Neurodiversity is a Competitive Advantage
The concept of neurodiversity is known for a while now, and it’s supposed to mean that brain differences are no more than just differences. In other words, there are no values ascribed to this phenomenon. It doesn’t have to mean anything good or bad. It rather depends on the context.
This explains that there is nothing abnormal about conditions like autism or ADHD. They are being explained as “variations of the human brain”. Diagnoses are just labels to which we ascribe obsolete judgments of value.
Each of us will at some point show some differences when it comes to abilities and behavior. Neurodiverse people prefer the phrase “differently-abled”.
Sure, there are some genetic differences that have an impact on who we are, but there’s also the fact that none of us had the same upbringing. We were not raised the same way.
Our way of thinking and problem-solving skills are affected by our own preferences and experiences.
This is why we can’t find two identical personalities and characters.
The same conclusion can also be brought by measuring differences between neurotypical and neurodiverse people. For the first category, we could say that there are things they’re good at, but also those they’re bad at. For the rest, the situation is more complicated.
Neurodiverse people can have one genius-level skill, which is quite rare and uncommon among the neurotypical people but they can also have a lot of troubles dealing with some simple and basic issues.
SOME FACTS ABOUT NEURODIVERSITY
The basis of neurodiversity is scientific and comes from brain-imaging researches.
These studies had shown differences between kids when it comes to thinking and learning processes.
The differences depend on the way that the brain works, and it’s proven different for some of them (it supports the functions of learning somehow differently).
Although the results explained the source of difficulties that neurodiverse people have, the neurodiversity is all about accepting these differences and embracing them as something normal. The idea is that these people should not feel isolated or weird more than the others.
However, while being absolutely similar to the rest of the world by look, these people have some trouble blending in and getting accepted in society.
Sometimes when they act unusual and unexpected, they get a lot of negative responses from those who didn’t understand them.
This is why it’s crucial for people to learn more about neurodiversity and the ways to blend in and get along (for those who fall in the category of neurodiverse people).
Education is a key to the success of these people, and the first step of finding their own place in this world.
The neurodiversity certainly brings a lot of challenges, as well as some benefits and strengths. There is no doubt that neurodiverse people did so much for human society.
Therefore, if there were wishes to “cure” or “remove” these differences, our society will get hit by a massive loss of brilliant ideas, inventions and more. That way, we would do more harm to humanity than good.
Here are some examples of successful (possibly) neurodiverse people who changed the world:
According to his long-term partner, he had shown some signs of autism many times, and also admits that he recognized them by himself. A movie they watched together reminded him of his autistic behavior when he was a little kid, he recognized the signs.
His partner claimed that while Tim used to get busy working something, he turned himself off for all noises and interruptions around, so much that he couldn’t hear her calling him.
Professor and psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald has done research from which he found out that Charles Darwin was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
Some records he found from Darwin’s childhood also stated that he was a quiet, less social and isolated kid who didn’t interact with other people unless it was necessary.
Some facts about this famous scientist’s life point to the possibility that he was a neurodiverse person as well. As already known, he was antisocial, even as an adult.
And in childhood, he had speech delays and echolalia. In other words, he repeated sentences to himself.
There are some changes this genius mind was also neurodiverse, as he suffered from dozens of phobias, was isolated most of the time, was more sensitive to light, and of course, was obsessed with the number 3.
Allen stated a couple of times that he had lots of neurotic habitats that he showed frequently, such as fear of elevators and tunnels, and many weird habits.
For example, he couldn’t stand having a drain in the shower in the middle of the bath.
Depending on the condition, most neurodiverse people show strengths and skills in various areas. Here is the list of some of them we’re most familiar with:
- ADHD: Ability to hyper-focus, increased creativity, sense of inventions, high levels of energy, etc.
- ASD: Higher concentration on preferred areas, long-term memory, ability to think more visually, ability to find patterns, noticing more details, increased perceptual functions, honesty, loyalty, etc.
- DYSLEXIA: Intelligence, ability to see patterns, ability to see the bigger picture, creativity, and better imagination, etc. (Fun fact: 50% of workers at NASA are dyslexic).
- DYSCALCULIA: Improved creativity, better problem-solving skills, improved strategic thinking, etc.
- DYSPRAXIA: Creativity, better determination, good sense of humor, etc.
- DYSGRAPHIA: Great verbal reasoning, etc.
ONE IN EVERY 100 PEOPLE IS AUTISTIC
According to this website’s article, one person in every 100 has some type of autism; from those with barely recognizable symptoms to those with larger disabilities who need constant support and help.
Baron-Cohen, a well-known neuroscientist, helped in spreading awareness of autism since his pioneering psychological studies when autism was spotted for the first time. He was also the first to start a diagnosis clinic in the UK 20 years ago, for those having Asperger syndrome.
However, according to one of his researches, increased education and awareness of autism and similar disorders didn’t bring many improvements in these people’s lives.
In his study where he worked with autistic adults, he revealed they were having a lot of negative experiences, such as lack of money for basics stuff.
Also, 20% of research participants confessed that they’ve been sexually abused by their partners.
The results only proved the toughness of the challenges that neurodiverse people face every day. Even the diagnosis can take years; some people live with it without ever recognizing the signs.
More than a decade ago, The autism act demanded from the government to form a strategy for better support of autistic people, but it didn’t work out as planned.
NEURODIVERSE PEOPLE JUST NEED A LITTLE SUPPORT
According to The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, autism is being diagnosed for 1 in 42 boys, and 1 in 189 girls.
And while the corporate programs are focusing mostly on autism, they are starting to take care of those with ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, anxiety disorder and many similar conditions.
Some incredible abilities of people with these disorders are yet to be discovered, but for now, we already know they’re good at finding patterns, memorizing things, doing mathematics, etc. Unfortunately, even with these skills, some of them struggle to get a job since they don’t meet all the desired requirements.
For those who do have a job, there are many challenges and obstacles to pass, including interpersonal ones.
Besides that, the office environment must be adapted to their needs. The common office interior is not adequate for neurodiverse people since it has too many distractions, including lights, noises, electronics, etc.
Neurotypical people find it easy to focus on the work and totally ignoring the familiar sounds, smells, and light, but an autistic person needs to look for something that will help them isolate.
There are different strategies working for them, and one of the best ones is listening to music with headphones on their workplace.
Another thing that they’re used to do is taking breaks alone, making sure they won’t get distracted so easily. And even some of these behaviors can seem a little awkward to neurotypical people, it’s very helpful for the others.
By developing some of the useful habits that remove distractions, neurodiverse people can show their best abilities and be very productive at work.
It’s important to understand that in most cases the obstacles and challenges in the office are manageable, while the potential returns are amazing.
Companies will need to adjust the environment just enough for every type of person to fit and change the profile they’re seeking for recruitment.
Nowadays, plenty of companies are starting to make changes in their HR processes, aiming at discovering new neurodiverse talents.
Here are some examples: SAP, Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, UBS, Ford, Dell, Willis Towers Watson, EY, and more.
The programs are in the early days and will take some time to progress.
Yet managers at SAP, the company that started only 4 years ago, claim that they’re already paying off in many ways.
That includes reputation improvement, better productivity, quality boost, improved employee engagement, etc.
Managers from HPE South Pacific agree with them, adding that there is nothing else that would transform changes into benefits at so many bases.
And surprisingly, the greatest benefit all managers noticed is connected with all employee’s work habits, creativity, and sensitivity. They started understanding individual needs better than ever, making it easier to work with people they now know so well.
NEURODIVERSITY AT WORKPLACE
The unique skills and perspectives make neurodiverse people see the world so differently than the others. This ability is mostly highly beneficial to companies they work for.
However, they’re being misunderstood, abused or ignored very often for their differences.
The reason for being rejected could also be their bad social skills or unexpected behavior, even honesty. These traits can make them problems while attempting a job interview or maintain the position.
The National Autistic Society stated that compared to 77% of autistic people who are looking for a job, only 16% are actually employed. And the barriers are various.
Some of them might have negative experiences from previous roles, while others may be confused by what the new position brings.
But recently, workplaces are transforming into easily accessible, diverse places. We started to appreciate different people’s talents include them in many aspects of the business world.
Now that it’s well-known how common neurodivergence is, many workplaces adapted to neurodiverse employees.
The misunderstanding about these conditions is now in the past but there are still some steps to take in order for autistic employees to feel more valued.
They should gain enough support to be able to reach their goals and keep being productive. By creating a more suitable office environment and work conditions here are what will affect:
1) Improve manager’s understanding of diversity
2) Ruin the wrong preconception of neurodivergence
3) Empower and encourage employees to expose a neurodivergence and still feel safe
4) Increasing chances of being treated with respect in case of having one of the conditions
5) Welcoming new, fresh and aspiring talent that could motivate other employees
6) Keep the already skilled employees and decrease recruitment costs.
But the conversation about neurodiversity should certainly be two-way. What’s crucial in this case for the workplace neurodiversity is how employees feel when speaking of their conditions and are they even able to do so.
In other words, changes are necessary for those who have in mind people with neurodiverse conditions when recruiting new workers.
They can’t simply blend in if the conditions and organization of the team and duties aren’t adjusted.
BENEFITS OF NEURODIVERSITY
SAP has great plans for people with ASD, they want people with this diagnosis to make 1% of the SAP workforce by 2020. Because 100 people with ASD already work for SAP.
Integrate people with ASD in the IT sector? Why not, SAP, along with HPE are large companies that are already known as good examples that are betting to integrate people with ASD.
Employers in every company want to have a college with great skills, and that is the reason why more and more employers are beginning to develop hiring initiatives focusing on recruiting neurodiverse people.
They are not only good for big companies, but smaller companies also had a lot of benefits from people with ASD in a variety of industries.
A lot of companies said that they had noticeable benefits, both financially and in terms of workplace culture by hiring neurodiverse workers with a competitive edge.
Any company wants a very dedicated employee, and that’s what they get if they actually consider what neurodiversity can bring to their organization.
A PERFECT JOB
Only in the last decade, there were far more new job opportunities for those with neurodiverse conditions.
Those diagnosed with autism started enjoying success in many different careers, such as:
7) Animal-related jobs. They’ve proved to be good with animals, more than humans, so careers including vet technicians, pet trainers, and animal care-taker at zoos are the best options.
8) Computer programming or software developing. Their mathematical and logical skills are high enough to support this kind of job. The ability to recognize patterns, memorize faster and more efficient and focus effectively makes them perfect candidates for careers in the IT industry.
9) Science, researching, lab technician or assistant. As previously stated, their unique skills and patience allow them to do any job of this kind, but under the right workplace conditions. They are capable of giving full attention to all the details some people might not notice, which is often crucial for many fields of science.
As a matter of fact, 50% of NASA’s workers are neurodiverse.
10) Manufacturing. Most of the autistic people find themselves happy doing this kind of job since they’re relaxing doing repetitive movements in a controlled and simple environment with little distractions. One thing these people enjoy a lot is rebuilding and crafting, and this is why the job at the assembly line might be perfect.
After thoroughly researching the phenomenon of neurodiversity, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that neurodiversity Is a highly ambivalent trait. It can mean a plethora of different things and many of them are not good or bad per se. It just depends on the context in which those traits are rooted.
The way that society labels, brands and reflects neurodiversity also has a lot to do with how the neurodiverse individuals will impact society as a whole.
That’s why it’s important to raise awareness on all the positive traits that neurodiverse people have as well as to put to good use their many talents, some of which might very well change the course of history.
Other than that, we don’t have to take into consideration the potential ingeniousness of neurodiverse individuals.
Raising awareness about neurodiversity as a competitive advantage may bring profit to entrepreneurs or just make the working environment more pleasant, thus emanating positive vibes into the atmosphere and making the world a better place to live in.
- Keep in mind that not all gifted people have ADHD, ASD, or the other conditions listed here, and thus pay attention not to take the “wrong” approach in interacting with them (such as pressuring them to take medication)
- Keep in mind that not every person who has ADHD, dyslexia, etc. is high-IQ
- Keep in mind that the traits explained above do not apply to men (as shown in the examples), but also can be the case for any women or minorities.
Giftedness can appear to align with some of these elements listed above. To be clear, there is nothing “wrong” with having these conditions. But we must be careful to help you understand the traits of each feature so that you can best understand how to engage with them. For example, it can be very detrimental–even destructive–to interact with a gifted person who has a psychomotor hyperexcitability in the same way that we would interact with a person of normal intelligence who has ADHD.
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