Background

A few years ago I (was forced to) left grad school (halfway into it) because of complications related to a set of anxiety disorders (a typical comorbidity in Autism Spectrum Disorders; I now have a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering. I'm also planning to return to grad school next year).

I now have a family (2 children). Around the same time I left grad school, we received my daughter's diagnosis (she has more of a classical form of autism), followed by my own diagnosis.

With regards to my professional record, after approx. 2.5 years in grad school and 2.5 years completely out of the job market, I finally began to work at a small consulting firm. They are aware of my daughter's autism, but they don't know of my own diagnosis.

NGO

I'm also vice-president of a local, small, autism-related NGO who is now trying to convince me to disclose my being on the autism spectrum (for publicity and awareness reasons). They are planning to arrange an interview for me at a TV channel. In fact, the decision was already made, as I'm effectively coming out of the closet on December 9th, by means of an interview on a local radio station.

I'm enthusiasticaly in favour of such a move (for both egoistic and altruistic reasons), but am also afraid of potential consequences on my future professional prospects. Also consider that it's likely that I will need a new work position very soon.

In summary, I'm only worried with the fact of also having a track record of being out of the job market for quite some time, so that I'm afraid some hiring manager could be tempted to negatively associate the gap in my resume to my condition.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jan Doggen, Chris E, gnat, Garrison Neely, Joe Strazzere Dec 1 '14 at 19:55

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
  • The gap was not directly due to my "condition", but due to severe complications related to anxiety disorders. – Gladstone Dec 1 '14 at 21:02
  • Current employer is aware of my somewhat extraordinary circumstances involving both, being a father of a disabled child (my autistic daughter is also intellectually disabled and needs lots of special care, often on an unpredictable basis) and suffering from anxiety disorders myself. The employer was able to offer special working conditions regularly (e.g. working from home during a crisis). But yours is still a good point indeed, and I should be able to tell them before the interview. – Gladstone Dec 1 '14 at 21:14
  • Despite being an already-made decision, I'm still interested in knowing what to expect, what is legal and what are appropriate ways to react to each particular circumstance. – Gladstone Dec 1 '14 at 21:22
  • I believe my question is slightly more specific than the first one, since I want to know if future employers could try to relate the gap in my resume (due to unrelated health problems) to the fact I'm autistic. – Gladstone Dec 1 '14 at 21:34

In the US, employers cannot discriminate based on any medical condition you have. Since you have already completed one degree and are looking at completing another, I think your technical qualifications are sound.

I think/hope you will find the engineering community fairly open minded about your condition. I have several friends who either are or have children in this situation.

I wouldn't make it a big deal during the interview and I wouldn't bring it up either. The interviewers cannot ask and if they find out, they can't use that information in the hiring decision process either.

For anyone interviewing it is a good idea to keep the personal/family conversation to a minimum. There will be times when interviewers may be offering their own personal stories, but you should keep all interactions on a professional level. With today's ready supply of personal information out there, it's pretty easy for HR to find out, so don't lie, but you don't have to offer and they can't ask.

  • 3
    not only should he "find the engineering community fairly open minded about your condition" but it should actually make any hiring manager be more interested for the well known and often cited benefits of having spectrum individuals in technical positions, assuming the human/political elements in the work environment do not necessitate advanced levels of "people skills", which is sadly still often the case – amphibient Dec 1 '14 at 17:22
  • 1
    and while i agree that " it is a good idea to keep the personal/family conversation to a minimum", i think the main reason for disclosure is perhaps to ask for a communication style somewhat adjusted to his condition in the future, i.e. to establish an understanding that he has somewhat of a special need and make sure the employer is okay with it. E.g. I have done similar for my narrow attention span and need to not be inundated with overwhelming amount of details while communicating requirements. It can have varying effects. – amphibient Dec 1 '14 at 17:31

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.