Many believe neurodivergence refers only to autism, or to people who can’t work, or people who only work certain jobs, such as warehouse workers, document processors, or in tech roles, such as coding or IT, but neurodivergents work in all fields at all levels. Neurodivergence refers to neurotypes that are not neurotypical, the neurotype of most people.
Since everyone has a neurotype, neurodiversity includes everyone. Those everyones who are not neurotypical are neurodivergent: divergent thinkers. Despite my multiple neurodiversities, somehow my writing focuses mostly on the autistic experience. Autism is, however, only a fraction of the neurodivergent experience. It’s important, when seeking to include neurodivergents, to consider all neurodivergent neurotypes.
These neurotypes include dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism, Tourette’s, and dyscalculia. Neurodivergence, while a disability, comes with many advantages. The inherent skills of neurodivergents include logical, intuitive thinking, critical thinking, pattern recognition, deep empathy, high awareness of detail and patterns, visual awareness, and creativity, among many others. These skills enable neurodivergents to flourish in any field; we work as financial advisors, corporate executives, scientists, politicians, teachers and professors, artists of all kinds, including actors, visual artists, dancers, models, writers. Neurodivergents work as doctors, engineers, attorneys, journalists, and psychologists, as well. As I’ve said, any field.
Neurodivergence is commonly seen by society as a set of deficits: a listing of things these job seekers can’t do. The neurodiversity community follows the social model of disability, which says that a person is disabled when their environment fails to meet their needs. When given the right support, we can and do perform just as well as our neurotypical colleagues, though we commonly outperform them. Everyone has deficits, things they can’t do, but a focus on deficits does not help either employees or employers. And since society doesn’t focus on neurotypical deficits, why focus on neurodivergence deficits?
One key way to empower neurodivergent employees is to ask them what needs they have, how to accommodate them. Learn how they work and learn. Allow them to say, “I work best when…” Because when workplaces enable diverse workforces, employees who not only appear different from each other, but also think differently, everyone flourishes.