ASD, asperger's syndrome, aspergers, austim speaks, Autism, autism now, Autism Spectrum, body language, dates, dating, eye brows, eye contact, facial expressions, facial gesteures, high functioning, internet dating, low functioning, non verbal communication, PDD-NOS, spectrum
This really depends on several factors. It depends on who you are telling and how well you interact with people. This is different for everybody. For some, it is better to disclose sooner. For others, it’s later. For me, this is what I do:
Someone I am dating: I usually wait until about 3 or 4 dates. Before talking about the Autism spectrum, I let her know about my characteristics that are obvious. One thing is my sensitivity to sudden loud noises. This is something that some neurotypicals have to deal with as well, so it isn’t automatically related to ASD. I let her know that I sometimes have trouble remembering faces, even if it has been a few minutes. This can be common with others too.
Some people consider Autism to be a negative thing. I do not. I think of it as a positive that happens to have some negative characteristics. I basically frame it in a positive way. I never say it in a way that sounds shameful or like I am in need of pity and sympathy. Autism makes me who I am and is part of my character. I let her know about some of my hyper or hypo sensitivities, my style mental processing, memory search engine, little quirks, and so on. I never say it on the first date because I want her to get to know the real me without any type of preconceptions. I say it like it’s no big deal, like talking about where you went to college or landing your first big job.
The spectrum is so wide, that everyone on it is as diverse as neurotypicals. Add to that, there are only a few characters with ASD represented on film, so I want to wait until I show her one of my favorite movies. If she is willing to watch, I show the movie Temple Grandin since it is the most accurate depiction I’ve seen in a movie about being on the Autism spectrum.
If she asks about activities I do that are related to Autism before I have that discussion, I politely ask to save that conversation for another time. As people become friends, they start to know more about each other. One thing I used to do, was to give too much personal history too soon. There are levels of information that are appropriate for acquaintances, friends, and loved ones. I reserve this information for the friendship level. I respect myself to have boundaries and give and take to get to this level with someone.
For a new job or a new department, I let them know during the first month. I only tell the HR representative and direct manager or managers. I let them know about any characteristics that may affect my job duties. I also let them know about my solutions so they get accustomed to them. One example is that I have a perfect long term memory but horrible short term memory. I keep an external memory drive, otherwise known as a notepad with me at all times at work. If someone gives me a task that involves more than one step, I write it down in front of them. I also use the notepad for interactions with people because I have trouble remembering faces. Certain departments I work for can be noisy, so I keep earmuffs and earplugs nearby. It might seem strange to some that I have little things like this to help me, but I’ve realized that people get accustomed to them quickly as long as they don’t interfere with the job.
Letting your managers know in advance also helps with social interactions that may go wrong. In a previous job I had a misunderstanding with a female coworker. This was before my diagnosis, so I didn’t know what incorrect things I was doing. Luckily another coworker witnessed the event and straightened it out before it got worse. Telling managers about ASD will help with social misunderstandings.
I do not, in general, tell coworkers. This is for the same reasons listed above. Exceptions are if we become friends and the subject comes up. A former coworker has children on the spectrum, so I volunteered information because I wanted to help with some of the frustrations she was having.
I do not recommend not telling a romantic partner or boss. A partner (especially a female) will pick up on subtle differences. It may lead to misunderstandings. Not mentioning the truth will only complicate things. It shows lack of trust, which is the opposite of what a relationship is based on. Not telling a boss may also lead to misunderstandings since work is highly social. The first round of people to be laid off are not the ones who are the least productive or newest. They are the ones who are the least liked. I’ve witness this first hand.
Telling family members sooner can helpful because they can contribute to your learning. Having additional points of view when you are having difficulties is not a bad thing.
Telling strangers is not something I do at all, unless I make a social mistake and offend someone. I once asked paraplegic about his wheelchair because I thought it was cool. I customize bicycle frames as a hobby and have always wanted to build a racing wheelchair. He got offended, so I let him know that I was on the spectrum and sometimes had trouble with social interactions.
This may sound like using ASD as an excuse, but I think of it as giving it as a reason. I remember an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is trying to talk to a woman to ask her out. Her back is turned and she is doesn’t respond. He gets offended and sarcastically asks if she is deaf. She is, and he was no longer offended. If someone does something to intentionally offend someone, then say it was because of ASD, then that would be an excuse.
The negatives of telling a girlfriend or boyfriend is that they may stop dating you. This has happened to me. There is nothing you can do about this and in most cases, there is not a lot you can say will change their minds. Believe me. it is better to know the real person before you invest too much.
Telling a boss may lead to lack of opportunities if they have prejudices. This can be overcome by keeping a journal of all the things you contribute to work, comments the bosses make about you (positive and negative), diversifying your skills and abilities, and diversifying the people you know (other departments, branches, or locations if any). Managers usually come and go, so if there is a manager that doesn’t like you, they might be gone before you know it.
If they are good people, managers and dating partners can be helpful. They can be your ally and show you things you’ve never thought of.
One thing I’ve noticed is that differences bring out the best or worst in people. Some people reveal that they are caring and thoughtful, while others reveal that they are of low quality. People who are outside the Autism community may know very little about it. They may have misconceptions and think everyone is like Rainman, or have tantrums all day long. If they are willing to listen, we can add our experiences to their knowledge. They can’t learn about us if we don’t tell them. If they are not willing to listen, it is best to move on.
Disclaimer: Anything written here is not to be considered medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except myself and my own experiences. Any tips written in this blog are available for anyone to try. It may or may not work since everyone on the spectrum is different. It may inspire someone to try something similar or spark a completely new idea. Any experiences written in this blog are my own, and may or may not be similar to anyone else who also happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.