How to Be Openly Autistic

Three Parts:Making the DecisionBeing OpenKeeping a Good Attitude

Being autistic in public can be a big decision. You're choosing to be authentic, to embrace yourself even if others disapprove, and show by example that it is possible to be happy and autistic at the same time.

Part 1
Making the Decision

Becoming openly autistic is a big decision. It's important to think carefully about it before you start telling people.

  1. Image titled Woman Hugging Cat.png
    Accept yourself. If you aren't okay with being autistic, then you may not feel ready for being openly autistic. Get comfortable with yourself and allow yourself to be different. Take small steps if need be, and reach out for support.
  2. Image titled Transgender Guy Thinking.png
    Recognize the benefits of being publicly autistic. Disclosing your autism will allow people to understand you better, and allow you to focus on things besides appearing non-autistic. Here are some things to consider:
    • You won't have to worry about "passing." Passing as non-autistic can eat up a lot of mental and emotional energy. By being yourself in public, you free up more energy to be happy and productive.
    • It will increase understanding—of yourself and of autism. People will have a name for why you're a little different, and may be more tolerant. You will also break negative stereotypes about autism as people recognize that you're a regular, nice person.
    • People can be more accommodating. If you explain where you are struggling and how they can help, most people will be happy to help, especially if you have a good reason like a disability.
    • There are some positive autism stereotypes, such as being good at math and computer science. If you want to be a programmer, this might be a good thing.
    • You may feel better and more confident about yourself.
  3. Image titled Confused Woman.png
    Recognize the drawbacks of others knowing you are autistic. In an ideal world, people could be themselves without anyone making a fuss over it. This is not an ideal world. Some people may be unfriendly or downright rude.
    • You are at higher risk for discrimination because of your autism or autism symptoms.
    • Ignorant people may stereotype or ostracize you. This isn't your fault, but it still hurts.
    • You might need to explain what autism is, and how the ridiculous stereotypes are not true. Doing it over and over again may get old.
  4. Image titled Disabled Man Writing.png
    Consider how permanent your decision is. The way you feel now may be different from the way you feel in 15 years. If you are young, you may wish to avoid identifying yourself as an autistic person in the media, in case you decide in the future that you don't want employers to know.
    • Once something is on the internet, it is on the internet forever. If you want to write extensively about autism, consider using a screen name.
    • For example, your future employer will not know if you wore a cute autism shirt in college. They will know if you published an essay on autism or were interviewed by a newspaper at an autism acceptance event. (But perhaps that's not a bad thing.)
  5. Image titled Shrugging Cheerful Man.png
    Recognize that it isn't black-and-white. It's a little more nuanced than people thinking you're autistic vs. thinking you're neurotypical. You can disclose that you are disabled or that you have different needs without saying that you're autistic. What you choose is up to you and your comfort zone.
    • "I'm a little quirky, and I have some unusual needs."
    • "I have a disability that causes _____."
    • "I have a developmental disability."
    • "I'm autistic."
    • You can always start small and then disclose more if you feel more comfortable doing that.

Part 2
Being Open

  1. Image titled Relaxed Woman Talking.png
    Prepare a few scripts to explain your autism. Autism is a highly stigmatized disability, so be prepared to bust myths and inaccuracies as well as explaining the details. Scripting and practicing your responses can make it easier.
    • "Autism is a common but misunderstood social disability. I have difficulty understanding people sometimes, sensitive ears, and unusual body language. On the bright side, I'm really good at code."
    • "That's a myth. People can struggle with empathy while still being very kind and caring."
    • "Hollywood stereotypes autism as much as it stereotypes jocks and nerds. Autism Speaks isn't known for being truthful either. There's a lot of misinformation, so a good deal of the things you may have heard about autism might be false."
  2. Image titled Woman with Bindi Talks to Friend.png
    Use a friendly and matter-of-fact tone when speaking about autism. You can help set the tone of how others view your autism. If you sound confident and okay with it, then they will probably feel okay with it too.
    • Use open body language: look at them, wear a friendly expression, and use a tone similar to if you were explaining that you have an awesome brother or a degree in engineering.
  3. Image titled Autistic Student Listening.png
    Don't hide your symptoms in public. If you want to stim, then stim. If you speak with a disability accent sometimes, don't let it stop you from talking. Let yourself be yourself. There is nothing wrong with being disabled in public.
    • Use the body language that is comfortable to you. You don't have to sit perfectly still or make eye contact if it feels unnatural to you.
    • Obviously, not all stims are suitable in public. Don't use stims that invade someone's personal space (e.g. playing with their hair without permission), and choose non-distracting stims when people are focusing.
  4. Image titled Cheerful Guys and AAC App.png
    Explain your differences instead of hiding them. Some people aren't used to autistic body language—so fix this by giving a quick explanation.
    • "Eye contact feels really uncomfortable and distracting to me. I usually look at people's mouths or shirts so I can focus."
    • "My listening body language looks a little different from others'. If I'm looking around, fidgeting, or wiggling in my seat, that's just how I pay attention."
    • "I'm autistic, and flapping my hands is one of the ways I express happiness."
  5. Image titled Cute Girl in Autism Neurodiversity Shirt.png
    Try wearing shirts or outfits with an autism-related message. This is an easy way to tell the world that you are autistic and you don't care who knows it. You might choose a shirt with a message about autism or neurodiversity, or a logo of an organization you like. Rainbow jewelry is also an option.
    • The neurodiversity symbol (a rainbow infinity sign),[1][2] red for #RedInstead (formerly #WalkInRed),[3][4][5] and rainbows in general are examples of things to wear.
    • The puzzle piece[6][7][8] and "light it up blue"[9] have derogatory connotations, because they are associated with Autism Speaks and messages of fear and pity.[10][11][12]
    • If part of the sale is being donated, make sure that the charity is helpful and not harmful. Some charities increase stigma instead of fighting it.

Part 3
Keeping a Good Attitude

Being autistic in public can be difficult. Sometimes your symptoms will pose challenges, and sometimes people aren't nice. Take good care of yourself.

  1. Image titled Laughing Woman with Cerebral Palsy and Man.png
    Accept differences in yourself and others. Trying to fit in will only make you feel more alone.[13] Let yourself be unique, and celebrate what makes others unique too.
  2. Image titled Girl Plays Basketball.png
    Look after your health. Staying healthy is important for everyone, and it is especially important for autistic people, who are at higher risk for stress and anxiety. If your body is healthy, you will feel less stressed. Eat fruits and vegetables, take vitamins, sleep for at least 8 hours, and find ways to get exercise.
    • Exercise can include taking a walk with a friend, biking, rollerblading, stimming, swinging, hiking, and playing with kids. Exercise can be fun!
  3. Image titled Cute Girl Reading.png
    Give yourself plenty of time to relax and recharge. Life can be stressful for autistic people (and in general!), so it's important to look after your emotional health. Spend time with loved ones and/or your special interest each day.
  4. Image titled Smiling Relaxed Man.png
    Remember that you are valuable. Being disabled doesn't ever make you a burden. You are lovable and unique, and you have strengths that matter.
    • Think about a disabled friend. Would you talk to them the way you talk to yourself? Treat yourself like a friend, and don't tell yourself things that you wouldn't say to a friend.
    • Think about your strengths. What are you good at? How do you help others? Think about strengths related to autism (pattern recognition, focus, special interests) and strengths unique to you.
    • Volunteer. Go to a soup kitchen, work at an autism acceptance event, or edit articles about autism or your special interest on wikiHow. Knowing that you help others can help you feel better about yourself.
    • Talk to someone. If you feel sad about yourself, tell a loved one, a doctor, or a therapist. Talking can help you feel better, and if you have an illness like depression, it is the first step to recovery.
  5. Image titled Autistic Man and Woman Happy Stimming.png
    Make autistic friends. Look for autism social clubs, advocacy groups, or online spaces. Autistic friends can help you remember that it's okay to be yourself, share tips, and offer support.
  6. Image titled Diverse Group of People.png
    Surround yourself with accepting and supportive people. Focus on the positive relationships in your life: loving family members, great friends, encouraging mentors, and fellow autistic people. Don't waste time on people who bring you down. Reach out to the people who make you happy.


  • Rainbows are also associated with LGBTQIA people. If you are LGBT+, then rainbow clothes can do double duty. If you are not, be prepared to explain, just in case someone gets confused.
  • Avoid sources of negative and dehumanizing information, such as Autism Speaks. If someone wants to go to those websites for information, gently steer them away.

Article Info

Categories: Autism Spectrum