Most people are aware of the importance of a diverse workforce. When men and women from different backgrounds and generations work together, we all benefit from the unique perspectives everyone brings to the table.
Race, ethnicity, age, sex and religion are commonly recognized when considering diversity. But what about the different ways each of us learn and process information?
Business owners, employers and employees are increasingly recognizing neurodiversity in their workplaces. Neurodiversity is about acknowledging and celebrating the neurological differences among people. Some common neurological differences include dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
While the movement recognizes many conditions, the majority of attention is focused on integrating autistic individuals into the workplace. Autism, a condition marked by atypical social skills, difficulty communicating and distinct preoccupations and interests, has increased tenfold in the past 40 years. Today, one in 68 American children is on the autism spectrum. For reasons not totally understood, males are four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than females.
The “spectrum” refers to the varying degrees of differences individuals with ASD display. Approximately 40 percent of individuals on the autism spectrum have average or above average intellectual abilities. Others, meanwhile, are completely nonverbal. Then there’s Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition that’s similar—though milder—than autism.
The neurodiversity movement came out of the autistic civil rights movement in the 1990s. Proponents are working to help “neurotypical” people refrain from seeing autism and other conditions as disorders or diseases that need to be cured. Instead, they advocate recognizing the special talents neurodiverse individuals bring to the table.
Neurodiversity in the workplace
Individuals with neurological conditions hold a variety of jobs. Many individuals with ASD score very high on intelligence tests and possess a special knack for music, math and more. Many also have a special talent for focusing on small details and working with systems (as opposed to other people). These are great skills for a software engineer, a statistician or someone who works in quality control to possess.
Erie Insurance is proud to employ neurodiverse individuals and to promote the importance of a neurodiverse workplace. ERIE recently held a special Neurodiversity “Lunch and Learn” event for employees interested in learning how to more effectively work with colleagues who are neurologically diverse.
Interested in learning more about fostering an inclusive workplace for neurodiverse individuals? Then check out the following books recommended by ERIE’s corporate librarian:
- Asperger’s on the Job: Must-Have Advice for People with Asperger’s or High-Functioning Autism, and their Employers, Educators, and Advocates, by Rudy Simone
- How to Find Work that Works for People with Asperger Syndrome: The Ultimate Guide for Getting People with Asperger Syndrome into the Workplace, by Gail Hawkins
- Managing with Asperger Syndrome, by Malcolm Johnson