Guest blog post: On disclosing autism in the (academic) workplace by The Third Glance
The Third Glance is a personal blog by E, an autistic PhD student. The following is an excerpt of a blog she posted on July 26, 2014:
Undercover Autistic: on disclosing autism in the (academic) workplace
The Third Glance
Autistic – the word that I first heard applied to me my freshman year of college – it was weighted full of disdain, and I feared it. I feared it, knowing but little of the disorder I’d never really encountered, but had heard some very awful things about.
Autistic – the word that I learned more and more about, as I devoured everything I could read on the subject, which was just so utterly fascinating to me.
Autistic – the word that I learned explained the why of how I interacted with the world. The word that explained nearly everything that made me different from the people I was surrounded by.
Autistic – the word that gave me freedom from my fear and belief that I was just a completely broken person who would never succeed.
Autistic – the word that gave me power over myself and my environment.
Autistic – the word that so utterly perfectly describes me.
So why is it, that I’m so scared to say it aloud?
One of the things that I’ve mentioned before, is that while I am diagnosed autistic, and being autistic impacts many parts of my life in ways that other people just don’t ever experience, I am not “out” as autistic in my workplaces, lab or classroom. This doesn’t mean that people don’t know there’s something very different about me. They do. But I’m terrified to give the word that explains it all. The stereotypes, the negative views, the preconceived notions, and the horrible assumptions associated with being autistic mean that I am terrified to be open about myself, for fear of all the misconceptions.
As an early-career academic scientist, I don’t want to give anyone any reason at all to discount me. I realize that I’m in a really lucky position, where I don’t have to say my label in order to function (well sort of) in society. The stereotypes and negative regard that come with the word “autistic” are just too scary to contemplate, and I’m lucky that I can, for the most part, get away with not saying it. I can’t risk throwing away my entire career, and I’m privileged enough to be (right now, anyway), in a position where my oddities, quirks, and very autistic self is welcome and accommodated. I’ve built a little niche where I can thrive.
The thing is, the people around me know they’re accommodating me. They know I have difficulties, and that I sometimes have weird challenges they don’t even begin to understand. They know I have to ask for help at strange times, and that I interact with the world differently from them. I’m actually very open about these things, because it is so very obvious to the casual observer. I take control over my situation by being very open and explicit about my difficulties with sound, with talking, with textures and other sensory things. I discuss my difficulties understanding certain kinds of language and I speak openly about sensory processing problems. To deny them would be outright lying, so instead I speak up, I own my quirks, and I talk about them openly. There’s just one thing I don’t disclose. I don’t tell them I’m autistic.
I’m afraid that if I say the word, that I will be labeled forever.
To read the rest of the blog post: http://thethirdglance.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/undercover-autistic-on-disclosing-autism-in-the-academic-workplace/
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The Third Glance is a personal blog by E, an autistic PhD student
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