A friend recently told me that she was was setting up a Neurodiversity Network at work. She had recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism and was looking to connect with other colleagues who also were on the autism spectrum. She also explained to me that by being open about her diagnosis she hoped colleagues would be able to better understand the support she needed in the work environment.
Neurodiversity is the opposite of Neurotypical. People with autism describe people who don’t have autism as “neurotypicals” or NTs. So basically a Neurodiversity network is a group for employees who are or consider themselves to be on the autism spectrum. The neurodiverse movement represents the disability rights perspective within the autism community.
With an increasing number of adults receiving an autism diagnosis and organisations actively recruiting staff who are on the spectrum it makes huge sense to encourage and facilitate networks of support within this community to ensure their needs are met and support provided.
Within my own organisation I am the executive sponsor of the LGBT+ and ally networking group. The support and visibility the group has given to LGBT+ employees is evident and many organisations have similar groups in place. Employers recognise that they are sending a message to those who are thinking about which company they’d like to work for. We are showing how we recognise and support LGBT+ people.
Neurodiversity networks have similar benefits. They enable employees to be open (and proud) about the fact that they are on the autism spectrum, celebrating what they bring to the organisation and enabling employers to better understand how to make reasonable adjustments to support them in order to ensure that they are productive and are fully contributing to the team.
Sadly statistics from the National Autism Society that just 16% of adults on the spectrum are in full time work. Employers can play a part in changing this by encouraging the formation of Neurodiversity networks. Not only does it show a commitment to supporting employees who are on the autistic spectrum it also sends a clear signal to all staff about openness and understanding diverse needs.
Are you an adult with an autism diagnosis? Are you an employer with staff on the spectrum? A neurodiversity network is definitely worth considering.
Have you set a network up in your own organisation – please share your thoughts.
Steven has extensive experience in strategic executive leadership having led large business units at Fujitsu. Steven has had full and operational delivery responsibility for $1bn annual revenue business, including sales / growth, of full-service range (consultancy and change programmes, to operational IT services) to multiple clients. Leading business through changes in strategic direction, crisis management, transformational turnarounds especially those delivering business critical services to clients such as Public Sector / National Government. Steven engages well with C-suite executives and senior stakeholders, including in previous roles with UK Government Cabinet Ministers.
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