First off, I usually mention that I have "Aspergers which is a mild form of autism." I'm never sure who is familiar with "Aspergers", but I believe most people can understand "mild autism".
My Partner was the first person to be informed about my Aspergers. Actually, she and I found out together so it was easy. If she hadn't known, she would have been the first person I talked about it with. She's my partner of 18 years and my best friend:)
After my Partner, I mentioned it to my family physician. My Nurse Practitioner has a mental health background and is very Smart. She has helped me find the right medications to manage my high anxiety (a hallmark and bane of Aspies) and my chronic insomnia.
Next, I told family members. I had a lot of explaining to do there, but I think it helped them understand why I've behaved in different, unpredictable, anti-social ways. I'm glad I could clear up their misconceptions about me. I'm not difficult, rude, inconsiderate Or self-centered...just an autistic with oversensitivities normal for my species:)
My older son also has Aspergers, so I needn't have explained much to him. He and I share the majority of Aspie traits. My LittleGuy, who is almost ten, I waited until he was about five or so, and let him know why mommy is different and stays home a lot. As he has grown and matured, I've been able to share what makes me different and what is very challenging for me due to my Aspergers. He asks questions, now and then, and I answer truthfully and based on his comprehension.
It seems like...some people might harbor shame or uncertainty about being autistic. It's just who we are. I feel no need to hide it. It no longer makes me feel vulnerable when I mention it to others. On the contrary, I keep finding more people that want to help and understand me.
Back to the original question.....It's important that close friends know I'm autistic. I have very few, but I talk to them about it. My neighbors, whom I frequently run to when I'm in distress or get horribly scared and confused, are also on my "need-to-know" list. This helps out especially when I am overwhelmed in tears and distress. I don't have to work so hard to make words and force msef to talk. I have great neighbors...now that I think about it.
Another group of people I feel should know, are my LittleGuys school teachers. I deal with these people on a daily basis and I know I am different. I often need to ask questions more than once; I need help understanding forms and assignments NTs usually comprehend. I oft get emotional, (yup, I'm a bust out in tears when I get stressed person) when discussing tough issues and they tend to be pretty darn understanding and try and help me. So teachers are important to inform.
My dentist is another person that comes to mind. Although I have the greatest, most compassionate dentist and techs, I'd like to think they treat me just a little more gently than most. Hmmm, if that is one word of the wise, that I could share with everyone..."Treat the Aspie more gently".
One topic I keep reading, is probably the toughest to decide upon.....do I tell my employer? This one is so individual as each employee and employer are different in understanding. I really don't know. I haven't been employed or employable for years. I could probably only get a job if my employer knew about my autism and was a disability-friendly workplace. I wish I could be of more help on this issue.
I just wanted to share my knowledge on this subject. I hope it helps:)