What is Neurodivergence? Creating an Environment for Neurodiversity
With rapidly growing ADHD and Autism rates, the need to understand neurodiversity is essential if we are to create inclusive workplaces.
So what is it? Neurodiversity is the idea that it is normal and acceptable for people to have brains that function differently from one another. It is about fostering an environment where brains that process information differently from the majority, also known as the neurodivergent brain, are offered an opportunity to thrive while participating in company-wide initiatives.
Neurodivergence is tied to neurological disorders. These disorders affect the brain as well as the nerves throughout the body. The structural, biochemical, or electoral abnormalities of these disorders can result in a range of symptoms impacting the way a person communicates, behaves, and learns. Examples of neurological disorders include but are not limited to Dyslexia, ADHD/ADD, Autism, sensory processing disorders, and more. Corporations limit their ability to leverage the strengths of neurological disorders when they are unaware of their unconscious bias towards them.
Where Unconscious Bias Creeps In
To start taking part in the advancement of neurodiversity it is crucial to understand the role our biases play when neurodivergence is explicitly or implicitly communicated. This means adopting a mindset that someone who has a neurological disorder is not necessarily unable as much as it means different. It is normal for the human brain to want to reject the differences by considering them unable. Still, this thinking discourages inclusion and bypasses the great strengths that come with this different thinking.
For example, suppose someone was to communicate that they have the neurological disorder of ADHD- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Instinctually, the unconscious bias will focus on the negative of someone with that type of disorder. Society has painted this disorder of ADHD to look like one of a young boy. This image includes a hyperactive, hard to control and disorganized boy with poor social skills. Though some of those traits are related to ADHD, that description alone is not what ADHD is. This is especially true in how ADHD manifests in a potential candidate who is nowhere near the age of 8. Most of that hyperactivity is in the brain and how that manifests in behavior varies from person to person.
The Strengths of Neurodivergence
We can seek clarity with insight when we reframe the way we view neurological disorders by catching this negative bias. Yes, people with ADHD struggle with hyperactivity, but it looks different from an 8-year old boy’s. Does the candidate in front of you resemble an 8-year old boy? Do their credentials resemble an 8-year old boy? We question these things because we don’t want to project assumptions about how capable someone might be because of the brain’s bias toward a symptom, hyperactivity, of ADHD.
The truth around ADHD and hyperactivity is most of it takes place in the mind, meaning the brain is hyperactive or always running. This symptom comes with great strengths and weaknesses. Hyperactive minds have the ability to analyze extreme detail and see things that regular minds take a lot longer to see. They are great problem solvers and innovation gurus and can hyper-focus on a task for extremely long periods of time. The weaknesses include it can be extremely difficult to manage a hyperactive mind because of the need for sensory stimulation to calm those neurons.
An Inclusive Environment for Neurodivergent Minds
All this to say, those who face neurological disorders should be considered fully capable people that just require different needs. In all workplaces, we are aware of the risks that come with unmet needs, our fully capable people become incapable.
Awareness is key in starting to create those environments that meet neurodivergent needs. Neurodivergent needs often include sensory needs, such as sound sensitivity, touch sensitivity, or movement. Needs can also revolve around communication, ensuring the desired outcome or focus of a task is clearly received because we understand brains receive information differently. Training recruiters to practice non-judgment of a candidate’s social skills because of somebody’s natural difficulties with processing and communicating information. Certain social skills can be learned and developed if necessary but don’t have to determine a candidate as qualified.
Move Beyond a Neurotypical Candidate Experience
Everything about the candidate experience has been centered around a neurotypical candidate’s brain and behavior. If we can re-evaluate, we gain access to a pool of incredible talent waiting to be used; it just looks different. As Harvey Blum notes in the Atlantic, “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? How absurd it would be to label a calla lily as having “petal deficit disorder” or to diagnose a person from Holland as suffering from “altitude deprivation syndrome.” Accepting this mindset that different is okay, we open our organizations to enjoy the true essence of what is a calla lily.
TalVista provides technology to make recruiting and hiring processes more inclusive for all groups. We use technology to help you disrupt the existing quo and eliminate prejudice in the hiring process, allowing you to hire from a larger pool of talented and diverse candidates with better equality and impartiality. Contact us to learn more.