Neurodiversity is the term used to cover those with attention, communication, visual or physical disorders that fall outside the parameters of what would be considered neurotypical or ‘normal’ cognition. The most common conditions include Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Tourette’s.
Last month, the new Neurodiversity in Business group launched, and their initial findings estimate that between 15% and 20% of the UK population, and therefore our Jewish community too, is neurodivergent.
They also referenced statistics by the National Autistic Society showing that only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment and almost half have lost or left a job because of challenges caused by Autism.
Work Avenue’s mission is to ensure that all people can earn their living to support themselves and their families, whether they are neurotypical or neurodiverse.
Research has shown that neurodiverse individuals possess unique strengths in a number of areas vital to business, including innovative thinking, productivity, diligence and attention to detail.
The more employers can attribute real value to people who think a little differently, the more they can drive innovation and a workforce that mirrors the world around us.
The good news is that what may seem a big change for our communal employers, can actually be achieved with some simple adjustments and education. Changing the scenery of an interview to make it less focussed on eye contact is one such example.
The next step – to create a true culture of inclusivity – is for organisations to focus on creating the kind of safe environment that enables all employees to bring their whole, authentic selves to work, including feeling comfortable enough to bring up any issues with colleagues and managers.
At Work Avenue, we are learning everyday by working with clients who are aware of their neurodiverse skills, and many others who have not received a diagnosis but still suffer from the obstacles to work that their behavioural skillset can generate.
One of our clients, Steve Ingram – who has Autism and ADHD – describes the way forward using the concept of a bridge.
“You have to imagine that both the employer and the would-be employee need to build a bridge towards each other.”
“A lot of people, both neuro-diverse and neuro-typical, do not know how to tell their story in a positive way.”
“There needs to be support for the employee to understand and explain their condition, so that they are empowered to tell their story correctly. And the employer also needs support to understand what they can do to help bridge this gap.”
If we are to consider this sort of systemic change needed then, as Steve has outlined, our community needs to work equally from both the perspective of the employer and employee. We need to remove all obstacles that prevent people engaging productively in the workplace and performing well.
And that challenge begins today.