Neurodiversity Training for the Workplace: How can it Help Your Company?

As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) becomes increasingly prevalent, it is important for companies to understand how people with autism can be a true asset to an organization. Hiring and creating a functional workspace for individuals with diverse talents and needs can help organizations reach their business goals, create a healthier and more inclusive workplace, and provides more opportunity for individuals with ASD to contribute their talents and skills in a meaningful way.

Paul Shattuck, an associate professor of health management and policy at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health and director of the Life Course Outcomes Research Program at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, recalls when autism was almost unheard of:

“It’s big news. Twenty years ago when I started in this field, autism was a condition that few people had heard of unless they had seen the movie Rain Man. But since the diagnostic criteria for autism have changed, we now include more people under that umbrella term than ever before.” -Paul Shattuck

With the surge in autism diagnoses comes a strong call to action in the workplace: for organizations and employees to understand the diverse group of individuals with ASD and take appropriate steps so that they can create a powerful relationship with a neurodiverse workforce.

Neurodiversity Defined

If you were to look up the term neurodiversity in the dictionary you would find this definition: “The range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders)”.

Neurodiversity is a concept that is gaining more awareness, but many companies are still not grasping the importance and benefits of understanding neurodiversity and how to effectively incorporate these individuals into their organizations.

Neurodiverse Individuals Often Struggle to Find Careers (Unnecessarily)

People who are neurodiverse will often fall along the autism spectrum or have some other cognitive difference. While these individuals are very talented, intelligent and diligent workers, they face challenges when it comes to landing professional careers due to bias and miseducation from peers and potential employers. A study done by Drexel University found that 58% of young adults on the spectrum are not employed.

Currently, 70,000 teenagers with autism enter the adult world each year. Over the next ten years there will be more than 700,000 adults on the spectrum who will be in need of employment. It is important to note that people do not grow out of autism spectrum disorder: a child on the autism spectrum one day becomes an adult on the autism spectrum.

The lack of employment can be detrimental to the well-being of neurodiverse individuals resulting in financial stress, isolation and co-dependence on family, government and other external organizations.

Unemployment of Neurodiverse Individuals Negatively Impacts Businesses

Miseducation and unemployment of neurodiverse individuals also has a negative impact on companies, whether they realize it or not. Those who are considered neurodiverse possess unique skills that others may lack, such as strong analytical skills, pattern recognition, mathematical thinking and information processing.

These are all skills that are in high demand when it comes to careers in robotics, process automation, artificial intelligence and other areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Many companies struggle to find qualified candidates for these positions because they continue to look in the depleted pool of conventional candidates and are overlooking those who think differently, even though they may be a perfect fit.

Neurodiversity training in the workplace is a highly beneficial way to bridge the gap between the professional workforce and neurodiverse individuals.

Why Are Neurodiverse People Ignored?

Oftentimes neurodiverse individuals are neglected when it comes to employment because organizations assume that they will require extensive accommodations, which would result in spending more money to hire them. However, Peter Cappelli, a Wharton management professor director for the school’s Center for Human Resources, refutes this. He says, “Sometimes they (companies) may think there are a lot of accommodations required, but typically, the accommodations are pretty trivial.”

Shattuck says, “We go into all of these conversations assuming that no one has extra money to put into this. I just always start conversations with our business partners like, ‘Look, this will not cost you money. If anything, it will enhance your bottom line because it’s going to make you better at your business.’”

A manager who can lead a diverse, inclusive workforce rather than a workforce consisting of people who are all “similar” will be a much more well-rounded, valuable asset to any company.

What Exactly is Neurodiversity Training?

Neurodiversity training programs help organizations attract, hire and retain talent that thinks differently. This training is highly beneficial because it educates employees and management about neurodiversity at work and how to create a more accepting, inclusive work environment so all members of the company can thrive.

These programs also provide management and HR recruiters with tactical training in hiring neurodiverse individuals.

How It Works

The IBCCES neurodiversity training program can be conveniently completed in a self-paced, online environment. All of the content is available 24/7 and dedicated support is provided.

Nine modules are included  in the training. These modules cover:

    • Why neurodiversity matters
    • Autism in the workplace
    • ADHD in the workplace
    • Learning differences in the workplace
    • Neurodiversity and mental health
    • Inclusive hiring
    • Disclosure
    • Working in a neurodiverse team contributing to a supportive culture

The neurodiversity training program is appropriate for all employees within an organization, with a 4 credit hour online training program that is specifically for employees involved in the hiring or management process.

Some of the key areas that IBCCES’s neurodiversity training focuses on include building empathy across the company’s culture, understanding the business case, breaking through myths and stereotypes, inclusive hiring tips, and supportive coworking.

Neurodiversity Training Requirements

A wide variety of organizations, both in the private and public sectors, are suitable for neurodiversity training. These industries include:

  • Technology Companies
  • Defense
  • Manufacturing
  • City and County Government
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Attractions
  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Dentists
  • Therapists
  • Early Childhood Centers
  • K-12 Education
  • Higher Education
  • Tutoring Centers
  • Camps for Kids

To participate in the neurodiversity program and become certified, an organization must be dedicated to serving individuals on the spectrum and be willing to train at least 80% of their staff while committing to ongoing training.

Benefits of Neurodiversity Training

According to research, an organization that serves neurodiverse individuals is a strong indicator of a healthy, supportive workforce. Hiring people on the spectrum not only benefits them, but organizations are able to gain team members who think in unique ways and can provide innovative solutions that others may not think of.

“This is not a charity act to do something nice for a person with autism; this is about having a more inclusive workforce because we value diversity in our society.”- Paul Shattuck

Including neurodiverse individuals in leading companies is a crucial step in creating a work culture that prioritizes different ways of thinking and acceptance of people from all walks of life.

Employees who undergo neurodiversity training are also at an advantage because they will gain the skills they need to interact with individuals who have cognitive differences. This makes these employees highly valuable and indispensable.

Creating a Culture to Celebrate

Neurodiversity training is something companies are taking advantage of to gain access to the untapped talent that neurodiverse individuals can provide. The training offers organizations the opportunity to cultivate a professional culture they can be proud of that values celebrating diversity and uniqueness.

Understanding neurodiversity and the individuals who fall within this category is extremely necessary if companies want to stay ahead of their competition and continue to fill their positions with qualified, talented employees.

To learn more about the neurodiversity training program click here.

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