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Aspergers sufferer - would it damage my career to be diagnosed?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Thongy1, Dec 14, 2010.

  1. Thongy1

    Thongy1 New commenter

    Is there a particular reason why you WOULD want a diagnosis? How about drawing up a list of pros and cons, and deciding from there?
    I don't know what you mean about the "staffroom politics" bit, so I am unable to give you a further opinion.
  2. I'm guessing that you have difficulties socialising?
    Getting a formal diagnosis, and declaring it as appropriate might work in your favour. This might be on the confidential disclosure section of an application form. If you are already in post, your school HR will have an appropriate confidential method for you to declare your diagnosis, and any special working conditions you might need.
    Guessing again, but if your head knows that you might find it easier not to be pressured into social situations, then that might help you long term. It would also be useful if on some occasion you were (in your view) honest, but upset a parent about their offspring,
    On the down side, you will be well aware that there are 'adults' who would revel in having a go at you, if your diagnosis was made known.
    I suspect there are legions of teachers in sharing your condition who don't even know, or who know and have kept it to themselves.
  3. LittleStreams

    LittleStreams New commenter

    Hi oldgreywolf
    Yes, I do have problems socialising, especially with adults. Most closest friends are the ones who like me for who I am, strangness and all. And a friend of mine from the school says I have a uniqueness that will help with teaching.
    But at the same time, I can get overwhelmed if I am put into an awkward position. So I have to make a phonecall home today about a pupil, and I am apprehensive about it - I have never done that before. When I was told to do it, they just seemed to think I'd know exactly what to say. I know it's something I will need to do when I am a teacher, but I am not a teacher yet. And I feel slightly dumped in the deep end.
    It's little things like that, the things that 'normal' people wouldn't have a problem with. I know I will be really anxious about my first parents evening and stuff like that.
    I do hide this anxiety quite well, and I have confided in one member of staff there about my issues, so if I feel overwhelmed or in need of some advice, I often go to him.
    In general I have found ways to cope with most of the problems, but my concern is that if I don't tell anyone, then I may do things or get upset or anxious over things and people may not understand why, or equally I may be perfectly okay with something which I shouldn't be okay with (that has happened a lot). But if I do tell then I could, as you say oldgreywolf, become the subject of those closed minded 'adults' of whom you speak. There are still a lot of misconceptions about Aspergers, especially how it presents itself in females, even in schools.
  4. Being frank about her asperger's became a career choice for Temple Grandin (do a google if you've never come across her work).
    It might be that you could build a similar specialism, in education.
    Re.your dilemma over phone calls, I think that on balance you might be at an advantage to go for formal diagnosis. Then if some wise guy wants to have a go at your difference, their discriminatory actions can be dealt with fomally.
    Think it over though, and hopefully others will contribute their thoughts.
  5. I would caution against being open about it - my experience is that teachers can often be really judgemental about these things. I have ADHD, for which I take medication. Hell is going to freeze over before I tell any of the teachers I work with - there are only a few colleagues throughout my teaching career who know. This is because time and again I have had to sit there and listen to people spout off about ADHD, about how awful it was that kids were taking 'cocaine/speed/drugs', how they don't believe it exists etc etc. I don't consider it worth it to tell them - I generally manage well in my job, organisation can be an issue, I can find meetings/social situations tricky, but I believe my ADHD is generally beneficial to my teaching. It's nobody's bl**dy business, unless I needed adaptations to my work situation (which I don't, although a personal secretary would be handy)! As for phone calls/parents evenings, how about having bullet points ready so you can be clear about what you want to say? Everyone is nervous about parents' nights when they start out, or about phone calls - I still get anxious about these things sometimes, but they're never as bad as I think they're going to be :)
  6. New account, but long-time poster.

    I have Asperger's. I'm completely undiagnosed, and want to keep it that way, but I have no doubt as my daughter *does* have a diagnosis and it runs in the family. I'm fairly classic - I have horrible issues socialising (just hate it with a passion, can't do it, can't really see "the point"), the obsessions, the language delay, the lack of social imagination, the whole thing. I used to hate it, but now I'm pushing 40 I know it's just me, there's not a huge amount of stuff I can do about it and I've learned to live with it.

    Weirdly, my Aspie-ness doesn't come over in the classroom, where I'm loud and interactive and just *not me*. It's odd, and I really can't explain it. Likewise with pupils.

    I am in a middle leadership position now though - in fact, have been for the best part of a decade. I ring home multiple times daily and often deal with emotional kids and, sometimes, adults. Picking up the phone is *always* hard - I have to prepare myself before I go in, know what I want to say and hope that when a parent counters with something I have the sharpness to be able to deal with it on the spot. That's often the hard bit, but has come with time and experience. A lot of my reactions are "learned" from experience - put me in a new situation and I will often flounder like a novice teacher - but once that routine is established, it's always possible to reignite those pathways to be able to do it again.

    My parents' evening meetings always follow the same sort of pattern in terms of structure and I make sure I always have sufficient data in front of me to be able to talk about that. I also find myself talking about NC Levels, grade boundaries etc so that it stays quite factual.

    The politics of the staffroom is something I gladly stay out of. I probably would stay out of it even if I "got" what was going on.

    My daughter's diagnosis was the point at which I slowly realised that I am Aspie too. Obviously it threw me into a bit of a spin - I'd realised since I started teaching in the mid-90s that something wasn't quite "right" with me but had never really been able to pin down exactly what.

    When I realised I was, obviously I had some sort of dilemma: should I divulge this to anyone or not? Should I get a diagnosis? What purpose would a diagnosis have, and what sort of implications would it have for me?

    The conclusion I came to was this: the only person a diagnosis would possibly benefit, at my age, was my daughter, who was only 4 when she was diagnosed. Now, a few years later, she knows she is an "Asperger's girl" (as she calls it) and so is her dad. That's of some comfort to her, and she doesn't need a formal diagnosis for me to be able to help her.

    Some people in my school know though, because I told them. Deliberately. There was a member of SLT that I trusted, and I went to her and asked whether a formal diagnosis would jeopardise my career prospects, as I had suspicions that it would count as a disability and therefore have to be declared on any application forms. She came back to me after asking around and basically said DON'T GET A DIAGNOSIS IF I COULD POSSIBLY AVOID IT. A declaration on an application form may well put any potential employer off even shortlisting, especially as a lot of teaching is about empathy and the like, and this is one thing typical Aspies don't have much of.

    So, two members of SLT and the Head know. That's fine with me, and if it makes them "understand" me and my sometimes strange ways better, then good. My school bandies round the phrase "reasonable adjustment" all the time about the kids, and fortunately here it applies to the staff as well. I fully acknowledge it was a risk telling them, and it could have gone the other way.

    I wouldn't though even dream of telling any of my other colleagues about it. I have a bit of a reputation for being somewhat difficult and distant, and it's not something I try to be, but they seem to accept me for who I am. I think some of them may well have suspicions, but I don't really care.

    Anyway, that's probably enough rambling from me. In your shoes I'd think hard about what purpose a diagnosis would serve, and the implications of it in a work context. Good luck.

  7. Just a quick question - if you did have a diagnosis, would you be obliged to declare it, or could you choose not to.
  8. I would say no - you don't have to declare it. the questions always ask "do you consider yourself to have a disability". I am dyslexic (old school diagnosed, not just 'tendencies!) and the way I think of it, is if you can do a job - despite your 'disability / uniqueness' then who cares. if you can't then you shouldn't do the job. I get comments about my poor use of written language (I have also been encouraged to go down the line of disability discrimination for it) but whilst it is discrimination i am a teacher and if i cannot do a job properly then I expect to be pulled up on it. I have my coping strategies all sorted - powerpoints with main messages, key words already written on my lesson plan, and dictionaries constantly on hand which I teach the children to use when I am helping them spell something that I cannot. In short, if you can do the job then do it, if you can't then take advise about how to form coping strategies to do the job - we all have to even those who are 'normal' as you say. Staff room politics - join the club - if someone enjoys them then they are someone who i wouldn't want to mix with anyway!
  9. I am border-line dyslexic and also a little bit Aspergers (self-diagnosed) Social stuff is my weakness. But in teaching it could be seen as a strength (in my case I would say it has been) For example, I think 'we' are known to be organised, matter of fact, level headed people (not saying that non apse's aren't!). I have been described as 'professional to the core' which prehaps comes from dealing with everyone in the same way I guess!? Kids and staff know where they stand with me and I often find people say I am 'trustworthy' which I think is because I don't get involved in staffroom politics or get involved with gossipy chit chat. I don't have any close/real teacher friendships at work (lol, sounds sad?, but lots of school teachers do have friendships with each other) I think this is why staff sometimes choose to talk to me about difficult situations (which always suprises me) and what they don't know is that deep down inside I'm panicking as I don't quite know how to respond!
    My advice - watch the experts - often my reactions to situations have often been picked up or learned by watching others and this has helped me a great deal when dealing with students problems. . If I don't know what to say or how to help the student, I will ask the student themselves - often they will know how to resolve their own problems but just need to talk it through. Anything I need further help with I go to the year leader.
    Parents are fine - they like to be informed and I never get 'personal'. I learned how to do parents evening by sitting with the head of dept in my training year. Behaviour issues I also listened to how other staff address a naughty student.
    So, what I am saying is that a lot of what you are worried about can be learned by watching others. Your aspe's will give you certain strengths that may be held in high regard.
    In addition teachers are great helpers (on the whole) and I have never been worried about approaching them for help or advice with situations.
    As humans we are all different, so why tell your co-workers that you have aspergers? Let them like you for who you are and what you do well.

  10. I don't have Asperger's, but I am bipolar and have always been very upfront about it, starting from when I applied for my PGCE. I'm now an NQT and declared it on the application form for my current job. I was asked about it at interview and explained how it affected me in a matter-of-fact way.
    Like you, my condition can affect my behaviour and ability to function socially. I would hate to have to try and hide it if I were ill - it'd be an extra pressure. Also, being bipolar is part of who I am, and I'm not ashamed of it. The fact is, many people's understanding of conditions like these is based on grossly-exaggerated stereotypes perpetuated by the media, and anyone at school who might assume I'm going to start acting like Stacey Slater off EastEnders can p*ss off quite frankly. Your colleagues are education professionals who should have a better-than-average understanding of Asperger's, so I'd be very surprised if they were unable to cope with yours.
    More importantly, disclosing obliges your school to implement 'reasonable adjuments' to help you do your job. I only ever teach in my own classroom because I have problems with organisation, and I don't have to ring in when I'm ill - I can email instead. I asked for this because I just can't talk to anyone other than family and close friends on the phone when I'm ill - I come across as very aggressive without intending to and knowing this causes intense anxiety.
    It's your life and your decision, but I would always disclose. That way, you have an unfortunate but manageable condition, rather than a burdensome secret. Good luck!
  11. Hi, I have just been diagnosed as AS afer years of anxiety problems - there have been massive changes in my job which has resulted in causing me problems- I have mainly worked in a sigle person department and now I am not. These changes have highlighted what I find difficult. I was labelled as having a mental health problem even from health professionals who have even thought I am delusional and have pychosis. The school now know and I think they prefer this to thinking I might flip - but its early days - at the moment I feel a freak!
  12. Please don't feel like a freak - there is nothing wrong with being on the autistic spectrum. You just have a different was of looking at the world, and focus on different things to a lot of the people around you. In some circumstances that is, in actual fact, a good thing!! Being diagnosed as AS will probably explain a lot of personality preferences that you are likely have.
    Have a look at http://autism.about.com/od/inspirationideas/tp/besttraits.htm and see if you recognise any of the qualities that are described there. Look at the good aspects, as well as being aware of the areas you will have more difficulties with.
    You have obviously done well in your life so far, so you've coped with any difficulties related to AS. Look on your diagnosis as additional information to help you. After all, you've not changed as a person just because you've received a diagnosis.
    Best wishes.
  13. Oops - minor typo:
    "different <u>ways</u> of ..."
  14. Hi Thanks Maths Diva hmm just feels very odd at the moment but you are right I have done well - I am a middle manager have been since my second year of teaching. I made my interest my subject I taught, and things in that document are correct - I don't lie, I tell people where we are, I am loyal, hardworking I have a brillant memory i actually don't even have a diary! But its the label I am struggling with - when you sit in the staffroom and hear people say things about kids with AS its hard

  15. When you think about it, teaching is a pretty good job -
    where else would you get paid to talk to a <u>captive</u> audience about your favourite subject, at great length, and be able to complain if they don't listen or if they glaze over. [​IMG]
    The label is a little difficult to deal with ... but it is just a label - you're still you. Harder to cope with is hearing what other people say about AS kids - I do think there is a lot of misunderstanding about how autism affects individuals.
  16. theNavigator

    theNavigator New commenter

    One of my former colleagues (and friend) has schizophrenia, but with proper medication and support from management and friends, is an excellent teacher.

    Labels can be a barrier in some respects (you have to have an open-minded HT to start with, or you haven't a hope in getting the job if they find there is even a hint of 'mental illness' (not the Aspergers is).

    Depending on how developed a persons Aspergers is though, other teachers will notice after a while. A new member of staff here is quite clearly somewhere on the spectrum - their behaviour has certain...regular irregularities? Yet I've seen them teach, and they're fantastic. Their knowledge of their subject is outstanding, and the pupils clearly recognise and appreciate that.

    Heck, most of us are probably on the spectrum somewhere!

    Variety is the spice of life. :)

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