Neurodiversity in the Workplace

The term neurodiversity was coined by Australian social scientist Judy Singer and refers to the range or diversity of ways humans think, learn and relate to others.

neurodiverNeurodiversity incorporates diagnostic labels such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia but it represents a paradigm shift in how these disabilities are viewed, especially in the workplace. Whereas in the past there was generally a greater focus on the negative attributes of neurocognitive differences, now there is emphasis on the special strengths and talents such diversity can bring to organizations.

Author Victoria Honeybourne focuses not only on the social justice case for offering employment opportunities to those with different brain wiring, she also makes a compelling business case for doing so. In The Neurodiverse Workplace: An Employer’s Guide to Managing and Working with Neurodivergent Employees, Clients and Customers (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, $26.95), Honeybourne provides examples of organizations that have benefited from the different perspectives of, and innovation driven by, their neurodivergent workforce. She highlights the ways in which they contribute creative solutions to age-old business challenges. Honeybourne encourages employers to leverage the talent of neurodiverse employees by understanding their individual needs and making the necessary accommodations that will set them up for success.

In The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $16.95), Thomas Armstrong recommends focusing on the specific abilities of each individual instead of regarding them simply as the sum of their disability label. He makes it clear that diversity among brains is as enriching as cultural and racial diversity, with chapters highlighting "the positive side of being autistic," "the joys of the hyperactive brain" and "the anxiety advantage."

As Armstrong states, "there is no standard brain, just as there is no standard flower, or standard cultural or racial group." --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer