Disclosing a diagnosis of autism to friends and strangers

autism artEditor’s Note: In a follow-up article on the topic of disclosing a diagnosis of autism to friends and strangers, Paddy-Joe  goes into the value of why this discussion is important. Paddy-Joe’s article on disclosure to a potential employer can be read here.

Often people worry about disclosing their diagnosis of autism or Asperger`s Syndrome, even to those closest to them.  They feel that their family will see them differently, and friends may not want to associate with them anymore.   Equally, though the person might not feel ashamed about the fact that they have autism, they might be unsure of how, and when to bring this up when talking to somebody new.   Others may think there is no need to tell anybody.

Some people believe that it is best to keep a diagnosis of autism to themselves in case other people view them differently, and don’t want to talk to them anymore.  The problem with this is the person with autism is never telling the people closest to them about a large part of themselves, and therefore their friends never really know them.   Also, their friends are in no position to help them if they need help because they wouldn’t even know there was a problem in the first place.

If somebody does decide to tell their friends about their diagnosis of autism, often they are not sure how.  They worry that if they don`t explain it well, they may give their friends the wrong impression of autism.   The best thing for a person to do is simply explain they have autism, and what this means for them – if their friends like them anyway then this shouldn’t change as they haven’t changed; they were autistic throughout the entire friendship, now there is just a name for it.

As for telling new people; there is no need for somebody to make it the first thing they say on meeting someone new, but they should feel confident enough to bring it up in conversation if they want to.   Feeling so ashamed or embarrassed about a part of themselves that they keep it locked up, and don`t tell anybody, can never be a healthy thing.   Their autism may never come up in conversation again, but they should be confident to mention it to their friends if they want to.

If they can just come straight out and say it that is best, but if that is too blunt and difficult they could maybe bring autism up in conversation, and see what their friends – or whoever else it is – knows about it before saying that they have autism as well.

The reality is that if their friends do treat them differently, or don’t want to associate with them simply because they have autism, then they were obviously not proper friends in the first place – it might sound corny, but it’s true.   It could be a good test for people to see who their real friends are; the ones who stick around, and stay friends are clearly better friends, and better people than the ones who leave simply because they have found out there is something different with their supposed friend.