Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Make the workplace more inclusive
Neurodivergence is fairly common, so most workplaces are already neurodivergent. Yet, there is still a lack of understanding around most forms of neurodivergence, and misperceptions persist. It therefore makes sense for organisations to take steps that make their neurodivergent staff feel valued, part of the team and supported to contribute fully towards achieving the goals of the organisation.
Creating a more inclusive workplace can:
- highlight the employer's commitment to diversity and inclusion
- reduce the stigma around neurodivergence
- make staff feel safe and empowered to disclose a neurodivergence
- make it more likely that neurodivergent staff will be treated fairly by their managers and colleagues
- open the organisation up to a pool of talent that may otherwise have been overlooked
- help retain skilled staff and reduce recruitment costs.
Neurodiversity is a relatively new term that many people may not yet know much about. However, learning more about neurodiversity and taking steps to better support it in workplaces can be hugely beneficial for employers and employees.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people naturally think about things differently. We have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.
Most people are neurotypical, meaning that the brain functions and processes information in the way society expects.
However, it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) are neurodivergent, meaning that the brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Neurodivergence includes Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
Types of neurodivergence
Most forms of neurodivergence are experienced along a 'spectrum'. Each form of neurodivergence (such as dyslexia and autism) has a range of associated characteristics and these can vary from individual to individual. For example, the effects of dyspraxia on one person can be different to another person who also has dyspraxia. The effects on the individual can also change over time.
Additionally, an individual will often have the characteristics of more than one type of neurodivergence.
It is therefore important that people are not stereotyped according to the better-known characteristics. For example, not all autistic people will be good at maths.
Despite this, it is still helpful to have an awareness of some of the indicative traits that each type of neurodivergence can have:
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders)
It is estimated that about 4% of the UK population have ADHD. It affects the person's ability to control attention, impulses and concentration, and can cause inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Some people have problems with attention but not the hyperactivity or impulsiveness. This is often referred to as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).
People with ADHD can often be good at completing urgent, or physically demanding tasks, pushing on through set-backs and showing a passion for their work.
Autism (which includes Asperger's Syndrome)
It is estimated that about 1-2% of the UK population are autistic. It impacts how a person perceives the world and interacts with others, making it difficult for them to pick up social cues and interpret them. Social interactions can be difficult as they can have difficulty 'reading' other people and expressing their own emotions. They can find change difficult and uncomfortable.
People on the autistic spectrum are often very thorough in their work, punctual and rule observant. Many autistic people develop special interests and can hold high levels of expertise in their given topic.
It is estimated that 10% of the UK population are dyslexic. It is a language processing difficulty that can cause problems with aspects of reading, writing and spelling. They may have difficulties with processing information quickly, memory retention, organisation, sequencing, spoken language and motor skills.
People with dyslexia can often be very good at creative thinking and problem solving, story-telling and verbal communication.
Dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder)
It is estimated that up to 5% of the UK population are dyspraxic. It relates to issues with physical co-ordination, and for most, organisation of thought. People with dyspraxia may appear clumsy or have speech impediments and might have difficulties with tasks requiring sequencing, structure, organisation and timekeeping.
People with dyspraxia often have good literacy s
Other forms of neurodivergence include Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette's syndrome. Like other forms of neurodivergence, these bring strengths as well as difficulties.