I know a young man whose actions and intentions have been misinterpreted for most of his life.
“I don’t think he’s paying much attention,” people often said, “While I was presenting, he was looking off into space and he never took a single note.”
Actually, he was paying attention quite well. Because of the way his brain integrated sensory input, if he looked someone in the eyes as they spoke to him, the visual signal would overpower the content of whatever the person was saying. He looked away so that he could focus better on the person’s spoken words. And while taking notes certainly helps me pay attention, for him, the task of writing down what he just heard would utterly distract him from listening to the words that came next.
Growing up, this young man would sometimes respond to questions in a halting or terse manner. This would cause people to doubt his intellect.
But his intellectual firepower wasn’t the issue; his delayed replies were actually a reflection of his auditory processing. (Indeed, even in middle school, he read and fully absorbed the contents of thousand-page history texts. During vacation. For fun.)
What About The Workplace?
Over time, this young man learned ways to display a more typical social facade. But thinking about him and those like him, trying to make their way in the working world, I wonder: How will HR evaluate them if they encounter an onboarding assessment that scores them based on the speed of their responses? How will they be viewed by a boss who tends to call out instructions from across the office and expects them to be followed? How thoroughly will they absorb the contents of a critical e-learning course if the instructional design forces learners to read and listen to the same text at the same time, screen after screen?
There are people I love, people I am close to, who happen to be neurodivergent. They think and process information differently than is typical. For some of them, sheer determination and grit (and a willingness to work twice as hard as their peers) have allowed them to “pass,” and their neurodivergence goes largely unnoticed by the people they interact with. For others, the difference is more profound and it continues to challenge them in their adult and professional lives despite their intelligence and despite their distinct insights and creativity that seem to spring from the very same “different” ways in which their brains work.
Being neurodivergent is actually not unusual. Studies estimate that at least 20% of the population experiences a form of autism, AD(H)D, a processing or executive function challenge, or some other form of neurodivergence. (Because of imprecise diagnostics and a reticence to report it, it is well possible that this number is even higher.) While in school, these individuals often found support, accommodation, and understanding. However, the systems that helped them thrive in school tend to disappear once they graduate into the working world. Very few employers have programs in place to intentionally welcome, include, engage, and support neurodivergent workers in any way that parallels what they experienced in academic settings.
Assuming the 20% statistic is accurate, this means that most organizations are simply failing to connect with one-fifth of their team. This is both a compliance risk and a huge missed opportunity.
Our New Offerings, and Our Ask for a Favor
In response to these unmet needs, and driven by our personal passion about neurodiversity, my education and compliance consulting company LeadGood Education is launching its “NeuROInclusion Initiative.” We aim to help #compliance professionals, #HR departments, and effective managers better engage and support their neurodivergent colleagues — to help companies realize the ROI of neuro-inclusion.
I’m extremely excited to share this new offering and I would be grateful to my professional colleagues if you would please take a look at our new website. I would sincerely welcome feedback and I’d be even more grateful if you would help us to spread the word. I’d also be happy to share our introductory Position Paper with you; just fill out our contact form. According to our research, LeadGood is the first compliance services provider to launch a dedicated initiative focused on neurodiversity and I was so excited and honored to introduce the topic to The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics at their annual SCCEcei conference.
Meanwhile, my law firm, Meyer Business Law is also working to support neurodiversity. We are leveraging and focusing our experience representing both organizations and employees, to help our clients navigate the legal and regulatory challenges related to neurodivergence in the workplace, particularly where it (often, but not always) intersects with the ADA and other laws regarding disability discrimination.
Entrepreneurship is about passion. It is most powerful when the entrepreneurs’ passion finds a common and deep need among their customer base and results in novel and necessary solutions. I hope that’s what my companies’ initiatives are providing as we follow our passions for the law, business growth, organizational ethics and compliance, and neuro-inclusion. I hope our efforts can help my compliance and HR colleagues to find new success among their teams. And most of all, I hope these initiatives can lead to new possibilities for professional fulfillment for that special young man and for the millions of others who also have distinct and wonderful ways of thinking.
- Without education and awareness, people often misunderstand the nature of neurodivergence.
- Being neurodivergent is not unusual. At least 20% of the workforce is neurodivergent.
- Companies that do not intentionally engage and include a neurodiverse workforce fail to connect with one-fifth of their team. This is both a compliance risk and a huge missed opportunity.
- LeadGood Education is launching its “NeuROInclusion Initiative,” to help #compliance professionals, #HR departments, and effective managers better engage and support their neurodivergent colleagues.
- Meyer Business Law is helping clients navigate the legal and regulatory challenges related to neurodivergence in the workplace.
- I hope these initiatives can lead to new possibilities for professional fulfillment for the millions who have distinct and wonderful ways of thinking.