Ida from Spark!

How are different brain structures and strengths showing up in your workplace?

illustration of multiple rows of different kind of vehicles
Have you ever heard someone use the term “neurotypical” or “neurodivergence” and had no idea what they were talking about? Here’s a hint: they were talking about neurodiversity.

Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s: neurodiversity bucks the traditional medical model of treatment for one of acceptance and support. People who are diagnosed with these types of disorders are known as “neurodivergent,” while others are referred to as “neurotypical.” Overall, it suggests recognizing and celebrating the diversity of brain structures, rather than pathologizing and seeking to “cure” what is now considered a normal variation in brain development.

Believe it or not, neurodivergent people are estimated to make up between 15% and 20%1 of the global population!

But here’s the catch, neurodivergent folks usually need specific supports to work effectively in a neurotypical world. Neurotypical people don’t need the same accommodations because our society was largely built by neurotypicals for neurotypicals: the world is already built to accommodate their needs.

As an example, let’s use a car analogy: every car is different. Some cars are work trucks, they have the strength to tow massive loads and handle off-road conditions with ease. Sports cars, on the other hand, excel on smooth pavement while struggling on the dirt and underutilizing their power among crowded city streets. Economy cars, however, make excellent city vehicles with good mileage despite city traffic.

Now imagine a world made up 80-85% with trucks. There’s no pavement, because they never really needed it. There’s still a lot of Mustangs parked in garages, but nowhere to drive them. Rather than lifting the Mustangs and sticking them with off-road tires, we should build roads that meet their needs, allowing their strength to shine where trucks otherwise could not. And at the same time, the trucks see the benefit of the roads as well!

How to make a workplace more neurodivergent-friendly

Because of the fundamental differences in the way neurodivergent folk’s brains are wired, these people bring tremendous value to organizations that learn how to harness their capabilities. Different perspectives, novel ideas, intense attention to detail, pattern recognition and advanced math skills: neurodivergent folks bring a wide breadth of skills and strengths to benefit businesses.

Providing, or at least allowing, noise-canceling headphones, offering dark, quiet and isolated break spaces, and allowing modifications to the work uniform are key to accommodating these sensory needs.

What you can do today

Neurodivergent folks sometimes struggle with communications, so keep everything as clear and concise as possible. Written communication and instructions are ideal. Sarcasm and euphemisms are likely to float in one ear, and out the other, leaving a trail of confusion behind.

Routine and structure is key. Neurodivergent people often live highly structured and organized schedules. Do your best to provide advance notice and reason for sudden and abrupt changes and adjustments.

But most of all, don’t make assumptions. If you’re unsure how someone works best, don’t be afraid to ask. Having an open dialogue is best practice to ensure everyone’s needs are being met and address any causes for concern.

How do I recruit more neurodiverse employees?

Here’s the big kink in the hose: neurodivergent people often have difficulty with the usual interview process. Some are skilled interviewers, but many are not. Your organization's interview process could be unintentionally weeding out neurodiverse candidates before they even get their chance.

Although making adjustments to your organizations to better accommodate neurodivergent people seems like a lot of work, the best part is that it can also benefit neurotypical employees. Using a strengths-based approach, and Human-Centered YOUnity™, to identify individual strengths and challenges can help your organization meet employees needs while fostering their development and personal growth. This investment could improve overall employee wellbeing and company success. 
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1 Doyle, N., & Colley, M. (2022, April 25). Neurodiversity - NCI. DCEG. Retrieved August 25, 2022, from

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