Supporting Your Neurodiverse Employees
Did you know that April is Autism Acceptance Month? With an average of 3-4 people out of 10 being neurodiverse and Autism only being 1 of 6 standardly recognized neurodiverse conditions, employers must ensure these employees are seen, heard, and supported.
If you’re an employer, you likely have a neurodivergent employee. It is important to remember that every neurodiverse person is different, even if they share the same condition. Some may choose to disclose while others may not. Some may require and request accommodations or support in the workplace to produce their best work, while others won’t. While no two neurodivergent people are alike, we wanted to share a few simple ways to help create a supportive work environment for any employees that identify as neurodiverse.
Be Aware of Unconscious Biases and Use Positive and Inclusive Language
Anywhere we are, but especially in the workplace, intentionally choosing our words is one of the most impactful steps towards creating a more inclusive world and comfortable space for everyone.
The words we use to communicate help us form connections with each other and our surroundings. They can just as easily be used to exclude people and promote negative biases even when that isn’t the intention. Ensure that your staff uses inclusive and positive language and that you are leading by example so that neurodivergent employees know they can feel comfortable expressing themselves in the workplace.
Ask Your Employees What They Need
Make sure your staff knows they can speak with their manager and HR about their condition. Start the relationship off on the right foot by asking your team how they learn best and what communication styles work for them as a part of the onboarding process. Creating an open conversation will help employees relay any requirements or accommodations that they will need to complete their best work. Do your best to provide what you can or work to create a plan to meet in the middle wherever possible. Never assume what accommodations employees will need if any at all. No two neurodivergent people are the same, even if they share a condition.
Clearly communicate instructions and expectations
While there are no hard-and-fast rules to communicating with neurodivergent people, there are a few general guidelines that may help:
- Slow down and make sure to pause between thoughts.
- Give clear and direct instructions and prioritize them in order of importance.
- Avoid euphemism and sarcasm, as many neurodivergent people have trouble recognizing them and may misinterpret your meaning.
Remember that neurodivergence doesn’t have a “look” or “sound”. As an employer, it is always important to teach your employees and management teams about unconscious biases so they can be more aware of their language and actions. Everyone has a way they like to be communicated with, whether neurotypical or not. Partnering with all your employees on their best method of communication will go a long way.