What Is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to the infinite range of differences in individual human brain function which is to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. Organizations describe neurodiversity as a category of diversity, like race and gender, which seeks to embrace and maximize the talents of people who think differently. 15%-20% of the population is neurodiverse. At that rate we all know someone who is neurodivergent and likely have neurodivergent colleagues.

 

Neurodiverse conditions include ADHD, dyslexia and autism spectrum/Asperger's. (People who are not neurodiverse are referred to as neurotypical. Until 2013, Asperger's Syndrome had been identified as distinct from autism. Those who were diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome needed less support and there was no speech delay compared to those diagnosed with autism. In May 2013, the DSM-5 combined all separate autistic diagnoses into one condition called "autism spectrum disorder".) 

 

Employers that hire autistic/Asperger’s professionals recognize it encourages innovation and problem solving through literal diversity of thought. Anka Wittenberg, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SAP, an early leader in hiring autistic talent, states in a 2017 Harvard Business Review article that ‘Innovation … is most likely to come from parts of us that we don’t all share.’

 

JPMorgan Chase, a pioneer in autistic hiring programs, has found their autistic employees' job performance results have been stellar. “Our autistic employees achieve, on average, 48% to 140% more work than their neurotypical colleagues, depending on the roles,” says James Mahoney, executive director and head of Autism at Work at Chase. “They are highly focused and less distracted by social interactions. There’s talent here that nobody’s going after.”

 

Like neurotypical employees, autistic employees excel in many professions, including medicine, law, accounting, engineering, IT and the arts. Strengths common among autistic professionals can be found within the skills and competencies of many STEM vacancies in the current job market that employers are having difficulty filling.

Employee strengths: attention to detail and sustained concentration
Skill and competency: ability to spot errors; not be distracted from the task at hand

Employee strengths: excellent long-term memory
Skill and competency: recall facts and details others have forgotten

Employee strengths: tolerance of repetition and routine
Skill and competency: perform the same tasks without getting bored or burned out

Employee strengths: strong logic and analytic skills
Skill and competency: ability to see patterns/connections in data; objective view of facts

Employee strengths: vast knowledge of specialized fields
Skill and competency: develop in-depth knowledge and expertise

Employee strengths: creative thinking
Skill and competency: different way of processing information can lead to novel solutions

Employee strengths: conscientious
Skill and competency: accurate, high-quality work

Employee strengths: perseverance
Skill and competency: stick with a job until it is done

Employee strengths: honesty and loyalty
Skill and competency: not afraid to tell the truth; stay with an employer long term