Written by: Kathleen Kitching
The first question you might have is ‘what in the world is Neurodiversity Celebration Week’. Well, I’ll tell you! It is a worldwide initiative that helps to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions about autism and other learning disabilities. It is a week where schools can support their students with unique learning differences by committing to take part in this week.
Did you know that 1 in 5 children has a learning difference? This means that about 15% of children in every school and classroom and later on the workplace has a learning difference. Learning differences such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Tourette syndrome. Unfortunately, those children are faced with the challenge of having 33% of teachers and other educators not believing that their thinking challenges are anything but an excuse for laziness. They also have the added challenge of having 43% of parents not wanting their children and themselves to be stigmatized because of the neurological difference. No, these children won’t grow out of their learning differences, and because of a lack of support, 76% of these children will grow up and enter university and won’t disclose their disability to the university robbing them of the support they so desperately need.
Although Neurodiversity Celebration week is primarily about children in the school system who struggle with conditions like ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Tourette syndrome; I want to shift the focus and discuss what happens when those children grow up and enter the workforce and adult life as contributing members of society. Because of the growing awareness of neurodiversity among children, there are opportunities like Neurodiversity Celebration week that help to provide support for those children in their formative years. This is not necessarily the case when those children reach adulthood. So what happens to those children when they do become adults and enter the workforce? Unfortunately, that transition for some can be very difficult and for others, impossible.
In a Harvard business review article titled Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage, Gary Pisano states that “Neurodiverse people frequently need workplace accommodations, such as headphones to prevent auditory overstimulation, to activate or maximally leverage their abilities.” Because of needs like this and the lack of many companies accommodating neurodiverse individuals, two things happen. Either those individuals cannot get hired and if they do get hired, they eventually leave; or those companies miss out on the many benefits neurodiverse individuals bring to the table, such as pattern recognition, memory, mathematics, creativity, and a number of other skills.
There is a solution that some companies are employing to recruit and retain neurodiverse employees such as changing their HR processes to hire and develop those employees. The benefits are significant if this change is made and they include things like productivity gains, quality improvement, boosts in innovative capabilities, and employee engagement. The sad truth is that 80% of the neurodiverse population is unemployed leaving a largely untapped talent pool that could greatly improve a business. It all starts with the recruiting and hiring process and making it so that neurodiverse individuals are given a chance to participate and show what they can bring to the table. In time, with awareness and with companies like Microsoft and Ford who are employing new processes to include the neurodiverse population, we are headed in the right direction.
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