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Disclosing Autism to Flatmates

Disclosing an autistic identity is all up to personal preference. Some people are really open about their autism diagnosis and some prefer not to tell that many people. Autism is an integral part of a person and sharing their identity can be a quite anxiety provoking of the person doing it.

Just as autism is a spectrum of differences in how a person understands the world around them, how someone feels about being autistic or having autism is also a spectrum. For some autistic people, sharing that they are autistic is something they are very comfortable with. They may know what their differences are, what helps them and not feel negative about their autistic identity. For others it can be a completely different story, others perception of autism can mean that you don’t feel comfortable with your autistic differences, you see it as a deficit or autism has always been viewed as negative or shameful.

Some top tips for finding the place and time you’re most comfortable to talk about being autistic:

  1. Don’t rush. You don’t have to share your diagnosis in your first introduction, you can mention it later in a conversation or wait until a later date.
  2. You don’t always have to introduce differences as autistic. You can talk about what you struggle with, the differences you have and things that help you.
  3. Find a place where you feel comfortable. You can tell someone in the house or flat, a public place or even not in person by a written note or over the phone.
  4. Have a friend with you. Having someone who already knows you’re autistic or can support you can really help in case you get overwhelmed or a reaction you don’t want.
  5. You don’t have to share. Disclosing is a personal decision, it can context for the way you act, how you communicate and what support works best for you but it’s your choice to share.

Disclosing that you’re autistic can be really scary, a relief, enable support and an indication of trust all at the same time, so it is and should always be the decision of the autistic person to disclose. Preparing to be in that situation can be really helpful for an autistic person, to know what to say and prepare answers for some of the inevitable questions and statements.

When talking about autism it can be easy to slip into the negatives or self-deprecating comparisons, sometimes saying ‘I’m autistic and that means I can…’ is really difficult if you don’t know what you do well. When thinking about disclosing it is always nice to think about what you can do, what you struggle with and the common myths and stereotypes that exist about autism. Tackling all of this is a big task and doesn’t have to be done with every person you tell your autistic as each disclosure is unique- even if you tell a big group at once.

If you think your flatmate is autistic, don’t force them to say whether they are or aren’t- many people don’t actually have a diagnosis as it can be really hard to get and they might not actually be autistic, they might just share some of the traits that are common in autism. In a situation like this, where you think autism might explain how someone behaves or how they talk the best thing to do is provide them with a welcoming and supportive environment. That way even if they are autistic or not, you’re still actually just being a decent person.

By Sarah O’Brien-Quilty from Ambitious about Autism