Let's Talk About Neurodiversity – Join Our Twitter Chat (Postponed) » Mind Tools Blog
Let's Talk About Neurodiversity

Let’s Talk About Neurodiversity – Join Our Twitter Chat (Postponed)

September 6, 2022

[Update: In light of the news of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, this tweet chat has been postponed and will not be taking place Friday 9 September 2022. We’ll provide an update soon.]

Neurodiversity is nothing new. Recently, one of our team members told me about her father who was on the autism spectrum.

He was brilliant at math and his memory was like an encyclopedia, yet he had difficulty remembering his way home from downtown – which was only a 10-minute drive. Her father was around before the word “neurodiversity,” and in those days people simply thought he was odd.

Mind Tools coach Zala Bricelj

The term “neurodiversity” made its first appearance over 20 years ago. It was coined by Judy Singer in her honors thesis, published in 1999. But having a name doesn’t make something less complex, or easier to identify.

Different Wiring

Understanding the fact that different people have different “wiring” can help us to embrace those who see things differently, and who can’t seamlessly fit into the classroom or at work. This is crucial for our comprehension of real inclusion and accessibility, where we see human potential instead of a ticked box.

Alongside my work as a Mind Tools coach, I’m a workshop facilitator and coach for inclusive and innovative teaching in schools, educational organizations, and non-profit organizations in Slovenia and across Europe. And one of the main things I’ve learned from collaborating with neurodiverse people throughout my career is that each person experiences neurodiversity differently.

That’s why it’s important that organizations create an inclusive culture that encompasses neurodiversity in all its forms – be it neurodivergent traits that are present from birth (and develop later in childhood and adolescence) or acquired neurodivergence, such as brain trauma.

“The only disability is when people can not see human potential”

Debra Ruh

Working With Neurodiversity

I still vividly remember working with one of my students – let’s call him Jimmy. He came to me because he was neurodivergent and needed individual help and support with his studies.

Jimmy had immense knowledge of specific topics and subjects, but he struggled with language. In particular, he wasn’t great with metaphors and idioms – they were “alien” to him, he often said.

On one occasion he couldn’t stop thinking about the phrase “Are you pulling my leg?” because it felt nonsensical to him. He kept asking why somebody would pull his leg if they were teasing or joking. It was hard for him because he took things at face value, and the figurative nature of everyday language is something that still bothers him today.

In one of our early lessons, we’d been working for an hour and he’d been doing his exercises diligently. At the end of the lesson I asked Jimmy what he thought of it, and he said it was OK, but my writing was terrible. It was illegible, he said, and I really needed to work on it.

I paused for a moment (in reality, I wanted to laugh), but because I knew him, I understood what he meant. Jimmy couldn’t focus on the content of our lesson because I hadn’t accommodated what he needed. So he got distracted and couldn’t engage with me as he usually did. It made me more aware of what I needed to be mindful of when collaborating with him.

Please Join Our Twitter Chat!

What: #MTtalk
Where: Twitter
When: September 9 @ 1 p.m. ET (5 p.m. GMT / 10:30 p.m. IST)
Topic: Neurodiversity – Your Lived Experience
Host: @Mind_Tools

Embracing Neurodiversity

While certain neurodiverse individuals are unable to take care of themselves, many live full and productive lives. Society’s changing beliefs and attitudes play a major role, too: we now recognize that many neurodiverse people have strengths and skills that are valuable to organizations and teams.

Early on my journey in education and teaching, I was fortunate enough to acquire skills to work with neurodiverse students. These are skills that you don’t learn as a part of the curriculum, but you need them every day in a classroom, learning group – or workplace.

Most schools still require students to sit, listen, pay constant attention, and go at the same pace as the rest of the class. If a student can’t do this, it becomes a game of “cat and mouse” with the teacher trying to mold the student to fit the “box” while finding ways to accommodate their needs.

When it comes to accommodating students with neurodiversity, this process still needs improvement. But there are things you can do that will form the building blocks for a better environment. The main one is to be more open, understanding, and accepting of difference. Consider how each difference can contribute to the overall success, unity and uniqueness of a classroom or workplace.

Pieces of the Puzzle

As I try to accommodate and accept neurodiversity, it helps me to think of the students or colleagues I work with as puzzle pieces. We’re irregularly shaped but complete human beings, getting on with our lives and work – all of us an integral part of the full picture.

I’ve seen students thrive when given opportunities tailored to their needs, when we’re accommodating of “uniqueness,” and when we put our energy into building the self-esteem of students, rather than labeling their difference.

As educators, we have a choice – we can see students with ADHD, autism, OCD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and special speech and language needs as different. Or, we can see their potential, and their neurodiversity, as an advantage: as a piece of the puzzle. They can excel when given opportunity, support and acceptance.

Neurodiversity and the Workplace

Workplaces that embrace neurodiversity allow employees to work and achieve goals in their own way. This starts with facilitating workplace adjustments, such as allowing more time for tasks, reorganizing workspaces (setting up quiet areas, for example, or providing noise-canceling headphones), and offering assistive technology.

Next comes communication, including scheduling regular one-on-one conversations, and focusing on digital inclusion in the workplace.

All structures and processes in the organization need adjusting to embrace neurodiversity. Recruitment, retention and training all require the championing of neurodiversity.

The recruitment process often screens out neurodiverse people. The traditional traits of a “good hire,” such as communication skills, emotional intelligence, persuasiveness, teamwork, and the ability to network and make new connections easily can be the things that neurodiverse people struggle with.

Those who think differently might get overlooked by hiring managers. We need to mitigate against this.

Neurodiversity – Your Lived Experience

In our upcoming #MTtalk Twitter chat, we’ll be discussing what neurodiversity is and how workplaces and society can be more inclusive. Come and join this safe discussion space to share your thoughts and experiences!

In our Twitter poll this week we asked neurodiverse people how welcome they feel at work. Sadly, only eight percent of respondents felt celebrated and included, while the majority either hid it or felt invisible.

We’d love you to participate in the chat, and the following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for it:

  • What does “neurodiversity” mean to you?
  • Why is it important to talk about neurodiversity in the workplace?
  • What’s the potential impact of more neurodiverse people in the workplace? Why?
  • What has helped you and your colleagues to understand one another better and bridge any neurotypical/neurodivergent divide?
  • What’s the best way for someone without lived experience of neurodiversity to find out the needs of their neurodiverse colleagues?
  • What does great advocacy for neurodiversity involve and how will you put this into practice in your workplace?

Resources

To help you prepare for the chat, we’ve compiled a list of our resources for you to browse.

Our neurodiversity content (including the resources listed below) is under review. We cover a broad range of areas and themes, but we’re aware that our current offering needs work. If you have any feedback or suggestions about how we could improve our neurodiversity content, please email mtegeneral@mindtools.com or get in touch on social media. The editorial team will be paying close attention to the Twitter chat too, so please do get involved and have your say!

Neurodiversity at Work

Managing People With Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Managing Perfectionists

Managing Unsociable People

Managing Gifted People

How to Juggle Caregiving Responsibilities and Work

(Note that you will need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.)

How to Take Part

Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action this Friday! We’ll be tweeting out 10 questions during our hour-long chat. To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “Latest” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. You can join the chat by using the hashtag #MTtalk in your responses.


2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Neurodiversity – Join Our Twitter Chat (Postponed)

  1. Sarah Harvey wrote:

    I am so looking forward to this chat and I’m hoping to learn more from others about neurodiversity in the workplace. We’d love you to join us.

    Sarah
    Mind Tools Coach

  2. Charlie wrote:

    Do you have lived experience of autism, dyslexia, AD(H)D, Tourette’s, or other neurodiverse identity or diagnosis? If so, you are welcome to take this twitter event as a platform to speak for yourself, instead of being talked about – to share what language, behaviors and policies at work help or hinder your inclusion and performance. You can follow or take part live via the hashtag #MTtalk, and/or comment here. We look forward to hearing from you! – Charlie Swift – Mind Tools Managing Editor

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