I spent my career in the finance organization at the electric and gas utility in northeastern Wisconsin. I worked with all levels of the organization. I hired employees. I led workgroups. Though it was rare for adults to have had an autism diagnosis, I’m confident I had colleagues on the spectrum.
My family has been touched by neurological conditions for as long as I can remember. There’s been Alzheimer’s, dementia, brain cancer, stroke, epilepsy, migraine, ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. This space is real and personal, part of who I am.
I read books by experts about neurodiversity; attended local support group meetings, employment workshops, and the national conference sponsored by the Autism Society; consulted with a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee clinical professor researching autism; attended business hiring forums; talked with employers, with autistic adults, and with parents of adult autistic children; joined autism online groups; and talked with businesses who place autistic individuals into specific jobs. Although many people I talk with have not heard of the specific term “neurodiversity”, most of them either personally know or have a connection to someone with a neurodiverse condition, i.e., someone on the autism spectrum, with dyslexia, ADHD, etc.
I moved to Milwaukee knowing of the competitive job market, the skills gap and the untapped labor pool of qualified job candidates. Recruiters and autism-at-work programs place diagnosed autistic candidates into specific roles for companies. I wanted to take a different, broader approach. Helping employers become aware of and accept neurodiversity allows those without a formal diagnosis and who choose not to disclose their diagnosis to be considered for positions alongside other job candidates. It allows their current neurodiverse employees to be assimilated into the workgroup rather than being let go because they don’t fit-in. Misunderstanding neurodiversity becomes knowing and embracing those who are different. It’s good for business and good for humankind.