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Closing the Neurodiversity Employment Gap

Author - Freya Thompson

Date published:

Neurodiversity consultant and coach Mark Charlesworth kicks off our series on neurodiversity by explaining what neurodiversity is and the steps we need to take in order to put an end to the neurodiversity employment gap.


What is Neurodiversity?

The term ‘neurodiversity’ was first coined in 1998 by Judy Singer in her contribution to an academic series on disability, human rights, and society. The phrase initially referred to those on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Condition is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how a person thinks, recites, recalls, processes, learns, and retains information differently to those not on the autistic spectrum.

‘Neurodiversity’ has since branched into becoming an umbrella term for other neurodevelopmental conditions that handle information differently in the ways described, such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Dyspraxia.

Whilst in its purest sense, ‘neurodiversity’ means a diversity of difficulties, styles, and strengths of thinking, recalling, learning, etc., the neurodiversity ‘movement’ focuses on those who handle information differently because of a neurodevelopmental condition.

The conditions have an impact on a person’s social interaction too, but there is no correlation between a person’s intelligence and whether or not they have a neurodevelopmental condition.


The Neurodiversity Employment Gap

Despite, in most cases, having good to high intelligence, there is an employment rate disparity between those with the neurodiverse conditions above and their peers. Less than 20% of neurodiverse adults aged 16 to 64 are employed. The next lowest rate of employment is those with epilepsy, at 37%.

Once you know about a condition and how it affects a person in a given situation, then you are in a stronger position to help the candidate and colleague thrive in the process and become a valued member of the team.

Despite legislation and a vast array of information available in the internet age, very well-meaning recruiters and employers are not sure how to close that employment gap, or sure where to turn for help.

Because of the employment rate gap and also being personally excluded from the job market, I, like many other neurodivergents, have turned to being self-employed to help educate employers and recruiters to ensure that we can progress with equal opportunity.


How Can We Close the Neurodiversity Employment Gap?

Ok, so if you want to change and close that gap, where can you start?

Firstly, you should understand the basics of neurodiversity, and therefore each condition, so that you have a good grounding to make progress.

Secondly, you should keep the message and understanding of neurodiversity simple. If you complicate matters, then the message becomes confused and less likely to be acted on. Each condition affects everybody differently, so the details are theoretical and hypothetical until you actually meet a candidate with a particular condition. The candidate can then explain the detail of their needs, which you can fine-tune as you progress together.

Thirdly, you should remember that each person has a multiple number of strengths they will bring as part of their condition. To identify what they are, you will need to encourage confidence and trust so that the candidate will open up about a very personal matter. Once you have built that trust, then, and only then, is the candidate likely to open up.

Fourthly, if a person does open up about their condition, you should bear in mind that those with neurodiverse conditions very often hide and underplay their needs.

And fifthly, if a person tells you about a condition they have, then they may also have a comorbid condition, but not always. This condition may or may not have a diagnosis, and they may not know how to tell you or want to share with you part or all of their neurodiversity that makes them special.


Keep an eye out for the next blog in this series in which Mark explains how to attract and recruit neurodiverse talent!


To find out more about Mark’s services you can visit him on his website, call him on 07502 464481, or email him at [email protected]


Photo by Keenan Beasley on Unsplash

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