Neurodiversity refers to differences in the human brain and cognition, such as in sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions. It provides an inclusive view of cognitive diversity, highlighting the differences at a neuro-biological level while considering the socio-cultural contexts of a lived experience.
Neurodiversity involves everyone. It refers to the differences between how people think, process information, behave and communicate.
Neurodiversity emphasises that everyone’s mind works differently – including the estimated 15% to 20% of people with conditions such as an autism spectrum condition, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, developmental language disorder, dyspraxia, and social anxiety disorders.
Understanding the terminology
There are two terms – neurodivergent refers to an individual, and neurodiverse is for a collective. People who identify as neurodivergent typically have one or more of the conditions or disorders mentioned above. You can acquire neurodiversity at any point in your life. You could be born with it or it could occur after a trauma, for example.
Time to celebrate
Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences. It aims to transform how neurodivergent individuals are perceived and supported.
It provides opportunities for schools, universities, and organisations to recognise the many talents and advantages of being neurodivergent; and create more inclusive and equitable cultures that celebrate differences and empower every individual.
Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2023 will take place from 13 to 19 March.
How to support neurodivergent colleagues
Inclusion is critical, and it’s important to avoid an ‘us and them’ mentality between neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals in the workplace.
Challenging assumptions and increasing empathy is key in supporting neurodivergent colleagues. It may mean, for example, reminding ourselves that just because a person may find it difficult to communicate in ways expected in social norms, it doesn’t mean they aren’t listening or don’t have the capacity to. It could also mean remembering that there can be a disconnect between mind and body, and that a person’s actions may not reflect their intentions.
More advice for understanding and promoting inclusion of neurodiverse communities
Intelligence and social norms are a sliding scale, and neurodivergent people all sit on that scale. Understanding their communication preferences is essential.
Try to understand how they might experience sensory impacts such as lighting, smells, and sounds that can affect their ability to focus on tasks. Encouraging flexible working conditions, such as working from home, can help. But always keep the option to foster relationships and attend work and social events.
Empathy and understanding are essential. Neurodivergent people may find it harder to regulate their emotions compared to neurotypical people. Neurodivergent people may mask this, which can lead to extreme fatigue.
They sometimes also use self-soothing behaviour such as repetitive movements, whistling, humming, tapping, or clicking to help calm nerves in times of stress or sensory overload. This behaviour is subconscious, so they cannot just stop it at will.
The benefits of neurodiverse talent
There are many benefits to having a neurodiverse workforce. For example, studies show that dyslexia and ADHD are over-represented among entrepreneurs. Also, some people with ADHD can think very creatively or innovatively, and conceptualise solutions differently.
Some neurodivergent people can also be more focused or productive than neurotypical people.
From a team’s perspective, inclusion for neurodiverse communities allows access to a large and talented labour market, and can help promote employee engagement and retention. At Delta Capita, we believe understanding cognitive differences is critical to designing more effective teams. That’s why we view neurodiversity as a competitive advantage and welcome and support people with cognitive differences.
Support from Delta Capita
We want all our employees to feel included, regardless of cognitive differences, beliefs, backgrounds, or identities. Employees who are supported in this way generally feel more contented, and have more sense of engagement and belonging in the workplace.
If you are looking for a new workplace that values diversity and employee wellbeing, check out Delta Capita’s vacancies. Also have a look at our Reinventing Hub, which shows how we are reinventing the workplace through employee-centric projects.