When My Employer Realized I Have Autism


To disclose or not to disclose my autism to an employer has been one of the more challenging questions I’ve faced during my young adult years. For many on the spectrum, it can be a daunting task due to society’s general lack of acceptance of disabilities and differences.

The question of disclosure first came up for me during one of my first part-time positions working in New York City. I had accepted a research position with the responsibility of looking up different analytics for professional athletes and teams. Technology and numbers had become an asset for me. My job responsibilities, mainly plugging names and numbers into an excel spreadsheet, were clear and I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

I didn’t need any accommodations, and my first few weeks were going by very well. I had already made several friends and was feeling like a part of the team. Than one day my employer was listening to me talking about my volunteer work in the autism community. He than asked me a question that froze me completely…

“Why did you get involved in the autism cause?”

I blurted out, “I have autism myself, so I got involved to help people like me.”

My employer responded with a smile and said, “That’s awesome that you are volunteering towards the cause.”

His response left me ecstatic. I felt confident about disclosing to him after his positive reaction. Two years earlier, I came out to my peers in college for the first time about being on the autism spectrum, so I could become a disability advocate. Since then, whenever someone would find out that I have autism, their usual response would be, “I would never have known!” But I’ll never forget that day when my employer decided to appreciate my volunteer work.

My advice for those on the spectrum who are joining the workforce is to self-reflect on your strengths and weaknesses every single time you go into a new employment situation. As a motivational speaker, I share this message when I talk to employers about hiring and retaining employees with disabilities. It has given me the opportunity to talk to organizations such as American Express, JP Morgan Chase and Wyndham Destination Network.

When accepting a job, carefully read the job guidelines and see what accommodations if any you may need to succeed in that position. After that, figure out whether disclosing is the right thing for you. Whether you talk to your employer about receiving accommodations is an individual decision. If you believe you need them though, go in with confidence, because those accommodations will maximize your potential at your
workplace.

I hope you find something you love to do every day. People with autism tend to thrive when we are working with our key interests — but that is true of anyone. I’m doing something I enjoy, something I hope to keep doing my entire life, and I hope you can do the same.

A version of this post appeared on Kerrymagro.com.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a conversation you’ve had that changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Text: Why do people call autism a label?

The Internet Is Loving This 8-Year-Old’s Illustration Explaining Autism

Cadence is on the autism spectrum, but autism is just one of the ingredients that makes her who she is, the 8-year-old from Queensland, Australia, explained in a drawing posted by her mother on Facebook. In it, Cadence asks, “Why do people call Autism a label?… I don’t think that’s right. My label is Cadence. One of my [...]

10 Things ER Staffers Should Know About Autism

I’m autistic and also have a mental illness. I’ve had to go emergency rooms in hospitals a number of times. The experience has always been traumatic and unhelpful. I’ve experienced a lot of paternalism, been treated as if I’m a naughty child and invalidated in many other ways. In some cases, these experiences have resulted in me [...]
mom and little girl with autism at the pool

To the People Who Think I 'Sugarcoat' Our Experiences With Autism

Listen up, and please listen carefully. I have something important to say. Or, don’t listen. Don’t read any further, if you don’t want to. Maybe you don’t care what I have to say, and that’s OK, too. I’m speaking to all of you, though. I’m speaking to all parents to children with autism who have chosen [...]
boy with autism climbing a tree

The Story of 'Not Quite' When You're Parenting a Child on the Autism Spectrum

I’ve been parenting a child with autism for almost 11 years now. For every one of those 11 years, I could have told you there was something different about this child, but it took almost six to find someone to put a finger on just what it was. The thing about parenting a child with autism is it [...]