Should I disclose my disability on social media?

  • Hi everyone! I'm looking for advice on something that's only a little bit art-related. I'm sorry if this doesn't have a place in this forum, in which case, just tell me to remove it.

    Here's a short backstory:
    I've been coming to this forum off and on for the past half year or so. Once in a while I've commented and uploaded pictures, but as soon as anyone comments back I get nervous and leave the site.
    Sorry to the people I left hanging.

    This communication issue that I have, it's because I'm autistic. (not the extraordinarily talented kind, unfortunately)
    For y'all who don't know what that is, it basically means that my brain developed differently and now I'm great at detail attention and focus, but I struggle with connecting and communicating with other humans. I've gotten better though, since illustration has taught me how to read body language and facial expressions. I can even use emojis now!

    Now to my problem:

    I've been contemplating for a long time whether or not to disclose of my autism on social media. That is, the social media I use to promote my art.

    I want to ask both other artists and other autistics (they have their own forums) for their opinions. Maybe some of you guys are autistic as well, in which case, your opinions would be extra valuable.

    My biggest reason for wanting to "come out" is that autism awareness is (obviously) a very important cause to me. I would hope to spread awareness through paintings and comics, and maybe I could even encourage other autistic people to pursue an art-career, and show that it's possible, even with the social handicap. I think that the more of us (the autistics) that can be open about it online, and sharing information, the more prejudice we can erase, and gain more understanding and acceptance from the world around us.

    Now that's a big reason not to tell anyone about it. That there are so much prejudice on autism. I've had good relationships with people that, as soon as I told them I'm autistic, suddenly went to great lengths to avoid me.
    I'm afraid that if I come out, I might lose clients or be sorted out from job opportunities because of my condition. That no matter how much effort I put into every project, the autism-label will outshine it all.
    I would suspect that a few people would get more understanding of my social errors, and there is a small possibility that I get subjected to hatred from anti-vaxxers. Though I have no idea how many potential clients would back off at the sight of the word "autistic".

    What do you guys think? Do you think clients would discard me if they knew about my condition? Would you?
    Would you risk losing clients for a cause that's important to you?
    I really don't know which way to go here.

    Sorry this became so long. Thank you if you managed to read through it all, and if you have an opinion on the matter, thank you even more!

    Happy monday y'all!


  • SVS OG

    Hi Embla,
    Personally, I don't see a problem with yoo being openly autistic. I'm sorry that you even feel you need to ask that querstion. If you have a talent a client appreciates, and you can do the work, IMO it shouldn't matter at all that you're autistic. I think it would be fine for you to explain your disability and prepare someone and help them understand your challenges. There is nothing wrong with being autistic! You are capable and lovable. If people hate you because you're autistic, why would you want to work with them anyway? That's my thought on the matter. I wish you the best, whatever you decide. No need to hide 🙂

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @embla There should be no reason to hide. If your work is where it should be and the client wants your work having Autism should not matter. The spectrum of Autism is huge and by the side of your post you are on the the higher functioning side. My son has Autism and is on the lower functioning side. Yes when we are out people stare and yes people don't understand it all the time. But once they are educated on it, they understand and are more accepting.

  • SVS OG

    I have high frequency hearing loss and found over the years that it's generally better to be open about it than to try to hide it. I'm deaf enough that I have trouble hearing the words people say, especially if I can't see them or there's any background noise. Verbal conversations just vanish into smoke if I don't take notes the whole time. And talking on the phone is the worst because I have no visual cues to pick up on.

    When I worked in an office setting I'd just try to "pass as normal" and hope no one noticed. I couldn't afford hearing aids at the time. But when review time rolled around I'd get feedback where people thought I was stuck up or didn't like them because I didn't hear when they would say hi to me! If they don't know the reason for something, they will make up their own reason.

    I was ashamed of my impairment because I didn't want to be seen as weak or less or have special treatment. But most people tend to be understanding and accommodating once they are aware of your needs. When you understand your needs and limits, you can set others up for success with simple requests like, "Hey, can we connect by email? That works best for me."

    It's possible some doors might shut if you're open about being autistic. But would you want to work with those people anyway? Embrace that aspect of yourself if it's important to you. The right work will come along.

  • Great comments, @Marsha-Kay-Ottum-Owen, @Chip-Valecek & @carriecopa.

    That's great that you've been able to work to overcome challenges in your life! I also have a disability, so I can identify with your concerns. I have a chronic illness called Lupus. One of the ways my illness affects me is the joints of my fingers are crooked. (This is not common with lupus, but if you've seen hands with Rheumatoid Arthritis, it's similar to that.)

    I've only done art as a hobby, so I don't have specific advice to give, but in general, I have found that being open and honest with people helps everyone feel more comfortable. When people notice my fingers, I just explain to them about my illness in a friendly and matter-of-fact kind of way. I let them know that it's ok to ask about it, and explain that it's hard for me to do some things, but there are still a lot of things I can do. Parents have thanked me for the way I responded to their children's curiosity, and were glad that their kids could learn about disabilities from me.

    Unfortunately, I'm not able to work right now, but in the past, I've tried to be honest about my condition in job interviews and discussions with my bosses. When people know what they can expect, they can evaluate whether that will work for them, and they don't have to worry about dealing with unpleasant surprises later on.

    You are right that social media can be tricky, and there will probably be some negative people that will say mean things. Just try to remember that it's their "disability" to be that way, and the best thing is to ignore them, and hope that they can overcome their difficulty and learn to nice to people in the future.

  • SVS OG

    @embla I love this Interview with Jorge Gutierrez (the guy who brought us "Book of Life")

    At about 41:00 min. he talks about having autism

    my gut response to your question is probably somewhat naive but here it is - that your portfolio will speak for itself and that people will hire you based on that....except for the ones that are gripped by prejudice ....and those are the ones you can do without.

  • I don’t see why it would be an issue. My son is on the spectrum, and I would like to see more people open about it publically.

    I can’t see how it would be an issue in the current world we find ourselves which strives for diverse and unique voices. More power to you!

  • SVS OG

    @miriam Great response, Miriam. You have a very positive and healthy outlook!

  • @marsha-kay-ottum-owen
    Thank you! I'll admit that every once in a while I get sad or frustrated about it, but usually, I am able to be positive and see the blessings in my life. I believe that I can learn from any situation I am in, and it can help me become a better person. Looking for things I can learn from the challenges I face helps me to have a good attitude. I am grateful for my religion and my faith in God, which helps me have a positive perspective and brings me peace.

  • Pro SVS OG

    I think the very fact that you started this conversation identifies you first and foremost as an intelligent, sensitive and capable human being, with principles, ideals, and creativity. I am sure having autism affects or has affected your life in many unpleasant ways, but it obviously doesn´t affect your ability to create art and to communicate your opinions and intentions clearly - which is all a customer can ever care for (if I can talk in my role as AD).
    I wouldn’t see any harm in “outing yourself” on social media - especially given the potential impact on other people´s life who struggle with similar or related conditions. Clients come from all possible venues and may or may not necessarily be aware of your social media activities and content. If they are, I would not expect the majority to have any particular concern. Nearly all communication with clients happens in writing anyhow, and it´s clear that you have no issues with that.
    Incidentally, one of my current clients is on the spectrum. And while I have most of the interaction with his parents, this 9-year-old boy has initiated a non-profit dedicated to the conservation of the oceans. He organizes beach-cleaning days and gives lessons to other children about marine life and envionmental awareness. If this is what people with autism can do, then we need more of that!

  • Wow.
    I never thought I'd get a response like this. I don't really know what to say, I'm completely overwhelmed. Thank you all so very, very much!

    @Miriam @carriecopa Thank you for sharing your own disabilities. I know I'm not the only one who's brain and body are causing problems, but somehow it was comforting to hear from you. You're both absolutely right that it's better to be open about it. I can pass for "normal" most of the time, but sometimes my behaviour is atypical. I have a job at the playground every other weekend, and sometimes I will tell the children what's up if they're wondering why I'm tapping my chest (something that calms me down) or wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day (light sensitive). Parents are usually happy about me educating the kids a bit. And very surprised to find out that autism can't always be seen on the outside.
    I have yet to tell my boss about it, but think I will soon. Mostly just to get him to stop calling me on the phone all the time. Email really does work better for me as well 🙂

    @Chip-Valecek Thank you. Yes, I am high functioning, and really grateful that I can act "normal" enough to be independent. I know the stares though. My brother is low functioning, and I get them too when i start stimming in public. It would be nice to be able to educate the whole world at once, but one at a time is better than nothing 🙂
    And to @Eric-Castleman Thank you! People being open about it online is what has helped me accept myself and my autism as something good. You're absolutely right, now is a very good time to "come out of the cave", as the world is starting to value diversity more and more. That is a really good point.
    And to both of you @Eric-Castleman and @Chip-Valecek Loads of strength and energy to you guys. I'm sure you're both great parents, and that you're working much harder than other parents has to. I know me and (especially) my brother was quite a handful, and we don't tell our dad often enough how grateful we are for all his hard work.

    And thank you @smceccarelli It's very uplifting to hear this from an AD. I feel very lucky to live in a time where text-communication is standard, because I'm pretty useless at verbal communication.
    Thad kid seems so cool! I bet he feels at least as strongly about the oceans as I do about drawing, in which case he's gonna change the world. I'm really curious, what's your role in this project?

    And thank you @Marsha-Kay-Ottum-Owen and @Kevin-Longueil ! That was really encouraging!
    You're right, I could do without the people that thinks my disorder is more important than my work. While I do struggle with the economy most of the time, I do have a weekend-job now, and it wouldn't ruin me to lose those clients. Thanks for the reminder.

    To everyone, again, thank you so, so much! It is so very uplifting to know that there are such lovely, understanding people out there. You have no idea how happy and motivated you've made me.
    I need more time than others to process information, and especially when it comes to making decisions. But you've encouraged me so much, I have no doubt that I should start sharing my "secret" soon.
    I'll probably start slowly. Maybe just put in a "aspie" in my description or something, so that only people in the autism-community (or the ones that bother to google) will know what it means.
    I want to start making wordless books, or books with sign-language, for special needs-kids. Maybe a bigger announcement could come along with that.

    Thank you again. I'm very grateful that you all took the time to read and respond.

  • Pro SVS OG

    Way to go - to use your special awareness as a strength and make projects that tap into that!
    For the Microactivist Foundation (that’s the name of the non-profit) I am doing a book cover. The book is about the dangers of releasing balloons (which then fall back into the ocean mostly and cause all sorts of havoc to marine creatures) - that is the current campaign they are focussing on.

  • @smceccarelli Wow! I googled it. That is such a cool project. I'll definitely check in on it again, 'cause I'm very curious of how that book cover is going to look 🙂

  • Aspires rock 😃 we are awesome. And as an aspire I bet you’re more talented than you realise.

  • And I hate it when iPad corrects aspie to aspire.

    Feel free to post here too:
    I am high functioning. My dad is. I suffer from unexplained anxiety days. My son is a computer genius, but really struggles at school. I run a boardgames group 25% of whom are aspie. And as my other hat as a minister we support and advocate for a lot of families affected by our awesomeness. And if anyone doesn’t like the way I say we are awesome you have to realise that being non Neuro typical means life is tough and we struggle sometimes to just face it. But knowing we have something to offer (obsession....lateral thinking or extreme logical thinking....or something else rather extreme) means we can keep going.
    And no, everyone ISNT somewhere on the spectrum. You’re just jealous ;-)if that’s what you think, thiose of you who don’t have our super power.
    To infinity and beyond! Or something like that 😉

    I’ll shut up now 😃

  • SVS OG

    @embla I think my husband is an Aspie to some degree and he can be a bit different but is very successful all these years 🙂 As long as you are thinking of special needs I just saw an article in the SCBWI Insight about fonts to use that would help dyslexic kids (if you are interested in that too). And, I just want to say that, I think we all have our disabilities and some just aren't labeled. Go forward! You'll be just fine 🙂

  • @marsha-kay-ottum-owen
    That is so true. We all have our own challenges in life!

    I believe that seeing the obstacles we face as challenges and learning opportunities, rather than troubles and set backs, can help us use them as stepping stones to become stronger and more talented, as well as help us be more positive and happy.

    It's strange, but having a good attitude and perspective about problems helps me to recognize and be grateful for the blessings and good things in my life.

  • The other thing I should mention is that I have not found that telling people is too much of a big deal. In fact since I have chosen to be more open it’s improved a number of problems I did have. So although I’m not socially inept, I do have problems with knowing what to say, shutting up, taking turns and so on. But the benefits far out weigh the problems. So I apologise that I may come across in odd ways, talk too much, and once I’ve met someone I feel like I have known them forever so may be over loose with my conversation, or just not say something in the ordinary stream of things. This is because, as I explain, I have aspergers. I then quickly say that it means in my job it’s really useful as it gives me the creativity, the ability to see in pictures and explore ideas, and when I am being a minister break down barriers quickly. I also am able to help other people with issues of all sorts because I understand better than most. I have had people in the past be really nasty telling me how I am interrupting or too noisy or whatever. But once they know, they seem to cut slack.

    But when people also see what you have overcome, then they become impressed, stop complaining about their own issues, and try something new. So I end up inspiring people.

    There are always horrible people, but keep going and you start to find that there are far more people who are sympathetic.

  • @andyg Hey! How good to hear from you! This is really insightful, thank you very much.
    This is really funny to read, because I do the same things. Especially: not making difference between strangers and close friends, and thereby not realizing how some subjects of conversation aren't always appropriate. It makes for hilarious or embarrassing situations - depending on how you see it.

    I used to ask people to just let me know when I was being too loud or interruptive. It helped me in being less annoying, and others in getting less annoyed.
    I admire your confidence. You seem like you don't care that much if people find you annoying or not.

    It is a really good tip to bring up the positives of asperger's right after saying you have it. I would have never thought of that, but it's really obvious when you say it. It's way better to say "and it makes me great at this and that" instead of "but it doesn't mean I can't handle this and that" - which I would probably go for. So much smarter to point out the strengths rather than pointing out all the stuff that's difficult.

    It's very good to "hear" this from you, because I've talked to another artist with AS, and he has had bad experiences from letting people know about his condition. The difference is that he is doing work for fine art galleries, and I somehow suspect that the book illustration community would be a bit more open and including. I have no proof of this though. Do you think it's the genre that makes the difference? Or is it just your positive approach?

    Thanks for the uplifting words. I'd love to join that facebook page of yours 🙂

  • @embla I certainly don't have the answer and reading some of the comments there seems to be a lot of support.

    I can only add that I've found comfort, support, and love by sharing my learning disabilities and insecurities from my childhood as one who was bullied - on my youtube videos and on social media. Because I'm strong enough now to handle any comments that might seem threatening I've decided to share my experiences to hopefully help others.

    I've only been met with understanding and compassion with a healthy dose of commiseration from those who traveled similar roads. We all have disabilities whether we want to admit them or not - some are worse than others. I'll bet there would be much more support for you than you think.


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