Embracing Neurodiversity

When I was asked to write this blog, I accepted with eagerness – Jane, you have an interest in Neurodiversity – would you be willing? – and I said “Yes”, without thinking about it too deeply.

Yes, I do have friends and family who are Neurodivergent.

Yes, I am passionate about working with individuals and tapping into their uniqueness, and this topic is now starting to have a spotlight shone on it, much the same as mental health has done in the past few years.

Exploring the Unknown: Unveiling Neurodiversity Realities

However, after a little further research and a fabulous and very eye-opening session with Sam Tuckey from EY’s Neurodiversity Centre of Excellence – I realised in reality how little I did know on the subject, the sheer number of people who are affected, how we should be challenging the language we use, the misconceptions/stereotypes we still have and how organisations are getting their approach to neurodiversity totally wrong. There is a long way to go for society to be neuro inclusive.

Understanding Neurodiversity: Key Insights

I am by no means an expert but here are some of the key things I have learnt, and which I wanted to share with you.

We are all neurodiverse unique individuals. We need to embrace, recognise and accept the neurological difference we all have as a natural part of human diversity.

The majority of us have a neurotypical cognitive profile. However, around 15-20% of all the people living in the world are thought to have a neuro-difference – a neurodivergent cognitive profile.

No two people will be affected in the same way. Diagnosing can take a long time, and many people prefer to have no medical diagnosis at all. (Note the fastest growing population being diagnosed is women between 45-55).

By focusing on the diagnosis – the label – we can often lose sight of the person and the skills they bring, as mentioned above, no two people are affected in the same way.

How many times have you heard, “They must be Autistic/be on the spectrum/have ADHD” – but what is this based on?

Check your understanding first and seek to challenge your own bias, stereotypes and misconceptions. We all have a responsibility to think about the impact these statements may have over time when not based on fact, just judgement.

  • Have you ever made a throwaway comment similar to that based on a person’s behaviour/actions?
  • Did you seek to understand more?
  • Were you challenged?

If faced with the same situation again, might you stop and think before making an assumption/comment?

Neurodivergent individuals have a wealth of skills that are in demand in our data-driven world and as the skills shortage increases. Skills such as hyperfocus, logical problem solving, creativity, and attention to detail bring considerable benefits to innovation and product development strategies, agile ways of working, simplification of processes and speed of results.

There is a misconception, though, that hiring employees who are neurodivergent will mean expensive adjustments to hiring and onboarding processes, specialised in role support and work coaches, increased manager time and company-wide education programmes.

This may be true in some cases – however I would encourage you to think differently.

In reality, good leadership and a work culture of support, communication, empathy and compassion is the key to Neuro inclusion. Leadership 101 and good line manager skills – getting to know team members on a personal level, providing the support required may be all that is needed.

An adjustment for a team member who is neurodiverse might be as simple as a 10-minute chat every morning, helping them to prioritise the emails that have come in overnight.

Another might be as simple as a buddy. Another could be sending out PowerPoint decks ahead of meetings and asking for questions in advance. In all these cases, they are adjustments that can be put in place for everyone, which breaks down the barriers in the first place and normalises support.

Employers should seek to understand the accessibility needs of those with neurodivergent profiles and, where possible, adjust policies and processes to remove barriers.

Navigating Disclosure: Building Trust

Consider the recruitment process and the positive impact of providing interview questions ahead of the interview – allowing all candidates to prepare and be the best version of themselves at interview – not just an adjustment that Neurodivergent candidates may ask for.

This brings me onto Disclosure. In the example above, the candidate would only disclose they needed support at interview stage if they felt safe to do so – confident that being “out” as Neurodiverse would not have an adverse impact on how they were treated. The reality for most Neurodivergent candidates, that is not the case.

Lacking the confidence or skills to navigate complicated recruitment processes is one of many hurdles they face. The responsibility rests with organisations to break down the barriers for inclusion for all.

Continual Learning: Embracing the Journey

Looking at organisational strategy and policy through a Neuro Inclusive lens has benefits not just for employees and potential job candidates but for creating a more diverse and innovative society as a whole.

As I said at the beginning, I am no expert in this field and learning every day, but I am challenging myself to lean in more to understand and ask questions.

If you feel confident to explore Neuro Inclusion in your organisation, then I would encourage you to:

  • Understand the language around Neuro Divergency, what it means to be Neurodiverse and the scales at which it can affect people
  • Challenge misconceptions, judgements, and stereotypes – be an advocate for education on this topic
  • Make what you can accessible to all – scan your organisational processes and normalise asking for adjustments/support
  • Do what you can to encourage psychological safety – be authentic
  • Start a dialogue on the subject – Conversations are key

At Co-Creation, we are committed to being in this conversation – to seek to understand more and admit when we might get it wrong. Only by talking about Neuro-divergency can we make progress.

For more information on how we can support your organisations Diversity, Inclusion and Equity conversations and advice on helping your People Experience to be Neuro-inclusive, please get in touch. Call: 0161 969 2512, or email info@co-creation.group

Supportive reading:

Join-The-Dots-Workplace-Guide-1.pdf (madebydyslexia.org)

What is neurodiversity? – Harvard Health

Neurodiversity myths every employer must tackle | Bupa UK

Abstract design made of human head and symbolic elements on the subject of human mind, consciousness, imagination, science and creativity