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Neurodiversity Celebration Week

Challenging misconceptions about neurological differences and celebrating talents of neurodiverse minds.


Neurodiverse employee celebrating Neurodiversity Celebration Week

About Neurodiversity Celebration Week


Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative which started in 2018 with the aim to change society's perception of neurodiversity and to create a more inclusive community that empowers neurodivergent individuals. It recognises and celebrates their strengths and talents, and also challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences.


During this year's Neurodiversity Celebration Week (Monday 18 to Sunday 24 March) there will be a wide range of panel discussions with inspirational speakers from different backgrounds and professions, aiming to raise awareness and inspire conversations about neurodiversity. All events are free of charge and open to all. Below is the full list of topics and you can register to as many panel discussions as you want:


Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2024 list of events



What is neurodiversity?


The term neurodiversity refers to the variations in the way the brain functions. Neurodivergent individuals think, process, and interpret information in different ways to most other people. Neurodiversity has a wide spectrum that covers a range of neurological conditions, such as:


These conditions very often co-occur and many symptoms overlap. They also often exist on a spectrum and can vary in their effects on different people. For instance, not everyone with Autism Spectrum has the same types or severity of symptoms.


The term is also used to represent equality, diversity and inclusion. Neurodiversity supports the view that neurological differences should not be viewed as deficits, but instead should be recognised and respected as other human variations. Neurodiversity takes a balanced view of an individual’s unique strengths and challenges.



Neurodiversity in the workplace



Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is essential for creating an inclusive and productive environment. Organisations that recognise neurodiversity in the workplace can gain competitive advantage in many areas such as increased customer trust and loyalty, enhanced brand reputation, improved productivity, increased revenues and market leadership. They can also benefit from better staff attraction and retention, and have a much richer pool of talent as a result.


"It is estimated that around 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent. This means that many organisations and businesses already have a neurodiverse workforce."


Why neurodivergent employees are important to your business?


Neurodivergent individuals think differently to neurotypical people, therefore they can be invaluable to a business as they may approach situations and problems in a different way. Often, their capacity for thinking in an unorthodox way means that neurodivergent employees can be skilled at things as varied as thinking outside of the box, solving complex problems, coming up with creative solutions, identifying patterns and trends, providing unique perspectives or paying attention to detail.



Neurodiverse employees working together in the office on the project

“Neurodiversity needs to be a key focus in an organisation's equality, diversity and inclusion work. The design of workplaces and people management approaches haven’t traditionally considered neurodiversity, meaning many employees may not be able to perform at their best. Action is needed to create neuroinclusive organisations and fairer workplaces, with equality of opportunity for neurodivergent employees (...)"


How can you support neurodiversity in the workplace?


With openness, understanding, and the right support in place, people with neurodiverse differences can thrive in the work environment, enabling them to make the most of their unique talent, attributes, and strengths. Below tactics can help you to leverage the full potential of neurodivergent professionals and create a more diverse workplace overall:



  • Get to know the individual to unlock their potential


Although there are some characteristics and behaviours that are common to specific neurodivergent conditions, it's vital not to make any assumptions, as these can vary from person-to-person. For instance, while one person with ADHD may have problems with concentration, another might not. Also, for some people, their neurodivergence can mean that they are better at some things than many other people, and for others additional support is required. As a manager, don’t overlook or misjudge talent in the workplace - if a person doesn’t meet every skill that you’re looking for, remember that they may exceed in other areas. Learning more about your team member’s neurodivergence will help you understand how you can best support their unique characteristics, strengths, and challenges, so that they can perform at their best and feel valued.



  • Accommodate different needs


While neurodivergent employees can bring unique skills and strengths to the workplace, they may also face some challenges and if their neurodivergence affects their daily life, it may be regarded as a disability under the UK Equality Act 2010. This legislation protects people from discrimination and it’s your responsibility as an employer to make any reasonable workplace adjustments to support neurodivergent employees at work. These adjustments could include:


Assistive technology and equipment

Assisted technology refers to any tool or device that helps individuals with neurological differences overcome challenges and perform tasks more easily. These could include speech-to-text, text-to-speech or mind-mapping software, dual-screens, time management apps, noise-cancelling headphones, or colour-coded calendars. However, it's also important to provide appropriate training on how to use assistive technology and equipment, as many neurodivergent people can find new software and tech adoption difficult.

Flexible working arrangements

Changes to the physical environment

Adapting communication style


Many of the adjustments that can be hugely beneficial for neurodivergent employees are inexpensive, small and easy to implement. They will enable employees to perform better in their role and reduce or even removes difficulties that can affect their health, wellbeing and work performance. Through our Management Referral service, Occupational Health Advisors can advise on reasonable adjustments and provide guidance on how to support the employee on an ongoing basis. They can also refer an employee for further, specialist Workplace Needs Assessment to establish what additional tools like specialist equipment, assistive technology or coaching, are needed to contribute fully towards achieving employee's goals, and the goals of the organisation.


You can find out more about reasonable adjustments in the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's video:




  • Raise awareness and foster conversation


Ensure that all employees are aware of neurodiversity and the benefits neurodivergent thinking can bring to the workplace. You could offer neurodiversity awareness training during the onboarding process (e.g. through e-learning modules) so that employees receive the necessary information and support right from the start when they join a company. Throughout the year, you could organise training sessions that go deeper into understanding neurodiversity and its implications within the organization. Employees could take part in activities like seminars or panel discussions with guest speakers about specific topics related to neurodiversity. To encourage open conversation around neurodiversity, employees could also share testimonies about their experiences in the workplace. Moreover, to increase understanding of different neurological profiles, you could share on the intranet a wide range of resources like podcasts, research studies, articles, books, interviews or videos. Through suitable training, staff can become comfortable about how to talk about neurodiversity and they can feel prepared to respond sensitively to a colleague disclosing as neurodivergent.



  • Create a workplace policy on neurodiversity


By developing policies to support neurodiverse employees, you can create an inclusive and supportive work environment where everyone can thrive. Policy would provide a framework for managers and employees to follow, setting out steps to help prevent discrimination and ensure that neurodiverse individuals have the same opportunities for success as their colleagues. This could also be a good place to signpost useful resources and support networks. It's vital that neurodiversity policy is well communicated to all employees, and reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of neurodiverse employees.



To find out more about neurodiversity in the workplace, have a look at the following guides:


You can also listen to CIPD's podcast to learn more about neurodiversity and the benefits it can bring to your organisation, and to find out how you can create a neurodiverse-friendly workplace where people can thrive:




Neurodiversity is fast becoming one of the key aspects of workplace diversity and inclusion with many organisations being now more open to hiring neurodivergent workers and willing to make the adjustments required. An inclusive workplace is not just a legal and moral obligation – it is also good for business. While neurodivergent individuals may face some challenges in the workplace environment, they can bring unique insight, skills, strengths, and diversity of thoughts. In a tight labour market, organisations need to get the best out of their workforce and the talents of neurodivergent employees are too valuable to miss. Various strategies can help employers not only to capture the full potential of neurodivergent professionals, but also better leverage the value of the overall workforce and create a better workplace environment for all. These strategies could include adopting inclusive hiring practices, providing reasonable adjustments, taking a strengths-based approach to skills, addressing negative attitudes, as well as building awareness and trust in the workplace through training. Creating a culture where all employees are understood, valued for their talents and treated equitably, can in turn increase talent acquisition, engagement, retention, and loyalty contributing to the overall success of the organisation.


 

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