3 Myths about Neurodiversity in the Workplace

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There are many myths revolving around neurodiversity in the workplace. Learn more about them now!

What is Neurodiversity?

  • Neurodiversity refers to the different ways a person’s brain processes information.
  • It is an umbrella term used to describe a number of these variations.
  • 1 in 7 people in the United Kingdom are estimated to have some form of neurodiversity.
  • Neurodiversity does not relate to low intelligence. Many neurodiverse people are highly intelligent.

Neurodiverse people often think about the world and perceive it differently, which makes them a huge asset to any team that wants to improve how they do things and deliver excellent service to whoever they work for.

The most common types of neurodiversity are as follows:

  • Autism (AKA autism spectrum disorder or autistic spectrum conditions)
  • ADHD (attention deficit [hyperactivity] disorder)
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia (or developmental coordination disorder, AKA DCD)

Some people may also consider the following as forms of neurodiversity:

  • Cognitive functioning difficulties or executive dysfunction
  • Dysgraphia
  • Misophonia
  • Slow processing speed
  • Stammering
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)

3 common neurodiversity myths

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1.     All neurodiverse individuals are alike.

No two people with neurodiversity are the same. Neurodiversity includes a broad spectrum of neurological differences, and everyone’s experiences are unique. For example, a person with autism may notice small details, while a person with dyslexia may be better at seeing the bigger picture.

Neurodiverse people can have vastly different abilities, strengths, and challenges. It is essential for employers to recognise and respect these individual differences and avoid making assumptions or generalisations based on someone’s neurodivergent status. By embracing the diversity of human brains, employers and employees can create a more inclusive and accepting society that values the unique qualities and contributions of each person.

Many people who identify as neurodivergent exhibit qualities that are as distinctive as their races, sexual orientations, ages, gender identities and marital statuses. In addition, many people have more than one neurodivergent condition as neuro-differences can overlap or be part of a spectrum. Therefore, people may not experience challenges the same way as others. They may also experience these challenges in different ways or at different times.

It is important to not just focus on one individual neuro-difference at a time. A wide variety of strategies and adjustments may be required. There is often an assumption that people know what they need and how to access it.

2.   Success in the workplace isn’t attainable for neurodiverse employees.

Neurodiverse employees can attain success in the workplace for several reasons. They can contribute their talents, skills, and perspectives in ways that can directly benefit their organisation’s mission and help support productivity and performance. More employers now recognise these benefits and have created hiring programmes that focus on recruiting neurodiverse candidates.

Besides noticing small details and seeing the bigger picture, neurodiverse individuals may also possess the following qualities that make them attainable to succeed in the workplace:

  • Innovation and creativity
  • Technical, design, and creative strengths
  • New ways to solve problems.
  • High levels of concentrations
  • Keen accuracy and ability to detect errors.
  • Strong recall of information and detailed factual knowledge
  • Reliability and persistence
  • Ability to excel at work that is routine or repetitive in nature.

In any workplace, it is vital to praise neurodivergent people’s individual success and accomplishments. This is because most employees may overlook certain achievements like submitting numerous tasks in one day or meeting new deadlines. For neurodiverse people, these are moments of pride. Taking time to praise all individuals on the successes of their goals is a brilliant way to make your staff feel included.

3.   Neurodiversity is a mental health condition.

Although neurodiversity is not a mental health condition, it can be associated with mental health conditions.  Neurodiversity is often different from mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, because it does not appear suddenly in adulthood or after a pivotal experience. Exceptions of mental health conditions that can appear in adulthood are PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and schizophrenia. Two out of every person who have ADHD also have a mental health condition such as anxiety and depression. Autistic people are at higher risk of developing mental health conditions compared to neurotypical people.

Employers must provide support for their neurodiverse workforces. Without support, neurodiverse team members could have poor mental well-being at work.

An example of a neurodivergent employee developing poor mental well-being at work could be that of an employer not giving the employee the proper tools to do their role and the employee being unable to perform to the best of their ability. This could cause the employee to become stressed and worry about losing their job. They could also develop a mistrust in the employer for not treating their diagnosis seriously. The employee may also become withdrawn and anxious at work.

How to support neurodiversity in the workplace

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Understand that different people have different needs in their workplace environment.

While it is easy to forget the physical environment when considering how to support neurodiverse employees, it is also an important factor. For example, autistic employees may be sensitive to noise and light, so setting aside quieter, less brightly lit areas is something to consider. Desk assessments can help identify whether computers are at the correct brightness level, and whether employees have the right equipment, such as in-trays, drawers, daily planners, and screen overlays. Offering flexible working opportunities can also be helpful.

Make communications clear and unambiguous.

It is vital to say exactly what you mean. Some neurodiverse people may not pick up on nuances in the same way a neurotypical person might do. Varying the format of your communications can also help people who digest information differently.

Help all your employees to understand neurodiversity.

Offering training in neurodiversity can help clear up potential misconceptions. This makes it clear that neurodiversity is not an illness or a single condition. This includes promoting the use of positive language, such as employees not referring to neurodiverse colleagues as ‘suffering’ from something or having learning difficulties.

To conclude, neurodiverse people have brains that process information differently from those of their neurotypical peers. No two people with neurodiversity are alike. Neurodiverse employees can attain success in the workplace if they have the right support. Neurodiversity is not a mental health condition. Ways to support neurodiverse employees in the workplace are adapting the working environment to their needs, making communications clear and unambiguous, and helping all employees to understand neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity Quizzes

If you think you might be neurodivergent, take our free online neurodivergent tests or book a workplace needs assessments. Please note that these tests are not intended to diagnose neurodiversity. Only qualified health professionals can make a formal diagnosis.

Useful links

Neurodivergent symptoms

What does neurodiversity mean?

Blog Author

April Slocombe