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Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Disclosure Dilemma

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss employment of people on the spectrum. A recent study (see post for November 3) confirms what has long been obvious:  they face discrimination in hiring.

Jake Austin writes at The Sentinel (Carlisle, PA):
“Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism,” said Leslie Long, Vice President of Adult Services at Autism Speaks. “Core symptoms do not change, but people have to learn how to compensate for environmental changes as they get older.”
Unique challenges
But deficits become more noticeable as autistic young adults begin to adapt to the unpredictable professional and social demands of the “real” world; they begin to face external challenges unique to their disorder.
“With autism, as the individual gets older, their characteristics such as preservations [sic, perseveration] difficulty reading social cues and interactions as well as the expression of emotion become more noticeable than when that individual was much younger,” said Dr. Bernadette Cachara, a local psychologist. “As a child, many of their peers are also learning the art of social interactions; therefore, it may be less noticeable unless very extreme.”
Adapting to new social environments with their own requirements and expectations can be a daunting task for anyone. But for an individual with autism, the process begins with a crucial choice that will likely define his or her experience.
“Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword when you have a disability that may not be obvious,” Long said. “Some employers will discriminate (against autistic individuals) whether they realize they are being biased or not. So it becomes difficult for (an autistic) individual to choose between disclosing (his or her condition) and getting the support they need or hiding it without people knowing. That becomes an individualized choice.”
In The Politics of Autism, I write:
When paraplegics seek ramps to accommodate their wheelchairs, they can often count on the understanding of judges and juries. Autistic people, by contrast, have an “invisible” disability and the accommodations that they seek may seem odd to people unfamiliar with the condition. One autistic worker at a rehabilitation center refused to drive a company van because she smelled deodorant in it, which she could not stand. A supervisor scolded her, and the resulting argument led to her firing. A court found that the altercation was a personality clash and that her sensory issues did not result in a substantial limitation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Legal expert Daniela Caruso writes: “It is clear that autism advocacy has changed the judicial discourse on autism, but the reality of integrating this particular disability in the workforce remains plagued by the endemic fuzziness of ADA standards, exponentially complicated by the fuzziness of autism science itself.”