I didn’t really have that many people to tell, so it didn’t really become a major question until far enough along. One thing is, I am Autistic. I didn’t make a lot of friends. I didn’t have large social circles. So I really didn’t have to ask myself that question, “Should I tell this person?” for quite awhile. I didn’t tell a lot of people at first, but once I finally sat down and asked myself, “Well, should I tell people or should I not tell people?” I think I pretty much decided that I should.
With most of the people I’ve told, I typically try to not immediately tell them, but instead I try to get to know them a little bit first, so that they know me as Paul and then they know me as “Paul who happens to be Autistic,” rather than “that Autistic guy Paul.”
I don’t want, “Hi, I’m Autistic,” to be the first thing I tell someone, because then you get caught up in whatever preconceptions they have about it. Overall, there’s a savant issue. A lot of that comes from people who’ve seen Rainman. They remember how he acted in that movie and they have expectations, so I’m afraid if I tell someone right up front that they might think, “Well, if there’s a loud noise or a fire alarm goes off he’s going to start freaking out.” I don’t want people to have that expectation of me, so I’d like them to get to know me a little bit first.
In most cases, when I tell people I’m Autistic, they simply say, “Oh, okay.” There are a few people who will then go on to ask me about it or tell me that they don’t really believe it’s a real thing. Or some people might share their opinions about it one way or another and those can always be challenging but, typically, it’s just an, “Oh, okay.”
I’m hoping that when and/or if there is a misunderstanding, it provides them the thought to take a step back and say, “Maybe he didn’t mean what I thought he meant,” and that it gives them that little bit of extra thought. Perhaps something like, “maybe he’s not reacting in the way I would normally expect a person to react.” Then, that gives us an opportunity to work through misunderstandings more easily than we would otherwise.