Neurodiversity in the Workplace: A Spectrum of Potential

Jul 27, 2023

In an ever-evolving professional landscape, one concept that is gaining significant traction is 'neurodiversity'. Neurodiversity simply means there is a range, or diversity, of ways in which human brains function, think, learn, and relate to others. It's a recognition that we all function in different ways. These variations are not just normal but advantageous! Today's post explores neurodiversity in the workplace, the benefits it brings to organizations, and how the law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), protects neurodiverse individuals.

Understanding Neurodiversity

Judy Singer first coined the term “neurological diversity” in the 1990s. Today, the concept of neurodiversity encompasses range of characteristics. Here are some of the most common:

  • Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding).
  • Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder, affects fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults.
  • Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability in math, which impacts a person's ability to understand numbers and learn math facts.
  • Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities, making the act of writing difficult and often leading to issues with letter formation, linearity, spelling, and more.
  • Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a behavior profile seen in people with a specific type of autism. People with PDA will avoid demands made by others, due to their high anxiety levels when they feel that they are not in control.
  • Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity that interferes with functioning or development.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
  • Tourette's Syndrome is a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that can't be easily controlled. For instance, you might repeatedly blink your eyes, shrug your shoulders or blurt out unusual sounds or offensive words.

Many of these conditions have been labelled “bad” by our society. Neurodivergent individuals are often seen as people who need greater care, are unable to care for themselves, or can’t contribute. These assumptions are wrong. A neurodivergent is just as capable as a neurotypical. Oftentimes, neurodivergents will bring unique skills and abilities to their endeavors, including in the workplace.

The Benefits of a Neurodiverse Workforce

Contrary to old, stigmatizing perspectives, neurodiversity is not a hindrance but an asset. Here's why:

1. Diverse Skills and Strengths: Neurodiverse individuals often exhibit unique skills such as exceptional memory, detail-orientation, creativity, or problem-solving capabilities.

2. Innovation and Adaptability: Neurodiverse teams can offer different perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, driving innovation and adaptability.

3. Workforce Representation: Embracing neurodiversity aligns with societal progress towards inclusivity, providing equal opportunities for all and ensuring a representative workforce.

4. Customer Engagement and Trust: Customers and clients (the reason most businesses exist) are also neurodiverse. A business that embraces difference will appeal to many more customers.

Protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Despite all the benefits of a neurodiverse workplace, some employers are unwilling to adjust to the times. Stigmata against neurodiverse people is alive and well in the American job market. Fortunately, Iowa and federal law often protect neurodivergents from discrimination at work.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including neurodiverse conditions.. This can mean modifying work schedules, restructuring jobs, providing technology or other workplace aids, or modifying tests, training, or policies. Moreover, the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs. This extends to all stages of employment, from hiring to promotions and benefits.

As an employment discrimination plaintiff's law firm, we are committed to protecting the rights of neurodiverse individuals in the workplace. We understand the unique challenges faced by neurodiverse employees and are committed to providing the legal guidance and support necessary to protect and advance their rights.

Neurodiversity adds depth to the talent pool, encouraging creativity and innovation while promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment. As a society and as workplaces, we must continue to strive towards understanding, accepting, and celebrating the full spectrum of human neurodiversity.

*Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.*

For more information, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. Together, we can work towards an inclusive, diverse, and equal-opportunity workplace for all.