Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Thrive Thoughts

Neurodiversity is a relatively new term which by definition refers to people who have neurological conditions including autism, ADHD and dyslexia. However, a definition which we learnt from Caroline at creased puddle is one that we would prefer to use which is that neurodiversity is “the acceptance that everybody’s brain works in a different way”.

Until recently people who have neurological conditions have been treated in a very different and unfair way to how society recognises neurodiverse people now. For example, the history of autism began in 1908 when the word autism was used to describe schizophrenic people who were self-absorbed and withdrawn. In 1967 it was confirmed by a scientist called Bruno Bettelheim that “refrigerator mothers” (as he named them) were the cause of autism by not loving their children enough. In 1987 a study was released which explained how intensive behaviour therapy would help children with autism which they claimed gave “hope” to parents. Even right up to 1998 an incorrect idea was held accountable for the cause of autism which was that the measles-mumps and rubella vaccine caused autism. It is clear from these allegations that people who have autism have always been treated differently, however, this is now beginning to change.

One of our key passions here at Thrive is mental health and as neurodiversity is a form of mental health, we feel that it is important for people to engage and learn about techniques which can be used to reach a neurodiverse employees full potential.

Learning about neurodiverse individuals has taught us that there are some very simple changes that can be made to make someone who is neurodiverse feel safe and comfortable, particularly in a working environment, but also in everyday life. In a working environment one reasonable adjustment which you should make is as simple as asking someone who is autistic a closed question, such as, “are you okay” rather than “how are you” which has endless answers and could make someone feel uncomfortable. We also learnt that it is important to think about location if you are going to organise a meeting with someone who is neurodiverse because a meeting in a coffee shop is a popular choice, however, for someone who has ADHD it could be very distracting leaving them feeling restless and unable to concentrate. The accommodations that a business would have to make are manageable and the rewards could be outstanding.

Today the pioneering companies who are pursuing neurodiverse talent are the first to realise that employing people who are neurodiverse can be a huge competitive advantage for businesses. A number of people who have these neurological differences have a higher than average ability at work than those who do not. Research into this has shown that it is particularly skills in pattern recognition, mathematics and memory.

One company known to us who have changed their recruitment, selection and career development strategies to become more inclusive of neurodiverse individuals have seen enormous benefits, such as, productivity gains, quality improvement and broad increases in employee engagement. The managing director of the company said that “no other initiative in the company has delivered benefits at so many levels”.

Personally, we feel that ‘one size does not fit all’ is a really important concept to remember when thinking about human beings. Additionally, with this in mind we can embrace individuality and get to know our employees better by helping and accommodating them rather than trying to “cure” them.

Written by Annabelle Oliver,


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