineering experience. His boss is trying to renegotiate, though. I also saw someone from my old project. The guy goes back and forth between offices doing systems administration stuff, and today was his first full day at this office. So now there are two people from my old project on this project and a few more will be joining (the developer lead from my old project will start next week on this project, a tester will start next month, a developer will start in January, and another developer will be here… I don’t know when). Oh, and I realized today that my first work anniversary with my current company is in 6 days.

Day 5: Friday, October 6th

Today is pay day! I still haven’t gotten my badge yet, and I’m mildly angry about that. I also had to stay later than anticipated again. I hope this won’t be the norm where people want me to do stuff when it’s close to time for me to leave. It’s Friday. Most people were gone by 3, but I stayed to do all my hours. Not much to say. Looked at code. Learned that we can wear jeans on Fridays (not all contracts allow this). At least my boyfriend is spending the night tomorrow night.

Workplace

Exciting New Work Adventure

Today was my last day on my current project. I’m still staying with my company, though. I turned in my Common Access Card (CAC), said my goodbyes to people and was escorted out of my building. On Monday, I will be on a new project for work. This project is not on the military post I worked at for nearly a year, but the project will only be 6 minutes away from my house. No, I’m not taking a bike to work. I don’t have a bike since I never learned how to ride without training wheels.

Saying goodbye to people wasn’t hard. I will see a few people on my upcoming project, but they will start after I do. However, saying goodbye to Brad — who became my mentor because the project I just left was my first job that required a security clearance — caused me to nearly cry. Now I only get to see Franklin up to four times a week (maybe back up to 7 if he gets on this contract too), so I will need to adjust to that. I will see him for kickboxing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays and we will spend time with each other on Saturdays and Sundays. If he has drill that weekend, I will see him less. Sad sad, cry cry.

Now the reason why I am blogging about this is because I’m kind of nervous about my new team. At my previous job (my first job out of university), there were people at that job who were sexist, I think there was some racism going on, and people were not very willing to help me. On the project I just left, the experience was much better. It was still majority white men, but the men weren’t sexist and the developer lead and his second-in-command went above and beyond to help me. I’m worried that the next team won’t be as helpful or that the team will be closer to being what the people at my previous job used to be like.

I am still affected by the things that happened at my previous job. I feel like I will always be affected by it to some extent. I will not go into detail in this blog, but I will talk about it in a future blog post. I almost forgot to mention that I will miss my boss from my company. This boss was great. I worked in a different building than my company office and one day, my boss came over to see how I was doing. Tom’s great. I’ll miss him. I will have a new boss. Please wish me luck as I go off to my next adventure and hopefully improve as a developer.