The Autistic Waitress
I’ve been thinking recently who I should tell about my autism diagnosis. Nobody knows apart from my immediate family and a few close friends. In an ideal world, I’d like to tell everybody.
I’ve just got a new part-time job, working in a café. I’m smiling as I’m delivering the food, wondering what my employers would say if they found out. I feel like a fraud, an imposter. In a way, it makes me question if I can really be autistic, but I know that I am.
If I told my employers, they’d probably sack me on the spot. I suspect that they would react as if I they had suddenly found out that I have leprosy or a conviction for paedophilia. They are the kind of people that make fun of disabled people after they’ve left the premises.
I look into the customers’ faces and smile, but it’s just a mask. There’s no two way traffic, just a barrier that keeps them out. I answer their questions politely of course and I do my job well, but I want no real connection.
My counselor asked me how I thought that my employers would react if I told them about my diagnosis after they had had time to get to know me. Perhaps if they had experienced my warmth, kindness and sense of humour, they would be more accepting? I replied ‘They wouldn’t believe me – they would laugh at me and assume that I was joking’.
So it would seem that:
- If I’m autistic, then I would be deemed incapable of doing the job
- If I can do the job, then I can’t possible be autistic
Perhaps if I had a diagnosis of ‘ Asperger’s Syndrome’, I would stand more of a chance – they might just think that I’m a geek, make a few ‘Sheldon’ jokes and carry on as normal. Unfortunately, my official diagnosis is ‘Autism’ so I’m in really in trouble.
Some people say that attitudes to autism are changing. Perhaps in some sections of the population they are, but the vast majority of people remain profoundly ignorant and it’s going to take more than a few articles in ‘The Guardian’ and some well-meaning TV programmes to fix that.