Usually I would discuss these types of issues with my mentor or therapist, but unfortunate timing means I face the difficult task of my first ever informal disclosure without either of their assistance, so I was hoping some people here would give me some advice and feedback.
I am a final year university student and for the next semester I have to work full time in the lab. I begin on Monday. I have never disclosed my diagnosis before. Last summer I worked in a different lab and it was hell. I was treated like a child and it drove me to the point of being suicidal. I don't want this semester to go the same way, as I have lost my support network and if I end up in the same place as in the summer, I will not survive. I feel like disclosing is the only hope I have of making the work environment more tolerable and at least giving me something to report if I am mistreated by those who supervise me.
I have been trying to plan out what to say. I plan to disclose to whoever is first training me, just before they begin to teach me. Here's what I've come up with:
My main concerns are 1) chickening out or forgetting, hence having to act neurotypical for the duration of my placement, or 2) starting talking about it and tearing up, because I'm in a bad place mentally and talking about things like this can make me irrationally emotional.
Can any one give me any advice or share any of their own experiences?
Not sure about uni, but I always disclose at things like job interviews. So far, it's not held me back.
The university should have a student welfare officer you could talk to. Many universities now also have mentors/advocates for autistic people. It's an equality issue, and you should not be discriminated against. If you had a physical disability, you would be accommodated.
Try the welfare officer first. Personally, I would always encourage disclosure.
All the best,
PS You might also find it helpful to check out the resources on the site if you haven't already:
Support in education
I agree with Tom - get the uni support person to sort it all out for you - they have much more experience with dealing with this sort of thing.
Thanks for the link and support! I do have a mentor in the disability service, but we as students have to take on disclosure ourselves to prepare us for the work of work, which makes sense I suppose. Usually they would offer advice, but the offices don't open until Monday, at which point it's too late for me I'm afraid. Partly my fault, I should have got help before the Christmas break but I was too busy studying for exams.
Write it out, just as you have here because this is excellent, clear and to the point, then get to the place a little earlier, before start time or go today or tomorrow, and give it to who you think is most appropriate. You don't have to speak. I have one of those rubber wrist band things which is green on one side and says happy to speak and red on the other which says please leave me alone. My autism plus worker gave it to me, and I wear it all the time now, because sometimes I just need to not speak and for people not to bother me or speak to me. So far nobody has ever taken offence to it.
I would probably write or print several of them out just incase I was to come across somebody who wasn't aware of my needs and my style of learning, so I could easily and quickly give them a copy without even having to speak.
Yes - get it all written down so you don't forget to mention something important.
I did not know how to tell people after I was diagnosed.
It certainly caused a great deal of apprehension. Many people thought I was odd anyway, with strange ideas and ways of doing things, unusual habits and a bit abrupt and to the point. So they already made judgements about me, whether I disclosed my autism or not.
When it comes to adjustments under the Equality Act, the diagnosis obviously has to be disclosed to managers, and that is as far as it needs to go if you want to get adjustments. But others will still think you are strange and may wonder why you may get certain 'privileges' in the workplace.
The first step I took was telling someone who I was a bit closer to than others. Once that was out the way, I thought the best way of getting it out in the open was to tell the 'office gossip', and the news spread like wildfire! I did not have to do anything else.
As time went on, I grew more comfortable about telling people. I don't approach people and say I'm autistic, but I might throw it into a conversation, or when I make a particularly inappropriate remark for example (and I make many!) I will say I was having an autistic moment and that I am autistic. But I am not ashamed or uncomfortable anymore about saying I am autistic. I have strange eating habits and very strong dislikes in food I can say that I can't stand certain food smells, tastes and textures because I am autistic and it is how I am affected and this is accepted far more than it used to be when I was classed as a 'fussy eater'.
As with a lot of things the initial stage of 'coming out' is the most difficult. But if anyone cannot then accept you it is their problem not yours. I would certainly not want to keep the acquaintance of anyone who judged me negatively because of my autism.
Thanks everyone for their replies.
Today was the big day. But two things caught me off-guard, so I have not yet disclosed. First, proper training won't start until next Monday so I couldn't really identify an appropriate time to bring it up. Also, I will be trained alongside another student from my class and I don't want to disclose in front of him... I really only want the person who will be training me to know. I don't know how to get her alone.
This always happens, the social situation gets too complicated for my poor brain :(
Hi, I understand you not wanting to disclose In front of another student, as you are not starting the training for a week could you speak to student welfare before then and ask the best way to proceed and explain that another student was present during meeting making disclosure impossible? Or could you make an appointment with the trainer prior to next Monday allowing you the privacy to disclose?
I wish you luck and hope you get this sorted out
Hi, is there anyway that you could email the main teacher to disclose, thus getting it over and done with by Monday and avoiding having to explain in person. Also, as someone has mentioned previously, it is sometimes easier to write things down rather than speak. There should be someone who can provide the relevant email address?