What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the concept that individuals will experience and interact with the world in many different ways and will generally refer to everyone as people will all think, learn and behave in different ways. However, the term is often associated with the diverse range of neurological conditions that are presented in individuals which include examples such as ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia , Dysgraphia and Tourette’s syndrome. This leads us on to Neurodiversity Celebration Week which begins on Monday 13th March to Friday 19th March of this year (2023).
What is Neurodiversity Celebration Week about?
Neurodivergent conditions are often stigmatised and given negative connotations, whereas the purpose of Neurodiversity Celebration Week is to challenge these stereotypes and misconceptions and create a more inclusive culture for supporting these individuals and recognising the many talents and advantages of being neurodivergent. From an organisational perspective this is a great opportunity to recognise neurodivergent conditions, providing necessary support while also being able to utilise individual’s unique skills for the benefit of the business.
What actions can employers take to support Neurodiversity in the workplace?
- Learning about Access to Work and signposting to this where necessary
Access to work is government funded and aids with the costs of putting in adjustments in place if an employee has a physical or mental health condition or disability. This can help in enabling individuals with these conditions to stay in work and improve their capabilities at work which is a win-win for both employers and staff. Further information on this is available from the gov.uk website - https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work
- Check if you have appropriate policies and practices in place for Neurodiversity
If you have any policies in place for this subject, are you and your managers following these to best support staff within your organisation? If you do not have any policies around this then it may be worth considering if this is something you would like to focus on to demonstrate your commitment to supporting these members of staff going forward and develop an inclusive culture. A review of other policies may also be necessary to check that these do not indirectly discriminate against individuals with neurodiverse conditions and cause them a disadvantage as a result of processes that have been put in place.
- Training/educating managers and staff on Neurodiversity
This could include formal training programmes which provide a more comprehensive overview for the topic or even signposting staff to useful resources or charities that can provide further assistance. If staff and managers are more informed around these things then it can also reduce the likelihood of conflicts arising between people if they understand the ways in which different people work and that not everyone necessarily thinks exactly like they do. For example, if someone with a neurodivergent condition was to say something that someone found offensive, this may not have been intentional on their part and other employees being able to identify that can be helpful in avoiding further escalation in these situations where the two may decide to have an amicable discussion instead.
- Realise the benefits of neurodivergent staff to the business
There is a stigma around recruiting and supporting individuals with neurodiverse conditions as they may be perceived as a problem to be ‘solved’ or ‘accommodated’ but the reality is that this can be a skilled talent pool that other employers are not taking advantage of. These individuals can also have various strengths which can fill a skill gap within your business and may be perfect for addressing a particular project or role. In a lot of cases, investment into these individuals can provide long term benefits for businesses, particularly around retention as these employees recognise that inclusive culture that the business has created.
If you are aware that an employee has a neurodivergent condition, consider what this means in terms of communicating certain messages. For someone with Autism, this could mean being straight forward in what it is that you expect, what you want from them and providing clear instructions as opposed to using ambiguous language, metaphors or even sarcasm to convey something to them. Think about how you are introducing any new policies/practices and have any changes been communicated effectively and do you need to have a further conversation to ensure that everyone is aware of what is being proposed.
- Reasonable adjustments
Where an employee has a disability in the workplace, it is a legal requirement to implement any reasonable adjustments to remove or reduce the disadvantages that an individual has because of their disability. Beyond this, it is still good practice even where an employee is not officially diagnosed or is having difficulty at work, to support them where you can to ensure that any disadvantages are mitigated to enable them to work to the best of their ability while they are at work.
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