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Advice about Disclosure

Five Common Mistakes NTs Make
Advice About Disclosure

Disclosure, that is telling people you have Asperger's syndrome, isn't a problem for everyone, but it is for some. The little advice I have to offer is based on my own experience and so won't be relevant to everyone.

What I did was start telling everybody. That is what not to do. Make a list of people who would want to know. These are the people who you are close to and who care about you. Plan to tell them first. It means something to them that you tell them first. Then make a list of people who need to know. Plan to tell them next. Don't tell anybody else unless it comes up in conversation and even then keep it light and don't go into too much detail. People who are interested will ask you questions. Most people won't ask questions.

If like me the relationship between what you think and what you say is a rather unreliable one you may find it a good idea to have some written material you can give to people if you get stuck, so they can take it away and read it and digest everything you have told them.

Some people will be more interested in what your diagnosis means to you and to them than they will be in the facts and information about it. Will it change anything? Does it make you happy or sad? They will feel confused and disturbed unless you give them some clues about how they should react. Be honest about your feelings though because most people will see right through you if you are just trying to convince them something is cool because you are nervous about how they might react.

Also from my well of bitter personal experience... people who didn't like you because of the way you are before your diagnosis probably still won't like you after your diagnosis.

Five Common Mistakes NT's Make When Someone Tells Them They Have Asperger's syndrome

Sorry if this a bit harsh, but it is partially meant with a sense of humour. However, it is based on real Reactions I have had from people when I have told them I have Asperger's syndrome and is a true expression of some of the frustrating situations I have encountered and that I have heard others speak of too.

1. Feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable

If someone tells you they have Asperger's syndrome you really don't need to be embarrassed on their behalf. If someone is prepared to tell you then they probably don't feel embarrassed at all, and even though if you had to say those sorts of things about yourself you might find it humiliating, for a lot of people with AS the reason they will have got a diagnosis is so they don't have to feel humiliated about this sort of stuff anymore.

2. Trying to make people 'feel better'

Based purely on my own observations it appears that if someone tells you something bad about themselves e.g. 'I look fat in this', you are normally required to respond 'no you don't'. This rule does not really apply to Asperger's syndrome. If someone says 'I have Asperger's syndrome' and you say 'no you don't' it does not usually make them feel better and could be interpreted as you accusing them of lying or saying they are mistaken.

Attempts to reassure them that they 'look OK to you' or 'seem perfectly nice' could only create frustration and resentment, as could equally well intentioned attempts to identify with them. You might instinctively feel the need to reassure them that they are not strange or alone by saying such things as  'I find it difficult to talk to people sometimes too' or 'Everyone has their little quirks', but trust me, this is often not appropriate.

3. Using it as an opportunity to talk about your own problems

People do not usually disclose having Asperger's syndrome as a conversation starter on the topic of health. This is not a prompt to talk about your haemorrhoids or your sister's friend's uncle's ingrown toenail. This is someone trying to tell you something because they want you to understand them better.

4. Being an armchair expert

You know somebody else with Asperger's syndrome or who is autistic, great... but save it until this person has said what they need to say first. Sure, it's a great way of saying, 'I know about all this already so I don't need to listen to you but instead you can listen to me brag about what I already know', but lets face it, that is just rude.

Likewise responding by claiming that Asperger's syndrome is a made up faddy diagnosis or that you don't believe it... Are you an expert? Have you done any REAL research into this subject or was this just something you read in a magazine or heard on the bus?

5. Feeling threatened

If someone tells you they have been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, don't panic, They have not joined a cult or metamorphosed into an alien being. They are the same person they were the day before and the same person they have always been. It may change some things in subtle ways, but usually only for the best, and a lot of the time it doesn't really change very much at all.

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Definition Overlap Procedure Tests Reasons Reactions Spectrum Disclosure
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