Anonymous asked realsocialskills:I’m an autistic student who’s starting college next fall. I’m wondering if I should tell my roommate(s?) about it first, or if this will affect the way they think of me. I like to think that I can “fit” in normally with everyone, but I might have some quirks that will annoy them. I’m worried I won’t be able to make friends, I’m not sure what to do.realsocialskills said:I don’t know a good answer to this from my own experiences, since I didn’t know I was autistic until after college. (I wish I had known sooner.)There’s a really good book and website about dealing with college as an autistic person called Navigating College. It talks in practical terms about a lot of different issues, including the question of disclosure. I would highly recommend reading it.That said, here’s what I think I know about disclosure in general:
- Autism is highly stigmatized, and most people will see you as less of a person if they know you’re autistic.
- Sometimes it’s safer not to tell people, or to say something like “I have a neurological disorder that makes it hard for me to (whatever the relevant thing is).
- If Google knows that you are autistic, it can make it harder to get into school, get an internship, or get a job
- Keeping autism completely secret creates a major barrier to friendship; hiding a fundamental aspect of who you are makes everything a lot harder
- If people don’t know you’re autistic, then you always have to wonder how they’d treat you if they ever found out.
- If people know you’re autistic, then you face a lot more mistreatment, but you also find out who you can trust. Sometimes, that’s worth it.
- There isn’t a right answer here; all of the options kind of suck, and which approach is best for you is a highly personal decisionAnd a few things I think I know about disclosing to roommates:
- In college, roommates are often not friends
- They’re just people you have to minimally get along with enough to share space peacefully
- In some ways it’s better if you’re *not* close to your roommate; a fairly superficial relationship can be more conductive to living together
- If you aren’t close to your roommate, there’s probably no reason they *need* to know you’re autistic.
- It’s also possible that they’ll treat you better if you don’t tell them, since most people think that autism means you’re unable to understand or care about other people.
- So, unless you’re generally open about being autistic (which can be a good strategy), it might be better to err on the side of not telling your roommate.
Do any of y’all have advice about whether to tell college roommates you’re autistic?
My roommate knows I’m Autistic because I am pretty open about it on campus, but, if you do decide to disclose, you should be specific about things. My roommate is a psychology major, and I assumed that she knew at least the basics of autism. Unfortunately, my assumption was false. For the past couple of weeks, she would light scented candles, and I would just blow them out when the smell got too overwhelming and not tell her they were bothering me. Turns out my blowing out the candles was bothering her, and she got upset with me. Eventually I told that because of my autism, I am very sensitive to smells so she stopped lighting her candles.