Passing As Neurotypical at Work or School?

Part of my commitment to changing workplace culture regarding autism is to increase awareness and understanding in the general public — many of whom are colleagues and bosses of people on the spectrum. Toward that end, I am currently researching for an article on the idea of “passing” as neurotypical at work or school. I’m writing this article to make neurotypicals aware of the lengths we sometimes go through to avoid dealing with what are all too often ignorant responses to the mere notion of “autism”. As well, I hope to show our fellow Auties that they are not alone in dealing with the difficulties of passing — or deciding to “come out”. The idea being that the more NTs understand who we are, the more comfortable we will feel — long term, of course — being our true selves.

Having learned a year ago that I was on the spectrum, I have gone from learning about who I am (and really have been all my life!) to active self-advocacy and advocacy in general. My focus is on neurodiversity in the workplace.

For those of us fortunate enough to have worked relatively steadily, no doubt many, like me, have felt pressure to be as neurotypical as possible while on the job or out socially with colleagues; have been cautious about the possible consequences of revealing our autism to colleagues and managers; have felt the need to blend in and not come across as “quirky”. Sometimes it’s easy to blend in, to mask one’s Aspieness with intelligence, say, or humour; sometimes it can be a real challenge: running to the bathroom to stim because your office has a glass wall, sitting in agony through a work dinner where the noise is through the roof and everyone’s talking at once.

What experiences have you had, trying to “fit in” — or, at least, not stand out? And if you’ve been open about your autism at in a professional context, what have some of the reactions been? I’d love to hear — and tell — your story.

Your privacy is of utmost importance. As such, no personal details of any contributor will be revealed, and you will get to approve any text that recounts your experience.

If you are interested in telling your story, recounting your experiences, please get in touch via email, at robert@autistic.ly.


Thank you,

— Robert



About the Author

An autistic self-advocate and Neurodiversity Ambassador, Robert Watkins is reinventing the workplace with and for autistic people. His writings on http://autistic.ly focus on increasing awareness, understanding and accommodations for people on the spectrum so that they can contribute their best and lead fulfilling working lives. Robert, on the board of the Atlanta Autism Consortium, lives in Atlanta with his Aspie wife, two Aspie and two neurotypical teenagers, and their cat.

This post originally appeared on Robert’s blog http://autistic.ly/passing-neurotypical/.

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