How to Tell People You're Autistic

Telling people you have a developmental disability like Autism or Asperger's syndrome can be an especially difficult task. You fear there is a chance they may ridicule you and won't want to be your friend. With a little courage and some help from this guide, you can ensure a friend who will support you.


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    Take time to get to know the person or people you want to tell. If you have opportunities to do things together like see a movie, have a spend over, etc; this can prove to be very helpful.
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    Think about how to tell them. It may help to script an explanation of autism beforehand. Deciding how to phrase things can help you feel more confident and prepared.
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    Choose a good time to tell them. Wait for a quiet time, when you'll be able to talk without feeling pressed for time. Go for when they feel relaxed and the conversation won't be rushed.
    • Weekends are usually more relaxed times.
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    Go to a private place to talk. This conversation works best one-on-one, so they have time to think, and no one else will interrupt you or overhear. Good places to talk include...
    • A park
    • The car (on a long drive)
    • Your or their bedroom
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    Describe autism. They may have heard some inaccurate or dehumanizing information about autism, so let them know that the disability is not understood very well. Then explain your biggest or most noticeable symptoms in terms of autism, so they know how it affects you personally.
    • "Autism is a pretty misunderstood disability. It's why I have trouble understanding people sometimes, and need to hang out in quieter places so I don't get distracted or overwhelmed. It also explains why my body language is a little different, and it's part of the reason I'm good at writing code."
    • You may want to give them a window into your life, such as reflecting on how it has impacted you or explaining how it changes (and doesn't change) your daily life.
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    Use an open, matter-of-fact tone. How you talk about autism can help set the tone for how they think of it. If you talk about it like a fact (the same way you'd say you have a degree in biomedical engineering or you really like cats), then they will think it's okay, and they won't worry about you much.
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    Be prepared for some ignorance or unintentional rudeness. Because most people don't understand autism, they may think of stereotypes or say offensive things by accident. It can help to script responses to awkward and rude reactions.
    • Be patient with them. They probably mean well and don't realize they are being rude or hurtful.
    • Recognize that occasionally, their knee-jerk reaction may be more negative than their true feelings. If they are not accepting straight away, it may be because they are startled and need some time to sort through the information. Give it time and see if they respond better tomorrow or next week.
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    Tell them whether this is public or private information. If you're telling them in confidence, make this clear, so that they won't accidentally tell someone whom you aren't comfortable with. Being clear will prevent future confusion. For example:
    • "I'd prefer to keep this in the family."
    • "I'm pretty open about it, so if it's relevant to a conversation, I'm okay with you telling other people."
    • "I'm okay with people knowing that I'm disabled, but because of stigma, I'd rather not use the word autism except with my close friends."
    • "I want the people close to me to know. I haven't told my brother yet. Could you be there when I do?"
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    Give time for questions and answers. Because autism isn't understood well, the person might have questions or misunderstandings that they would like you to clarify. Listen closely and give them an answer as well as you can.
    • If you don't know the answer or don't have the time/interest to educate them, try a website like ASAN, the Autism Women's Network, or wikiHow.


  • Recognize that most people can probably tell you're different. Disclosing your diagnosis gives them a name for why you are different.
  • Feel good about yourself! Many great and well respected figures in society are and were said to have been autistic. Bill Gates is one person. Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Isaac Newton, Emily Dickinson and Michelangelo were likely on the autism spectrum.
  • Be cautious about what you share online. If you are using your real name, you probably don't want to mention that you're autistic, because untrustworthy people may find out. If you'd like to blog about autism, consider using a screen name for your own safety.

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Categories: Autism Spectrum