Disclosure is the process of making known what was previously unknown. This can mean an individual disclosing to others their suspicion of, or diagnosis of, their own Asperger profile. Additionally, this can refer to the process of a person suggesting to another that they might fit the description. In more broad terms, disclosure refers to the process of navigating conversation related to the topic, whether that be in relation to work, friends, family, or strangers.
Disclosure is a process that every person with an Asperger profile navigates, each in his or her own unique way. Most of the time, an individual’s first identification with this profile is met with enormous relief. The sentiment, “Oh, that explains so much!” is not an uncommon response. This discovery is often experienced as a revelation, in terms of understanding personal struggles, strengths, and differences that have spanned decades. Of course, some people can be resistant to the idea of identifying (at least at first) with this category, and that is why we are talking about ways to be sensitive to the process.
Disclosing Your Own Asperger Profile to Others
When disclosing your own Asperger profile to friends, loved ones, employers, and others it is understandable that you might have some concerns as to how this information might be received. You might:
- Fear that others will misunderstand or stigmatize (link to this word in glossary) you.
- Worry that you will not be believed.
- Feel “in the dark” yourself about what the profile or diagnosis means.
- Have a distaste for narrow, limiting labels that do not take into account your individuality.
Strategies for disclosing one’s own profile to others:
When an individual with an Asperger profile is disclosing about him or herself, we often suggest that he or she discloses “strategically.” Strategic disclosure involves disclosure of just the necessary amount of information for the situation. The necessary amount might be a full explanation of the individual’s diagnosis or it may just be a statement about a particular characteristic of the profile (for example, requesting a quieter workspace because of one’s particular challenge in focusing on one’s work). Needless to say, disclosure is different for everyone and in every situation and is worth thoughtful consideration and sensitivity. Some common strategies include:
- Leading the conversation with the strengths and gifts of an Asperger profile.
- Referencing specific people of note with this profile, rather than just providing a list of characteristics.
- Staying informed, so that you can better prepare yourself to dispel common misperceptions.
- Having examples of your own life stories, experience, perceptions that reflect the profile.
- Being aware the experiences and accomplishments that make you an individual.
- Creating a strong support system.
- Knowing about neurodiversity
Disclosing to Someone That You Suspect That They Have an Asperger Profile
When disclosing to a friend, loved one, or individual that you suspect that they might have an Asperger profile, be sure that you are well-informed and consider the reasons why this information might not immediately be received easily. He or she might be sensitive to the topic because:
- It feels as if you are telling them who they are, and they know that they understand themselves better.
- They might have already thought of the possibility themselves, and therefore worry that they haven’t hid their personal challenges effectively enough.
- They may have difficulty seeing their own characteristics from your, or somebody else’s, perspective.
- They may have very fixed ideas about the world and themselves; and this information does not fit.
- They may process information slowly and say “no” in order to create more time to digest what you have disclosed.
- The person might misunderstand what an Asperger profile means.
- They might understand what an Asperger profile means, but be well aware of how often other people misunderstand the profile and/or diagnosis.
- They might be aware of a limited number of people with this label and believe that it could not apply to them because they are so different — they cannot relate a limited interpretation of the profile.
- They do not want to be labeled.
- They have grown appreciate their own unique qualities, and now you’re telling them they fit a label.
- They might think that the profile is “fixed” and that things won’t get better.
- They might not be familiar with the many strengths associated with an Asperger profile.
Some strategies for disclosing your suspicion of another person’s Asperger profile:
- Be informed. Know the common strengths and challenges of an Asperger profile.
- Recognize the person’s individuality.
- Be familiar with the ways in which the right support can improve quality of life.
- Suggest places to turn for resources and support (AANE is a great place to start).
- Be patient
- Understand the concept of neurodiversity.
The term “neurodiversity” can serve to empower individuals with Asperger profiles. Diagnostic labels, by nature, define disorders and tend to ignore the strengths, gifts, and adaptive benefits of the individuals diagnosed. In contrast to this, the Asperger constellation of traits has more recently been described as the product of natural variations in human neurology that lead to differences in individual experiences, sensitivities, and perceptions. It is not necessarily a neurological “dysfunction”; rather, it is evidence of “differently” functioning neurology. “Neurodiversity advocates propose that instead of viewing this gift as an error of nature . . . society should regard it as a valuable part of humanity’s genetic legacy while ameliorating the aspects of autism that can be profoundly disabling without adequate forms of support” (Silberman, Neurotribes, p. 470). Just as the natural world thrives through a web of diversity, offering up a range of valuable interconnected attributes, so does humanity.
Informal Online Tests
While on-line quizzes do not take the place of comprehensive neuropsychological exams, they can introduce individuals to some common Asperger themes. Moreover, they can serve as foundations for initial conversations related to the topic. The author David Finch describes how his wife used the Aspie Quiz to initiate the disclosure process with him. His book, The Journal of Best Practices, is a wonderful and humorous window into David’s journey of self-discovery and self-awareness.
Two online quizzes include:
Personal Accounts Specific to Disclosure
Like every person with an Asperger profile, the influences involved in the disclosure process infinitely vary. One way to understand the range of possibilities for disclosure is to connect with the stories of individuals with personal experience. Some examples include:
- First Person Accounts
- Article by Lynne Mitchell
- AANE webinar that provides an introduction to the Asperger profile: Know Your Brand of AS.
Media List Specific to Disclosure
Media representations of individuals with Asperger profiles can help to generate relatable, non-clinical conversations between friends and family members. Here are some suggestions:
- TV: Community, Big Bang Theory, BBC’s Sherlock, Parenthood
- Movies: Adam, Temple Grandin, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
- Fictional Books: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Non-fiction Books: Look me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, Journal of Best Practices by David Finch, Neurotribes by Steve Silberman, Aspergirls by Rudy Simone, Safety Skills for Asperger Women, Liane Holliday Willey.