Advocating on the Job

The following is a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the program’s website.

By Liz Mattson, Student Services Coordinator

Deciding Whether to Disclose

Bobby with a new jobWhether applying for a paid or volunteer position, students often wonder when it is appropriate to disclose their disability to potential employers and supervisors. Bobby, a student at CLE Davie, recently had an experience where he had to make this important decision.

Bobby has always had a life-long passion for science and technology. He finished his certificate this year in Internet Technology from McFatter Technical Center and is studying for the certification examination. He decided that he wanted to do some volunteer work before he takes his exam to get some real world experience.

The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science had a number of openings for volunteers. With help from student advisors, Bobby filled out their application, called and made an appointment for an interview. His Career Development Coordinator coached him on effective communication during the interview and how to present himself.

Bobby arrived dressed and confident for his interview at the museum, but chose not to disclose at that time. “I did tell them about my strengths and weaknesses,” remarked Bobby, “I made sure to word them in a way that sounded like a positive, such as ‘I do my best work when I am given step-by-step instructions’.”

Bobby made a great impression with the Volunteer Coordinator and he was invited to attend the Volunteer Orientation. After the orientation, Bobby had another meeting with the Volunteer Coordinator to discuss his schedule and identify what kind of work he wanted to do there. “That is when I let the Volunteer Coordinator know that I have Asperger’s. It actually wasn’t that big of a deal, and she said they had a lot of other volunteers who had the same diagnosis.” In telling her, Bobby still focused on the positive. “I let her know that I have a great memory for facts, and I am able to remember a lot of details. I think that would be really helpful if you are explaining an exhibit to guests.”

When asked how he felt about disclosing his diagnosis, Bobby shrugged. “It wasn’t really a big deal. It isn’t that big a part of my life, but I still wanted her to know about it. I know that she can’t go blabbing it to other people, and having at least one person know would be helpful.”

There is no perfect answer about the appropriate time to disclose a diagnosis. It will depend on a number of different factors, such as the work culture, the type of job an individual is applying for and the specific needs of the individual. It is a deeply personal choice, but there are a number of legal protections that are important to be able to access.

CLE has locations in:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Costa Mesa, California
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Monterey, California
  • Washington, D.C.

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