Neurodivergence in the work environment

Neurodivergence in the Workplace

I was discussing this one with a colleague very recently and was surprised to find out that people only tend to think about ‘special needs in relation to Neurodivergency‘ when it relates to children and schools. Even more to my surprise was when someone commented ‘Haven’t they got over all that by the time they become old enough to work!’.  Errrrrrrrrr…..NO!   Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia etc…..don’t disappear along with leaving school, the same differences remain, although some people find it easier to mask their challenges as they get older.

Inevitably, I guess, a lot of people with Neurodivergent brains will self-select to either work for themselves or veer towards jobs that don’t necessarily tie them to a desk (e.g….telecoms engineers etc..) but there are still huge numbers of people working in all environments who may be struggling with something as simple as the flicker of a fluorescent bulb, noise pollution, claustrophobic office space or disturbing smells coming from the nearby canteen.

Making allowances for people with Neurodivergent brains isn’t actually any different from making adjustments for people who are partially sighted, we wouldn’t randomly move a chair in case they fell over it and just because autism etc….isn’t as obvious, doesn’t mean it isn’t an equally compelling case for making allowances and enabling that person to live and work in a more stress free environment.

Enabling people with Neurodivergent brains should be a priority for any company who values their staff, and the bonus with solving the issues these guys may have is that they work extremely efficiently when their environment is good.  

But here’s the rub, because labels like Autism, Dyslexia, Bi-Polar etc.. still carry such negative connotations, the people affected by these ‘differently wired brains’ often don’t wish to disclose to their seniors that they have any struggles.  

Obviously, this means that knowing how to help can be impossible if no-one is aware that there may be any challenges in the first place!

So the first situation to be overcome is the one of negative perceptions generally held and encourage people to focus more on the talents and and unusual skills that the atypical brain tends to carry with it.  If our attitude towards autism, ADHD etc….were more positive then more people would be happy to share that information, and therefore, be offered any adjustments to their environment that they may require in order to function more happily and therefore more efficiently.   A win, win for everyone!

We need to be more open and far less judgemental in our appraisal of how efficiently people with atypical brains can operate, just because their brain is wired in a different way doesn’t mean that it should be assumed that they will struggle in all areas of life.  And the contrary is very often true, their strengths in other areas far outweigh their difficulties in the few that do cause issues.

So, let’s use peoples ‘labels’ as purely a reference point from where to start, in order to have a better understanding of the person.  That label shouldn’t be used to define our expectations of what they may or may not be capable of, which, by the way, is often a whole lot more than some of us would like to believe or accept!

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