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Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2024

By Tom Tangye and Sarah Blanchard, JNCC Neurodiversity Network

To mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week, taking place between 18 and 24 March 2024, we have a blog post from some members of our Neurodiversity Network. 

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative which challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about the neurological differences between people. It aims to transform how neurodivergent individuals are perceived by recognising the skills and advantages of being neurodivergent, whilst supporting individuals by creating a more inclusive culture within the workplace and further.

 

What is Neurodiversity?

There is no one 'correct' way of thinking – the way we learn and behave. We all experience the world around us in different ways. "Neurodiverse" refers to a community of people whose members are neurodivergent. The term refers to the concept that everyone experiences and interacts with the world around them differently.

A neurodivergent person's brain may work in a different way than the average "neurotypical" person. They may have unique ways of learning, communicating, socialising or perceiving their surroundings.

 

Neurodiversity in the workplace

It’s estimated that one in seven people are neurodiverse. Common neurodiverse conditions that fall within the spectrum include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is characterised by traits of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity; or Autism, a condition characterised by challenges with social communication and interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities.

Lesser-known conditions include Meares-Irlen Syndrome, which is a form of visual stress affecting the brain's ability to process visual information.

 

Diversity boosts the workplace

Diversity makes us stronger. As a scientific nature organisation, JNCC is always championing diversity, whether that’s the habitats on land or at sea, or in our fauna and flora. So why shouldn’t we strive for it in our workplace?

Diverse hiring and supporting diversity in an organisation not only fosters a culture of inclusion and collaboration, but also brings many benefits through skills and qualities that are gained by including, supporting, and celebrating neurodiversity.

The image below (Image 1) shows just some of the talents which can be gained through hiring neurodiverse individuals, as well as showing the integral role that neurodivergent people have within the workplace and society.

Image 1. Examples of some neurodiverse conditions, with associated qualities and abilities. Adapted from Genius Within.

For example, individuals with Meares-Irlen Syndrome are often imaginative and creative storytellers, problem-solvers and have good oral memory. Employees on the autistic spectrum are often associated with a variety of characteristic skills such as being honest, reliable, punctual and highly productive.

 

The challenges facing neurodiverse colleagues

People often think that being neurodiverse predominately impacts work and academic aspects of life. But being neurodiverse affects every aspect of life. Some more than others and depending on the neurodiversity, they may not even realise.

One member from JNCC’s Neurodiversity Network had neurodiversity coaching and was able to understand, after nearly 40 years, how much being dyslexic affected their personal life. What they perceived as normal struggles and behaviour were in fact caused by their dyslexia, and the many other neurodiverse traits which came forth during all these times.

Learning to live with and manage being neurodiverse is not a curse as some might think. If you took their neurodiversity away you would take away who that person is. However, there are ways in which workplaces can create a supportive environment to ensure these unique perspectives can thrive in an inclusive atmosphere.

 

Top tips for supporting Neurodiversity in the workplace

The strategies and tools which are helpful for neurodiverse people are often useful for neurotypical people too. Whether you feel you fit into the neurodiversity category or not, understanding your individual ways of working, motivations, aspirations, and personality type can help you to increase your well-being, happiness and success at work.

Some top tips include:

  • Providing quieter or distraction-free spaces. Some neurodiverse employees may struggle with sensory overload and may find larger open-space offices harder to work in.
  • Flexible working practices can help employees to work in an environment which fits them best.
  • Communicating clearly. People learn through different channels, so follow up meetings with written confirmation of actions.
  • Setting up a neurodiverse coffee club can provide an inclusive, safe space for employees to come together. JNCC’s Neurodiversity Coffee Club meets monthly to talk about neurodiversity topics and this is open to all staff.

 

To find out more about Neurodiversity Celebration Week, visit the Neurodiversity Celebration Week website.

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