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Neurodiversity at Work: Managing a Truly Diverse Workforce

Learn about what neurodiversity is and how to better accommodate it within your organisation.

Business Life Neurodiversity Diversity
  • Release Date: 07 March 2023
  • Update Date: 06 December 2023
  • Author: Speaker Agency
690X460 Neurodiversity

Diversity and inclusion have been very hot topics in corporate and education sectors. There is still one type of diversity that is too often ignored - neurodiversity. 

Fortunately, you can read all about  neurodiversity. The variety of  conditions it's associated with, common terms, and its benefits below. You can even get a comprehensive lowdown on how to better support neurodiverse individuals within your organisation.

Defining neurodiversity

You might hear neurodiversity being described as those of us that have non-typical brain function. You may even hear the neurodiverse being designed as those that don’t think ‘normally or typically.’

Consider neurodiversity as a recognition that brains can be structured and function differently.  There is no single ‘right or normal’ type of brain function. 

Types of neurodivergence

Conditions commonly associated with Neurodiversity include: 

  • ADHD - A highly complex disorder that can be challenging to diagnose and treat. Symptoms of ADHD vary from person to person but may include difficulty concentrating, being hyperactive , impulsive , being disorganised, and restlessness.
  • Autism - Also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - is a brain related disorder that affects communication and behaviour. The symptoms of autism vary greatly.  

But mainly include difficulty with social interactions, repetitive behaviours, struggle to understand verbal or nonverbal cues, and difficulty with communication. Autistic people are often amazing at pattern recognition. 

  • Dyslexia - A specific learning disability that affects reading, writing, and spelling. It is manifested by difficulty in accurately processing written text information. Dyslexia can also cause trouble with organisational skills, auditory perception, and language sounds  awareness.

However, there is also a range of other conditions, that may be described as being neurodiverse in some cases including: 

  • Down syndrome.
  • PTSD.
  • Traumatic brain injuries.
  • difficulty with maths
  • Mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and more.
  • Prader-Willi syndrome.
  • Dysgraphia (difficulty with writing).
  • Dyspraxia (difficulty with coordination).
  • Intellectual disabilities.
  • Sensory processing disorders.
  • Social anxiety (a specific type of anxiety disorder).
  • Tourette syndrome.
  • Williams syndrome.

The terms high and low-functioning

In addition to the conditions mentioned above, the terms high and low functioning are often used to describe someone with neurodivergence. High and low functioning can be used as a way to judge and discriminate against those with neurodiversity. 

Describing an individual in terms of the level of care and support they need can be a much more positive approach. 

Neurodivergence disability & mental illness

While neurodiversity is not a disorder, it can also be co-occurring alongside disorders, disabilities, and mental illness. 

Although it is crucial to remember two things here:

  • The first is that individuals will always experience their neurodiversity differently. 
  •  Secondly, disability needs to be considered in terms of how society prevents neurodiverse people from being able to function. 

The benefits of neurodiversity

There are a wealth of benefits that come with being neurodivergent , not just challenges.. 

Indeed, JPMorgan Chase (2021) reported that neurodivergent workers could be up to 140% more productive than their neuro typical colleagues. Neurodiversity in business can provide a competitive advantage.

How can organisations better support those with neurodiversity?

There are a range of effective ways to support neurodiversity in the workplace. Neurodiversity in the workplace uk is being more talked about on platforms such as LinkedIn. 

Provide calm spaces 

Provide calm spaces, shorter meetings, and flexible hours. 

Use inclusive language 

Use inclusive language in your policies, advertising, mission statement, and handbook. Instead choosing neurodiverse inclusive language will help you encourage more neurodiverse people to join your organisation. 

Update your recruitment practices 

A candidate with autism may struggle to maintain eye contact.  While another candidate with ADHD may jump between topics. Yet they could still be ideal for the post. 

Update your recruitment practices to better suit neurodivergent people. 

Investing in Neurodiversity Training

690X460 Neurodiversity At Work

Neurodiversity training can provide a wealth of benefits in your organisation, for both the neurodiverse and the Neuro typical. Inclusive workplaces facilitate a better and smoother working relationship. 

Neurodiversity training sends a supportive message to any neurodiverse person considering joining your organisation. 

Clear communication is one of the most crucial ways that organisations can support neurodivergent individuals. Neurodivergent employees, especially those with autism can find euphemisms, or sarcasm difficult to understand. 

Clear communication around acceptable behaviour in the workplace can also be very helpful. 

Some neurodiverse individuals may be unable to read as social cues, and unwritten rules.

Lastly, clear messaging around schedules and routines can be helpful for some neurodiverse employees. With changes to schedules and routines being made with plenty of early notice.

Summary

Remember that: 

  • Neurodivergence is a term that describes different types of brain function. 
  • There are a range of conditions that can be associated with neurodivergence, and the main ones are Autism ADHD and Dyslexia. 
  • Using high and low-functioning terms concerning neurodivergence can be problematic.  
  • Neurodivergent individuals can bring significant value to an organisation. 
  • Case Studies show significant benefits to encouraging neurodiverse individuals to join your organisation. 
  • Everybody’ s experience is different
  • Adopting diverse and inclusive working practices like-flexible work- can help better manage a neurodiverse workforce.
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