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Neurodiversity Inclusion Tips

We all have unique strengths and challenges, so understanding these is key because everyone has specific accessibility and support needs.


Autism, for example, is a spectrum condition, which means that it affects people in different ways. It is unhelpful to stereotype people based on their neurological condition, so please do not make assumptions about what their support needs are or about the characteristics of their condition.


For example, some autistic people may feel uncomfortable turning on their videos during online meetings. Personally, video calls do not bother me, but I do prefer people to message me in advance rather than video calling me without warning.


Allow the individual to tell you if they need support and if so in what way, rather than making assumptions about what they can or cannot do.


Understand that some autistic people may need extra time to switch from one task to another, as we may struggle with scattered meetings throughout the day and with back-to-back meetings.


You want to consider consulting us before sending us meeting invites, as we may need larger chunks of time to focus on a single piece of work and become overwhelmed when flitting between meetings and tasks all day.


If I have a day with lots of task switching, I often simmer into meltdown by the time my kids come home from school.


Please be supportive if we get overwhelmed.


Notice meltdowns, shutdowns, and signs of burn-out. We might need a fresh air break, or an extended toilet break, to de-escalate!


Some autistic people may need specific instructions broken down into manageable chunks, and it can also be helpful to confirm expectations in writing.


When interviewing someone, you may want to consider presenting the questions one at a time instead of asking a series of questions in one go.


Breaking down information into manageable chunks, in fact, makes information more accessible for everyone.


Be accommodating to people with sensory issues, for example by allowing headphones, earphones, sunglasses, anti-glare screens, lower lighting, blinds


If noise causes sensory overload for the autistic colleague you need to speak to, consider arranging the meeting in a quieter area. Understand that some autistic people struggle with video calls.


Challenge your own expectations about social behaviours. Some autistic people struggle with small talk and find greetings awkward. Be aware of potential anxiety caused by unexpected telephone calls and desk visits.


Equally, some autistic people may be fine with such calls and visits. Vary your approach according to the individual’s specific needs.


Understand that some autistic people may struggle to see the unwritten social rules that neurotypical people take for granted.


Some autistic people may struggle to read and use body language in the social context and may rely more on verbal or written communication.


You may want to consider using more direct verbal or written communication rather than relying on body language.



We can be passionate about our topics of highly focused interest – not just our hobbies but topics could be work-related too. This passion can lead to us interrupt people or dominate meetings.


Please let us know when to stop talking, and not with subtle hints. This is not the same for all autistic staff, and many are quiet in meetings, especially online meetings, and can even become situationally mute. It is important that meeting facilitators ensure those people still have a voice, for example by allowing contributions through the chat panel.


Mean what you say, and practice what you preach, for example do not publish a lengthy inclusion and wellbeing strategy and then tell an employee that you don’t have time to accommodate their individual needs.


If you are drafting a policy or process and want to ensure it is inclusive, consult your disability or neurodiversity staff support group. If you don’t have one of those, set one up (I can help with this).


Sending interview questions in advance to all candidates is better for everybody. This is a universal design principle which helps candidates and employers get the most out of an interview.


Understand that meaningful inclusion requires a two-pronged approach:

  • Universal design to help everybody

  • Accommodating individual needs

Make sure your inclusion policies are not tokenistic, but are followed through for the whole employee lifecycle. There is nothing worse than companies that have neurodiversity hiring programmes, then once neurodivergent staff are onboard they meet barriers to inclusion and a lack of understanding, acceptance, and support.


This takes time, you can’t just announce a “whole self to work” ethos and encourage neurodivergent employees to unmask, if they might encounter bullying or discrimination.


You have a duty of care to protect employees from unlawful discrimination and to prevent bullying in the workplace.

Foster a culture of psychological safety, where employees feel safe, and are safe, to be open about their individual challenges and support needs.


Lastly, remember autistic people are not a problem to be fixed. If a plant does not thrive, we change the environment not the plant. Accept and nurture us please, do not try to fix us.


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About Charlie Hart & the Speakers Collective

If you are interested in Charlie Hart speaking at an event or providing training please contact info@speakerscollective.org. 


Speakers Collective is a Social Enterprise. We work together with a shared commitment to challenge stigma, facilitate important conversations and promote learning on a variety of social issues. Please do contact us via info@speakerscollective.org or call 020 8123 8250 with any enquiries.

 

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