As discrimination is common for anyone who lives on the margins, disclosing neurodivergence is risky. That the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), created to protect disabled people from workplace discrimination, prohibits employers from discriminating based on disabilities doesn’t negate these risks. If you’re autistic, disclosing your neurotype leaves you vulnerable to ableist discrimination. This includes loss of professional opportunities, such as promotions, as you’re likely disclosing to someone who misunderstands autism.
Stereotypes abound. Many people only “understand” autism in terms of stereotypes, usually based on inaccurate media that frames autism as an illness. Many also believe autists lack social skills. Some employers are only willing to hire neurodivergents for part-time roles, or in other small roles. Many only want neurodivergents as volunteers. Still, many neurodivergents face discrimination whether or not they disclose, so it’s worth considering the many benefits to disclosing.
A major benefit to disclosing is access to accommodations, though when you disclose you also open a doorway for communication that extends beyond accommodations. Disclosure communicates trust between you and your employer, which gives you the opportunity to educate them about your neurotype, making them less likely to misinterpret your behavior and intentions. You might teach your employer about autistic loyalty and honesty. You may teach them about your logical thinking, your attention to details, or any one of your numerous neurodivergent strengths.
Disclosing in a receptive environment also allows you to bring your full self to work, dropping the mask, and gaining pride and self-esteem. Disclosure can positively influence the workplace, enabling other employees from disadvantaged backgrounds to find each other, to connect and bond, to bring their full selves to work, enacting a sense of belonging. Those around them will then begin to see that neurodivergents are just as real and valuable as everyone else.