Neurodivergence at work

Neurodivergence at work

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends | Contributors: Keith Gelhorn (CEO, ADDvocacy ADHD & Life Skills Coaching) | Published: May 1, 2024

Nowadays, it seems that the words “neurodivergent” and “inclusion” are floating around all over the place. But what do these words really mean, and why should you care about them?

Although initially intended to describe Autism, neurodiversity is now an umbrella term that includes Autism, ADHD, and Learning Disabilities. Individuals with neurodivergent brains may not think or behave in a “typical” fashion. Yet, these differences are to be celebrated as an aspect of diversity rather than seen as abnormal or problematic.

We are starting to see a shift in workplace culture towards equity and inclusion, with employers starting to recognize neurodivergent individuals as part of the disabled community. The voices from the neurodivergent community itself are growing louder by the day, with many taking full advantage of today’s digital world as a way to share their experiences and celebrate their identities with pride.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice as high as for those without, and the vast majority of persons with disabilities live below the poverty line. This is especially true for individuals with ADHD and ASD, who are greatly misunderstood and face high unemployment rates, even though they are often highly skilled and educated.

When those who do not fit the standard employee model are left out, everyone in the equation suffers. The individual suffers by losing their opportunity to engage in the world, the employer suffers by overlooking the talents and hidden potential within this demographic, and the broader community suffers when so many voices are silenced. We need to change how we think about diversity and disability.

Neurodivergent individuals can be highly successful at work when given access to different working conditions and when they can fully engage in tasks that align with their strengths and interests. Too often, the conversation focuses on deficits and challenges instead of looking at the many strengths of neurodivergent minds. Some examples of these strengths are being creative, taking a non-linear approach to problem-solving, pattern recognition, and the ability to hyperfocus and become subject matter experts.

Some examples of simple accommodations include alternative interview processes such as written evaluations and telephone interviews, being given specific written instructions that outline tasks and expectations, having flexible hours, being allowed to work from home, having a quiet workspace, removing obligations to attend social events, and accepting alternative forms of communication.

Currently, the government earmarks funds to help disabled people find employment; however, that money is usually given to disability organizations that are not run by disabled people. A company may make a policy for equity and inclusion and feel that its target has been met by hiring one or two “token” disabled employees.

Inclusion is about people feeling safe and respected for who they are. When a culture of safety and helpfulness is cultivated, every employee, disabled or not, can be more authentic and engaged, and this will increase the growth of any business. “Nothing about us, without us” has long been a slogan of the disabled community. If your company or organization is looking to create real social change, look for professional development training that is created and facilitated by people with disabilities.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends

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