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I was reading this post and the comments beneath it and it suddenly occurred to me how the word disclosure means something totally different for parents and autistics.

For parents there’s a lot of anxiety over a child’s comprehension of the word, and that they might take the information in a negative way.

To autistics the word means putting power in the hands of someone else.

It was suggested by my mentor that when I have difficulties or issues with colleagues at work I should tell them I am autistic. Without a moment’s pause I blurted ‘But that’s putting power in the hands of someone who already views you negatively’.

Of course, not everyone will abuse that power. But hard experience tells me most people will. Their use of it will most likely be subtle, but you will quietly be moved from the category of human to almost-but-not-quite-human, from competent colleague to problem-waiting-to-happen, from let’s renew your contract to finding-another-job-elsewhere-is-a-wonderful-career-opportunity!

The problem of disclosure is an ongoing shall-I, shan’t-I conversation that runs on a loop in your head. Every colleague, every new friend, every group you consider joining. How will they react, how will they use the information, who else will they tell… and the consequences only show up when it’s too late to take it all back.

For many autistic adults, disclosure is a lifelong decision, a lifelong conversation. And I’m uncomfortably aware that there is one point when its consequences will become devastating; the likelihood of your diagnosis leading to you being declared mentally incompetent as you age. What happens to the older autistic who wants to continue to live in their own home? What happens if a residential home discriminates against an autistic resident?

That is a conversation we’re not even thinking about.

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