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Neurodiversity in the Workplace

What is neurodiversity?

You may have heard the term neurodiversity when discussing education, employment, activism or many other areas of life; if not, continue reading! According to Harvard University, “Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one "right" way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits” (Baumer, 2021).

While neurodiversity encompasses the diversity of all people, it is often used to refer to people on the Autism Spectrum, in addition to, many other developmental or neurological conditions such as ADHD (Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder). Being neurodiverse essentially means that you learn and think differently than neurotypical people. People with ADHD may think more big picture and people with Autism may be more detail-oriented (Embracing Intensity, 2023). People with autism often focus on details before concepts, while people who are not autistic are concept before detail thinkers (Silvertant, 2023). Some people may think in pictures or patterns versus words (Embracing Intensity, 2023). People also learn in a variety of ways including seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling. However, it’s important to remember all neurodivergent people are distinctive individuals and not necessarily representative of patterns.

People you might know who are Neurodiverse

Many people have misconceptions about neurodiversity. Common misconceptions are, neurodivergent people are unsuccessful in the workplace or they are unaware how many neurodiverse individuals there are. Many successful and impactful people you might know are neurodivergent. Dan Aykroyd whom you may know from Ghost Busters is a popular comedian, an academy award nominated actor and writer who has Aspergers (Kapur, 2023). As does Eminem, 15 Grammy Award-winning rapper and songwriter. Elon Musk, an inventor, engineer, CEO and entrepreneur of many businesses, as well as, one of the richest people in the world, often credits his autism for contributing to his success (Wolmark, 2023)!

The unique traits associated with being neurodivergent vary with each individual and can contribute to them doing great things. The same applies to other forms of neurodiversity such as ADHD. Olympic Gold Medalists Simone Biles and Micheal Phelps have both been diagnosed with ADHD and singer, Justin Timberlake has ADHD and OCD (Bahandari, 2023). They identify some of their neurodivergent traits as the key to their success. While not all people who are neurodivergent will go on to become Academy Award Winners or Olympic Gold Medalists; they do all have diverse gifts they can bring to the career they choose to pursue. In fact, you probably already know or work with someone who is neurodivergent! Research suggests that 15-20% of the global population is neurodivergent (AskEARN, 2023).

Skills Associated with Diverse Ways of Thinking

While no two neurodivergent people are exactly alike, some of the skills and talents

associated with diverse ways of learning and thinking are transferable across many

industries such as:

  • Innovation and creativity

  • Technical, design and creative strengths

  • New ways to solve problems

  • High levels of concentration

  • Keen accuracy and ability to detect errors

  • Strong recall of information and detailed factual knowledge

  • Reliability and persistence

  • Ability to excel at work that is routine or repetitive in nature (AskEARN, 2023)

Employers who hire neurodiverse employees often recognize these positive

impacts in the workplace.

  • They have the ability to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses helping them reach their full potential in the workplace.

  • When people share different ways of approaching situations or solving problems we learn new ways of doing things that can be more effective.

  • People absorb information differently. They might learn by listening, seeing, reading or practicing.

  • Different perception and out-of-the-box thinking precede innovation.

  • They question the status quo in order to create new ways of doing things.

  • Drawing connections between things neurotypicals miss.

  • Provide a better understanding of consumers. After all, they account for 1/5 of our population (Terkel, 2021)

Hiring Neurodivergent Workers

Hiring neurodivergent workers can have a positive impact on your workplace culture, financials, job retention and give you a competitive edge. Many businesses around the world from small to large Fortune 500 companies are reaping the benefits of hiring inclusively (AskEARN, 2023).

One way they are optimizing productivity is by creating customized roles and programs that fit “the talents, strengths, skills, and needs of neurodivergent workers” (AskEARN, 2023). This allows workers to focus on the areas they excel at in order to provide the employer with the best possible results. If this is something you are interested in, SMART Options can help you create customized roles that maximize abilities for increased efficiency and positive long term outcomes.

During the recruitment and hiring process, there can be barriers to inclusivity. A few things you can do to find and attract neurodiverse employees are:

  • Work with an inclusive employment agency (SMART Options!)

  • Post inclusive job postings,

  • Allow for a variety of interview formats and

  • Provide a supportive working environment.

SMART Options Supported Employment Services are always here to help! We offer informational interviews, inoffice presentations, and are more than happy to answer questions about this largely untapped talented labor pool. Additionally, all our services are FREE!

Reference list:

AskEARN. (2023) Neurodiversity in the Workplace. Retrieved from

Bahandari, S. (2023) Celebrities with ADHD. Retrieved from

Baumer. N. (2021) What is Neurodiversity? Retrieved from

Embracing Intensity. (2023) Neurodivergent Thinking Patterns. Retrieved from

Kapur, J. (2023) Thirty Celebrities Who Have Autism. Retrieved from

Silvertant, M. (2023) Thinking Styles in Autistic People. Retrieved from

Terkel. (2021) Strengths that come from Thinking Differently. Retrieved from


Therapy Focus. (2023) Understanding Neurodiversity. Retrieved from

Wolmark, M. (2023) Does Elon Musk Have Autism. Retrieved from


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