I'm Sick of Hiding My Autism When Applying for Jobs
In my experience, employers don’t want to hear that their potential employees have autism. It becomes a secret you have to carry around with you, a part of yourself you have to pretend you don’t have in an interview. It’s like this heavy weight that drags you down all through the unemployment process. It’s a constant inner battle about whether to identify. Do I? Should I? What will happen? Do I have to listen to people telling me I’m “selling myself short” if I identify?
If employers say they are “inclusive,” chances are they’re fine if you’re of a different race, religion, color or sexuality. It does not mean they will accept you thinking completely different than the rest of the company. Not yet. This is because in my experience, most employers don’t care to learn about autism and the strengths we can bring to the company. They just see all the negative sides of it and the effort they will have to put into accommodating our “special needs,” which by the way are human needs.
In my experience, if you identify you’re likely to hear, “No, you’re not a good fit” or “we don’t employ disabled people,” or “we don’t really know how to handle people with ‘special needs.'” Most employers think we are Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory,” Rain Man, or Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Sherlock Holmes.” If you don’t “live up” to one of those stereotypes, you are “downsized” or suddenly “there’s no work for you” but there’s too much for everyone else. If you don’t identify, you still carry around this cruel secret, and are constantly checking your behavior and your speech to make sure you are mirroring everyone around you all the time. It’s exhausting, because if they find out about it, if someone complains about a behavior that is not “neurotypical” you might hear “downsized” or “there’s no work for you.”
Autism is a spectrum just like sexuality and the rainbow. Every single person who has autism is totally different from each other. Our skills are unique, and so are our behaviors. Some of us even have co-occurring learning disabilities and mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. “If you have met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person.” I know this because I have autism, and I’m really sick of hiding it. I hope one day it will be as accepted as the LGBT community, but employers have light years to go.
Getty image by Mango Star Studios.