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Diversity & Inclusion Event 2020: What is neurodiversity and why should you care about it?

On Thursday 10th September I had the absolute pleasure of attending a workshop run by Neurodiversity Coach and Consultant Rachel Morgan-Trimmer where she opened up the conversation on neurodiversity, sharing her knowledge and personal experiences as a person with autism and ADHD.

This topic is particularly close to me as the proud big sister to my incredible younger sister who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. One of the things I have battled with is my inability to fully understand what it feels like to be her as much as I’d like to – so of course I jumped at the opportunity to continue to educate myself!

Rachel’s workshop was SO insightful and injected with personality from start to finish that I couldn’t resist putting pen to paper and sharing a few of my key takeaways.

 

So what is neurodiversity?

Given that neurodiversity is so frequently left out of the D&I conversation let’s make sure we’re aligned on what is actually meant by it.

Neurodiversity is the term given to a group of conditions which are characterised by the different ways the brain processes, interprets and responds to information. For the purpose of this workshop Rachel closes in on 4 different forms of neurodiversity:

1.     Autism

2.     Dyslexia

3.     Dyspraxia

4.     ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)  

One of the things I loved most about Rachel’s workshop was that the pressing aim was to educate us on what it feels like to be a neurodivergent opposed to what is meant by it. By this I mean there was less of the “autism is defined as…” and more of the “this is how a person with autism would typically interpret this message” – far more powerful and pertinent to understand in my opinion.

She achieved this by involving a combination of interactive tasks and visual representations that continually evoked that ‘light bulb moment’ throughout.

Another key focus was to shed light and debunk myths around traits that are characteristic of these 4 different forms of neurodiversity, not only for the purpose of addressing the challenges attached to certain traits but more importantly to celebrate the positive impact and value attached to others.

 

Why should you care?

This feels like a slightly odd question to ask because as Rachel points out, part of it is that it is simply the right thing to do.

It is the right thing to do to embrace and support neurodivergent people and action real change when it comes to building a more equitable and inclusive world, particularly when it comes to getting neurodivergent people into equal opportunities.

But aside from this, there are a million and one (okay, maybe not that many) reasons why you should care.

In short, neurodivergent people have A LOT to offer, just like anyone else and it is imperative that we begin to change the narrative that frequently tells us that neurodivergent people are less employable.

Take dyslexia for example, Rachel discusses how people with dyslexia tend to be extremely creative and insightful as a result of the way their brains process words and information in shapes and patterns.

Similarly, whilst it may be true that people with ADHD can be easily distracted and forgetful, they are also able to hyper-focus and multitask extremely effectively. Alike dyslexics, people with ADHD also tend to be extremely creative and ideas-led people.

If you’re a facts and figures kind of person:

💡25% of British CEOs have dyslexia

💡40% of the UK’s self made millionaires have dyslexia

💡Neurodivergent people are 30%-50% more productive

💡They learn faster - particularly people with autism

💡Nearly 60% of adaptations to facilitate neurodiversity-friendly environments cost NOTHING

 

Some of my other key takings from the session support the idea that one of the most powerful benefits of a diverse workforce is diversity of thought.

It is important to note that when I talk about a ‘diverse workforce’ I mean a demographic diversity that focuses on differences in culture, race, disability, neurodiversity, religion, gender, education, socioeconomics etc. and when I refer to ‘diversity of thought’ I am referring to the difference in thought as a by product of these demographic differences.

Something I bang on about a lot when arguing why demographically diverse companies are the key to success is that they are guaranteed to bring multiple viewpoints to the table. Multiple view points, ideas and solutions you could be missing out on that could mean more value for your business. And that’s what tech is all about, right? Providing solutions to problems?

Ask yourself this question: how do you solve a problem that has never been a problem for YOU?

When thinking about this idea in relation to neurodiversity, a term which is frequently talked about as a ‘difference in thinking’, surely this could only be another string to your bow?

Click here to watch Rachel Morgan-Trimmer's workshop: What is neurodiversity and why should you care about it?

(Sources: Harvard Business Review, JP Morgan Chase, US Job Accommodation Network, CIPD, Understood.org)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jamie Ferguson

Jamie Ferguson, Technology Consultant at Spinks

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