Jacob’s Disclosure Story

Jacob usually loved his Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science class, but he was dreading today. They were supposed to do a partner project, which he hated. Why couldn’t he just do the work by himself? He didn’t need a partner. Luckily, the teacher was assigning teams so he wouldn’t have to be the last one picked. That was the worst.


He got paired up with a girl. That just made it harder, because Jacob often got nervous around girls and had trouble communicating. At least it wasn’t a cheerleader or homecoming queen or anyone like that. He’d probably never be able to look her in the eye. His partner was kind of quiet and cute, but not gorgeous. She seemed smart; she often raised her hand and answered questions in class, which Jacob never did. He wondered if she was disappointed to be paired up with him, but if she did, he couldn’t read it in her facial expression.

The rest of the period they were supposed to meet with their partner and start planning their project. Jacob knew that he didn’t work well in groups. Some teachers just let him work alone instead of joining a group, but that wasn’t an option in an AP class. He introduced himself to his partner, and wondered what else he should say. Should he tell her that he was on the autism spectrum, and that’s why he might have trouble communicating, or catching on to things the other kids all seemed to know instinctively? He just couldn’t bring himself to say that to her, but he also didn’t want her to think he was a jerk if he stumbled with his social skills. He decided on a compromise.

What should he say?

“Um, I guess I should tell you that I’m the kind of guy who is sometimes awkward. When it comes to computer science, I really do know what I’m doing and I won’t let you down on the project, but I’m not too social. If it seems like I’m trying to take over the project, it’s just that I really love this stuff and I get excited about it. Just remind me that this is not a one-person thing. Oh, and also, if I say or do something that seems rude, I hope you’ll tell me, because I never mean to be a jerk. I guess when it comes to social stuff, I’m a bit clueless, but not when it comes to computers.  Sorry you got stuck with me, but I hope we can come up with a great project together.”

No problem.

To his relief, she seemed to take this in stride, and said it was no problem. Then she said that she had a cousin on the autism spectrum, and he was great, so she was cool with socially different people. Jacob wasn’t sure if she meant she thought he was autistic, too, but he decided to let that comment go by without elaborating on it. He wasn’t ready to tell this girl he just met that he was autistic like her cousin. Maybe her cousin was one of those kids who couldn’t talk, or who stared at the lights and flapped his hands all day. As soon as he had the thought, he laughed to himself, realizing he was stereotyping autistic people, and he was one of them himself! Obviously not everyone with autism was the same. Still, he decided he didn’t know her well enough to disclose about his diagnosis. All they needed to know about each other was whether or not they could agree on a Computer Science project and how to make it work.

Jacob’s Disclosure Compromise

For Jacob, describing some of the characteristics of his autism that might affect their project, without sharing his diagnosis, was the right level of disclosure for a classmate he had just met.

Jacob’s stories originally appeared in the first edition of Wendela Whitcomb Marsh’s book, Independent Living with Autism: Your Roadmap to Success. (Revised as Independent Living While Autistic: Your Roadmap to Success, Book One of the Adulting While Autistic series.) Jacob is a fictional character, not based on anyone, so any similarities to real people are coincidental.



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