A reader sent in the following questions:
If you’ve ever been in a work situation where your Aspie qualities affected your performance, did you disclose? Do people treat you differently when they know? What are the pros/cons of disclosing?
To be honest, the question of disclosing is a little moot for me. Initially, I wasn’t planning to share it with anybody except, maybe, a very close friend at work. However, now it turns out that everybody knows about my supposedly anonymous blog and reads it. Which must mean that everybody knows about the Asperger’s. On the positive side, the very fact of being an Aspie makes it impossible for me to perceive whether people treat me differently because of it or not. An inability to gauge people’s non-verbal reactions is one of the characteristics of Asperger’s. Unless somebody comes up to me and says, “Since I read in your blog that you have Asperger’s, I treat you differently,” I’m not going to have a clue.
Of course, Asperger’s affects my performance at work. It does so in both negative and positive ways. To give an example, service to the academic community that includes socializing with people I don’t know and don’t care about tires me a lot more than any other activity under the sun. Maybe I could use Asperger’s to have my service requirement pared down to something more manageable. However, Asperger’s also makes it much easier for me to do research, prepare classes, and grade. Obviously, I don’t want everybody’s grading to be dumped on me. This is why I don’t do anything specific to bring Asperger’s into the work context.
I don’t think there can be one hard and fast rule on whether to disclose or not. Work environments, bosses and colleagues differ greatly. I don’t think that anybody has an obligation to mention it unless they really feel like it. If there are certain things we don’t do very well because of Asperger’s, there are many others that we do a lot better than anybody else. This, I believe, is an important thing to remember in the context of Asperger’s, whether we are talking about the work environment or personal relationships.