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Understanding Neurodiversity

By: Behaviorally Speaking

Published: Jul 24, 2023
puzzle jigsaw heart on brain, mental health concept, world autism awareness day

About this Podcast Episode

On this episode, Angela and Kristin bring in their colleague and resident neurodiversity expert, Louis Chesney, to talk all things neurodiversity. They dive into what the term neurodiversity means, its evolution over time, supporting neurodiverse children, and how neurodiversity is promoted in the workplace for when children grow up.

About the Hosts

Angela Nelson, Ed.D., BCBA, and Kristin Bandi, MA, BCBA, are Board Certified Behavior Analysts with expertise on human behavior and child development. They spend their days working with parents and caregivers of both typically developing children as well as children with learning, social, and behavioral challenges, or developmental disabilities. This podcast is brought to you by RethinkCare

If you need support as a parent or caregiver of a child, we encourage you to ask your Human Resources team if RethinkCare is a part of your employer-provided benefits. RethinkCare reaches millions of lives globally through partnerships with top organizations and Fortune 1,000 companies.


Angela Nelson: Hello and welcome to our 38th episode of Behaviorally Speaking I’m one of your hosts Angela Nelson, Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, and mother of two.

Kristin Bandi: And I’m Kristin Bandi also a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and mother of three. Hey Angie, how’s it going.

Angela: It is going today was a crazy summer day with two kids in two different camps at the same time.

Kristin: Oh.

Angela: So, I had to like enlist my mother-in-law to help I had a doctor’s appointment like 10 minutes after that so, then I’m rushing over there. It’s just one of those days you know and then. Rush back here and it’s the juggle of doing work and school stuff and everything all at once. So rushed Monday yeah, what about you?

Kristin: Yeah I know those days. Yeah, well we had vacation last week so I’m like I’m trying to um, come back to focus because we did all things spun in the sun, so it was just we were outside and in this Florida heat, which is just kind of crazy, so we’re all a little bit, um, just tired and hot. But I was kidding around with a colleague earlier and saying it’s it at that time it was three o’clock and I was like it’s three o’clock today, but it feels like it’s like three days into the week, so it’s been so it’s that’s what it’s like coming back from vacation.

Angela: I know you got it? Yeah and just dig out of all the emails and stuff that are in your inbox all right?

Kristin: Ah, back in right? Yeah, exactly Yeah, all right.

Angela: Well so we are talking about a really, really important topic today. We have woven this topic into a lot of our podcasts. But today we are going to dive more deeply into neurodiversity and what that means you know this is such an important topic. It’s near and dear to our heart because we do work with neurodivergent individuals. What you know we’ll probably talk about the terminology a little bit too whatever you choose, and you know we know that one in six children is diagnosed with an Intel or a developmental disability and oftentimes we pair those you know, um, those words together with disability and our diversity and so on will ah kind of break that out a little bit more as well, but naturally it makes sense to talk about this topic because it does ah touch so many different lives and so many different families. So, it’s a really, really important topic. That we’re going to um, open up today.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, I think it’s a really good one and I’m excited to introduce our special guest today we have Louis Chesney here and he is what we call our resident neurodiversity expert. So, we thought who better to come on and help us unpack this a little bit. So, Louis. Do you want to say hi to everyone and just give a quick intro?

Louis Chesney: Sure, well thank you everyone for ah you know listening in and hearing about this new topic. It’s probably something that most of us are unfamiliar with and so we hope that you know you spend the next hour and you come out feeling enlightened about neurodiversity. Ah just to get a little bit more into the weeds of what I do so I’ve been with this company for about three years, and I’ve been responsible for bringing the concept of neurodiversity into sort of the fabric of the company and so our culture the work that we do on a daily basis. And some of the capabilities that we’re expanding on, so I feel really excited to have um, sort of this area in which I’m kind of overseeing at the company.

What is Neurodiversity?

Angela: Nice, very good. Well so let’s actually dive right into it. Lewis because this is I mean it’s not brand new, but relatively speaking it’s a newish term. Maybe we can kind of break it down, what is neurodiversity?

Louis: Yeah, so neurodiversity is basically it just acknowledges us and respects us on all the varied ways in which we are so the way we think the way behave the way we socialize and process information. So, it really just considers us in our full humanity right? We are all across a broad spectrum and nobody is excluded from this so this includes like individuals with diagnosed who are with conditions like autism, ADHD and dyslexia um, and even those who share similar traits and characteristics right? So, the purpose of looking at neurodiversity in this light is to challenge the you know, traditional medical model of disability. So, this is looking at disability through a deficit or impairment lens. Um, and so this medical model you know often stigmatizes conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia so when we see like sort of the mainstream media portrayals, you know we’re predominantly focused on looking at these individuals through a deficit lens right?

Kristin: Awful.

Angela: Um, yeah, absolutely.

Louis: And that could be a little bit more debilitating for them and then if you have to think about it like in reality like we all have our unique strengths and weaknesses and so none of us are average. So, if you were look at. But say IQ scores alone. They can’t just determine an individual’s capabilities or potential right? So, we should always focus on like specific talents and strengths so I may not be strong in vocabulary, but I might be stronger in detecting patterns. And all of these things are areas in which we should honor you know basically, we are all different and you know nobody is more you know nobody deserves to be um, more relevant than anyone else right? So, you know, just think about like you know neurodiversity it’s kind of like shifting the focus from the deficits to a strength right?

Kristin: Right.

Louis: So, when we think about for the parents of the room. You know we consider what our children enjoy and what you know they excel at and then you know we build the interventions around these areas. Um, but then most importantly, right? And this is where the neurodiversity piece comes in, it’s educating those within their environment to impact their success So educating teachers, educating people in the community about their child, um, and really just saying look you got to recognize my child in their full totality. Don’t just see them through their diagnosis and so neurodiversity really just encourages. To appreciate each individual’s attributes. Um, you know that extend beyond their diagnosis. So, these are traits and characteristics that can be constant or that can change over time.

Angela: I love that it’s really kind of coming from a proactive positive standpoint where you’re really fostering inclusion and kind of breaking down barriers.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah I was gonna add to that I feel like sometimes parents are quite good at this right? like they’re able to kind of see through it and say oh here’s my child is really great in this area. So, let’s do this or that right? But some of the struggle I think is with those that work with the child right? So, it is about teaching and saying well you know like you said focusing on inclusion and actually training teachers and staff and even sometimes therapists on that individual. So, I think it’s so important.

Angela: Yeah.

Louis: Yeah, and you know the Holy Grail for neurodiverse is really just for every individual to embrace their identities as autistic, ADHD or dyslexic and then navigating the world through that lens right? So that sounds like it contradicts what I was, but really saying before but really, when you look at somebody who is autistic who has ADHD or dyslexic. Um, again, we want to see these individuals in their full humanity and then just recognize that they have characteristics and traits that are both related and unrelated to their diagnosis. Um, so having this attitude, really is vital for you know, facilitating a growth mindset among not just like the children the parents but everybody the teachers the community members as well.

How and Why Neurodiversity Is Gaining Popularity

Kristin: Oh, I love that? Yeah that’s so great. So, let’s get let’s dive a little bit deeper in and so. We talked about okay well what is neurodiversity, and we are seeing that it’s getting a lot more attention over the years as we said so can you talk a little bit about how it’s getting more attention and maybe in somewhat in what ways are we seeing that.

Louis: Yeah, yeah, so we are seeing that the focus is intensified on self-advocacy and self-determination particularly like when we’re looking at our teenagers and young adults when they’re ready to transition from the school to adulthood. So, what this involves is just active involvement from you know the child and the teenager. Um, but also you know of course guidance from you know the key stakeholders like their parents and their educators and clinicians you know to help them to move from the school system to a new system of support. So, that’s really sort of where um we find neurodiverse where it lies, you know within that period of one’s life. It’s about the self-advocacy and the self-determination so when ah, we’re thinking about a successful transition you know we have to think about you know the person acknowledging their strengths and their passions and then um, then the education you know when we think about individual education programs in public schools as an example, so they are designed to foster self- advocacy and self-determination and these plans are you know, tailored to the students’ individual needs. You know trying to get them engaged in the next steps of their lives. Ah, things of that sort and then what are the activities that they can do in school um in order to prepare them for you know, further education and then employment once they get out of school and then eventually you know getting out of their parents’ house and living independently. So, that’s where a lot of the focus is in right now in the schools. Um, but that also needs to go beyond you know the IEP it has to we have to do some culture change and really, you know the parents can come in and they could really educate like the students or the parents of the students. The faculty about you know these particular supports and then just letting them understand you know what everybody has different learning needs right. And everybody can thrive in school and in life with the right conditions. So, that’s why it’s so important for parents to become like really engaged with their child’s education to further aid this process. So, it’s almost like parents you know can be neurodiversity advocates for their own kids.

How Parents Can Support Neurodiversity Advocacy for Their Children in the Classroom

Angela: Yeah, that’s actually that’s a perfect segue into the question that we had next for you. So, it sounds like you know we are starting to see more attention gained especially in the school system and parents are diving in. Maybe you could talk a little bit about you know some of the ways that parents can support advocacy for their kids.

Louis: Sure, So the different tactical things that parents can do is really just work in tandem with teachers right? To address issues related to homework difficulties you know because the parents know their child the best and teachers um, you know may draw the wrong conclusions about the student if they’re not completing their assignments on time etc.

Work Closely in Homework Process

Louis: So really getting the parents involved and working closely with them the homework process and step in you know when their child or their teen is struggling um and then ah, really for the parent this goes back to the self-advocacy piece, is working with the teacher to ensure that the parent is well equipped to support their child, so you know when there is homework to be done. Just having clear written instructions and you know, templates you know illustrate expectations provided by the teachers can be really useful for the parents, especially you know in those situations where that their child or teen is struggling.

Educate the Educator

Louis: And then parents right, sort of kind of like it’s cyclical, the parents can then you know educate the teachers on how to motivate their child right? So, there could be instances where yes, the child is unmotivated So what are the particular activities that can be incorporated into the daily school activities and then most importantly, um, you know including coping strategies for stress or like for overwhelming stimuli. So, really advocating for you know removal of fluorescent lights allowing the child. You know time to sit by themselves. You know all of this advocacy work is really important for the parent.

Increase Empathy

Louis: And then it’s also important for teachers you know to really increase their empathy towards parents so much going on, a parent you know, maybe you know lacking confidence in their child’s abilities right? And so, they need reassurance from someone else like a teacher. Um, and then you know a parent can also have their own struggles I mean what we find a lot is when parents are really uncovering a child their child’s diagnosis. They’re also realizing things about themselves. You know that they um had to try to overcome or challenges that are presented to them. So really, it’s important for teachers to um, you know, be accommodating to parents as well. So. You know when giving parents specific instructions. You know providing it in written notes.

Have Monthly Meetings With Teacher

Louis: Um, just having you know more one-month meetings with the parent is really advantageous. Yeah, and just you know the more the parents and teachers are working together the more the more time they spent together the more they able to like um, figure out and like navigate through the complexities of transitions right? And this could be ultimately at the end of the day could be really enlightening.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah I was just thinking. That’s the one of the number one thing I hear from parents all the time is like how much or how little do I communicate with my child’s teacher. So, you know I feel like that is like some of those big question marks that parents get all the time. So, I’m glad you mentioned it and I think they’re you know I guess the tricky part is there’s not really a right answer right?

Louis: Right.

Kristin: Because some teachers are overly communicative and others. Not so much and same goes for the parents. So, but I like the way that you would said it like you know time that the two or sometimes in multiple you know multiple teachers more time they spend together the better they’re going to collaborate. So yeah, that’s a really good call out.

Louis: Yep.

Angela: And absolutely um I wanted to mention a side note to, my one of my kids had a child in their class that was diagnosed with autism and um what I did as ah as a you know a provider as ah as a professional in this space I really wanted to advocate for that child and to make sure that all the kids were inclusive and had a good understanding and so on.

Louis: Right.

Angela: And so we didn’t talk about that child in particular but I went into the class and I read a book about autism just in general right um, and you know the kids were really insightful and they were really interested in it, and I think, and it was great that the teacher allowed me to go in and read this book and you know again, we didn’t we didn’t identify anything regarding the child, but it was just it was a good way for me as not only a practitioner but just as a parent to go in and kind of support that advocacy support that child and make sure that the kids were really inclusive, and I think it helped the teacher too to make sure that you know she really understood autism and what it is.

Kristin: Yeah, you know I don’t know if I ever told you this Angie, so I have a parent that I have spoken with for a while now and her or his um son actually brought home essentially you know, air quoting a YouTube video and said hey dad I really want you to watch this and um, it was ah it was a YouTube video about kids with autism and it was really. It was really good and anyhow, so he had been trying to get the dad to watch it and the dad just kept kind of putting it off a little bit and we ended up having one of our consultations and the dad had told me about it and he’s like you know what I’m going to watch it right now and he watched it right then because he was putting it off and he ended up watching it and the son was like so this is this is me dad like this will help you understand me better and the dad was like wow like this it opened up so many doors for me to understand and I was just like that is so cool because that actually came from the school right? The school provided it and then the son you know was advocating for himself. So um, yeah, just a really cool story. Yeah.

How Parents Can Support Their Neurodiverse Children Outside the Classroom

Kristin: So just yeah, keep going I know we obviously talked about you know ways that that how can parents support their kids in the classroom. Um, but something that we’re missing is well how can parents support their child right? So, you know obviously supporting through the lens of the class, but in general how can they provide more support to their neurodiverse children?

Understand That Neurodiversity Is Only a Part of Your Child

Louis: Right? So, you know it really starts with just being in tune with your child and you know even if your child you know is exhibiting traits or characteristics that may lead to or ah have led to a diagnosis. You know you understand that you know this is an integral part of your child right? Um, and just not settling with the fact that this is it but the fact that this is right and so avoiding or you know denying. Ah you know these traits and characteristics. It’s not very helpful. Right? Because it prevents you know, parents from fully understanding their child’s needs. Um, but it’s also important at the same time you know for parents for parents to see or strive to see their child as an individual and not merely through the lens of diagnosis. So, it’s almost a paradox, but really, it’s about being grounded in reality but also acknowledging that your child is beyond a label right? They are ah you know complex, and they have, so many different facets about themselves that you wouldn’t find in a DSM right description right?

Kristin: Um, right? Yeah.

Louis: And yeah, yeah, and you know what we all um, fall prey to erroneous perceptions right? Every one of us I mean you know I was going back to what I was saying before like there’s so much inaccuracy um in storylines surrounding conditions like autism and sort of like having more and more exposure to these misconceptions that are further. You know, perpetuated by ah media portrayals it’s really, um, crucial for parents to look you know beyond these you know, misleading narratives and just understand that their child is a unique individual with specific needs strengths and passions.

Have a Clear Understanding of Your Child’s Abilities and Interests

Louis: And then just again, you know going off of that like having a clear understanding of like what your child is able to do what they’re interested in. Um, you know can lead to more, you know, successful interventions right? Interventions that are more appropriate for their child. And strategies just general strategies for navigating through life. So, you know I know this podcast is about um you know Behavioral health, but you know there’s also opportunities to be advocate that neurodiversity advocate um and identify like potential areas for system change you know within the education system. So, maybe the child or your child doesn’t necessarily have to modify every single bit piece of behavior unnecessarily, especially if it doesn’t hamper their social development or cause harm to themselves or to others. So, you know an example of this is, you know the school environment could allow a child to engage in stiving behavior which for those of you are unfamiliar it’s just self-estimate behavior um, often seen with individuals with autism to cope with overstimulation in their environment. You know, like fluorescent lighting and so you know educating the teachers educating the students the parents you know about these necessary coping mechanisms can really foster a more accepting and inclusive environment for the child.

Consider Whether or Not to Tell Your Child Their Diagnosis

Kristin: Yeah, and one thing that I think is so important there that’s kind of stating out to me is accepting right? When you’re when you’re comfortable with it as the parent right, accepting that this is my child, this is who they are, and I get asked a lot from parents. Do I tell my child they have a diagnosis right? Like that might be one of the bigger most one of the more common questions I get and it’s that’s a hard one to answer to because you know everyone has a different kind of opinion on that. But I feel like it’s a really good the way that you defined it is like well we’re not really doing them any service here if we don’t tell them right? And I’m sure it’s controversial. But um, yeah, really important.

Louis: Yeah, it’s great. It’s great because ah if you tell the child and you could say well this is who you are and embrace it and even now you you’re empowered to tell other people who you are and you know and what are the common you know, strengths that an ah person with this diagnosis might have and really just given the child opportunity to celebrate their identity could be ah could be helpful as well. You know the issue you know is going back to the parents you know fearing that you know because of the misconceptions and the stigma attached to diagnoses, it’s like it’s going to make it that much harder for their child to really stand out and um or fit in I should say, fit in with the other students. Ah so it’s I think once we get to a point where there is less but attached to different diagnoses. It will enable or I should say empower anyone who has been diagnosed to come forward and say this is who I am and this is who I identify as, and I am you know a bundle of different traits and characteristics that are you know that are either attributed to my diagnosis or not attributed to my diagnosis. They’re just part of who I am.

Angela: Yeah, and if parents are comfortable and you know accepting their child for who they are. That’s going to shine through and that’s going to send a positive message to the child too which is your diagnosis does not define you are you know Bob or Susie or Jamal or whoever you know whoever you are, and this is just one piece of your identity. So, yeah I mean I feel like maybe we should do a whole podcast on talking to your child about a diagnosis. You know that kind of the general yeah recommendation is like when they start questions that might be a sign that they’re ready to you know, discuss it and we’ve just seen you know this is a very personal choice and personal preference. But you know just in the many parents that we work with we’ve just seen a lot of positive things that come with being open and honest and accepting your child and kind of talking about the diagnosis in ah in a way that’s not a secret.

Kristin: Yeah.

How Parents Can Help Their Kids Be More Inclusive

Angela: Essentially yeah well so um, move it on to our next question. Let’s talk a little bit about inclusivity. So, how can parents help their kids be more inclusive and this is not just parents of children who may identify as neurodiverse but in general how can we as adults as parents help our kids to be more inclusive people.

Instill the Value of Valuing Differences

Louis: Sure, it’s about instilling the values of valuing differences within the child and the way to do that is just simply going to museums different cultural institutions, making sure that the child is interacting with a variety of different people. You know, looking at their friendship circles and ensuring that you know their friends aren’t all cut from the same cloth. It’s really, that’s I think where it starts and then you know the other point that parents can make um if they ever get objections from their child. It’s like look when you’re with different people who are different from you that enriches one’s life right? Because there’s ah, there’s a richness of life That’s often found in diversity right? And it makes life more exciting and fulfilling. So, really so instilling that message in the child at a very young age is so important. And you know children will often encounter individuals who differ in physical or mental disposition. So, instead of advising like the child to like to overlook these individuals like don’t look, don’t look at that person.

Angela: Don’t stare.

Louis: Don’t stare exactly you know, um, you’re being rude. It’s like parents can use that as of an opportunity to teach respect and understanding right? So, they can emphasize look everyone is unique while some differences are more visible than others. No one should feel ashamed of who they are including you I think that’s the message that should be instilled.

Strive to Align Helpfulness to Neurodiverse Individuals as a Value in Life

Louis: And then the other ways in which parents can help their children is really to help them understand that people just strive to align their lives with their values and ambitions um, and so there could be you know instances where there’s just unfairness and there’s disadvantage. So, in these cases, if somebody is needing help let’s say if it’s an if it’s a peer or a classmate, you know that needs help with um you know some sort of our project, offering that help to that other students if they see that. Ah, the student is struggling with using scissors and cutting along the lines like stepping in and saying do you need help with this with the anticipation that someone else will be there to help them. Ah so that’s the other area that could be really helpful and in in sort of building that mindset of inclusiveness within the child and also just getting an understanding of inequities right? that there are inequities and in this world. Um, but then each ah each one of us you know has the power ah to help somebody and another example could be you know, um, helping a blind person cross the street or ah you know, open the door for the elderly like things like that can um really instill that value of helpfulness you know within the child.

Angela: So almost like take kind of dispelling the old fashioned like don’t stare, it’s not, it’s not you know, like look you the way or some of your business, but instead kind of lean into it offer compassion and you know acceptance and yeah to kind of lean into it. Don’t be afraid of something that’s different than you kind of embrace it and you know include those individuals and offer help and compassion. You know when needed.

Louis: Absolutely.

Kristin: Yeah, and I was going to add that this one is I think this is so important because we say this a lot on our podcasts but your kids are always watching so you can do things right to be intentionally more inclusive in various scenarios and really point that out to your kids you know? So, I feel like there’s a lot of teaching opportunity within that one.

Louis: Yup, yup and then when those kids grow up um, you know they’re going to have that value of diversity and they’re going to bring it into their workplace and so that creates a demand for it right?

Angela: Yeah.

Kristin: Um, yes, yeah.

Louis: Yeah, yeah, so kind of builds a stronger incentive to seek diverse candidates. So, it doesn’t really necessarily have to be a mandate, it’s the desire ah to work people who you know come from different perspectives will be already there right? And it’ll come from within, and of course we all know you know the benefits of diverse workforces you know reducing group think and having broad perspectives and so forth. But unfortunately, um, you know we talk the talk, we don’t walk the walk. So, I think for future generations I have hope if these values are instilled early on.

Angela: Ah yeah.

The State of Neurodiversity in the Workplace Today

Kristin: Yeah, me too? Um, well you once again have segued us so nicely into the next question. So, we talked a lot about you know, schools and children and what parents can do um, so we wanted to spend a little time too talking about the workplace in general. So, what what’s going on right now in terms of neurodiversity in the workplace?

More Inclusive Hiring

Louis: Sure, So We all know, I mean especially if you’re a parent of ah of a teen or young adult who’s trying to enter the workplace that that it’s that you know there’s a lot of obstacles in the employment process. So um, what we’ve been seeing you know over the past ah five or I should say maybe close to 10 years, between five to 10 years I should say um, a lot of companies have started to move away from you know, traditional hiring models in favor of more inclusive and alternative approach and I’ll explain this is known as like reverse neurodiversity hiring and, so not to kind of belabor what it is but really, it’s just um, you know it’s involved having a dedicated team ah, for recruitment. So having people within the talent acquisition team partnering with community organizations like vocational rehabilitation national nonprofits with local chapters, who are being approached by individuals who are seeking employment and need help. And so, ah, approaching these organizations if companies do so um, they’ll be able to build out their talent pipeline to include individuals who are who are neurodiverse.

More Inclusive Interview Process

Louis: But again, it doesn’t stop there because once they get to the interview, there’s a lot of issues that could be. Um, presented including you know our traditional QA and a type of interviewing process if a person is needs a little bit more processing time before responding to a question you know, receiving a firestorm of questions in an interview is ah mot going to be helpful and again the person might be assessed ah based on their performance as opposed to you know what they could really deliver to the job and so there’s been alternative interview and employment methods. Um, and ah yeah, it’s just you know there’s companies that are doing it. Um, you know whomever is working with an HR you know this does seem you know to place a lot of pressure on companies, and I could tell you that you know companies like JP Morgan, Chase, DXC Technology, Earnest and Young, SAP they’ve implemented these practices and you know they’ve reported positive results including increased productivity accuracy and effectiveness.

Integrating Neurodiversity Principles Into Standard Business Practices

Louis: But for those of you who are a little bit reserved about this where we are heading ah moving forward. Um is we’re not so much creating these silent programs. We’re focusing right now and when I say we I’m talking about employers on integrating neurodiversity principles and how we conduct business and HR practices. So, what we have been really focused on here at RethinkCare is educating people on the benefits of neurodiversity that extend beyond team members who happen to be neurodiverse right looking at it as sort of a halo effect and I could give you a few examples of these. So, we all can benefit from clear communications, um, you know, less distractions ah in our environment, because all of these things can benefit our performance whether we are neurotypical or neurodiverse. And then for managers like tailoring their styles to suit the individual needs of their direct reports. Um enhances the relationships but they have with their direct reports, but then also um, it encourages you know the embracing of different perspectives So, another important thing to consider is middle management and ensuring that managers are also on board you know with neurodiversity and they’re bringing those ideas into their team.

Neurodiverse Individuals Are Part of the Workforce

Louis: Yeah, just we are probably when we look at the size of the community it’s about 20% of the population. And so realistically a lot of organizations already have neurodiverse individuals within their workforce. So many organizations could improve the ah HR practices you know to reduce the inefficiencies. Um and one of those things that they can do, and you know this is you know this is very related to what we do together is that one of the things that happens is that employees may not use their voluntary benefits because either they’re uncomfortable with disclosing that they have a child with support needs, they have a disability or a specific need, and so this you know really leads to missed opportunities for them to get the necessary support. So, collectively what we can do, um is really challenge this persistent stigma around neurodiversity by first educating ourselves on you know, looking at different conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia through a strength-based lens. You know, looking at the misconceptions that are out there and then understanding that ah there is no one way of being autistic. There’s no way one way of having ADHD or being dyslexic.

Angela: Right.

Louis: Because if we don’t do this what will happen is we’re just going to continue having a workplace where employees aren’t getting the managerial support that they need. And this leads to like lower job satisfaction and performance when impacts the bottom-line. Um, you know there’s also risks with noncompliance with the American with Disabilities Act and that could lead to litigation and then just lack of awareness of accommodations during the hiring process right? which could lead to edging out individuals who are neurodiverse. Um, but most importantly, like if we focus predominantly on the deficits rather than recognizing the strengths of neurodiverse individuals. It could really ah, really be a loss for companies especially now with AI coming on board, you know we do need individuals and organizations that are really divergent thinkers. You know that they think outside the box, and they’re coming in from a unique perspective and adding value to what’s already there.

Angela: Yeah I think you I mean you touched on so many important points and I think you gave a good almost kind of historical perspective of you know we’ve got some frontrunner companies that are really starting to change interviewing practices and hiring practices and so on, but it sounds like it’s and you know the three of us together plus some of our other wonderful colleagues, are in this space right now working on a lot of things um, regarding neurodiversity in the workplace, but moving towards Integrating kind of you know overall supports and inclusivity across the board not siloed but educating people and making sure that managers and HR folks are equipped and knowledgeable about neurodiversity and how do we kind of tweak some things to make everybody successful. So, it’s kind of we’re you know we’re kind of transitioning to that and maybe even we’re starting to see more of these practices are being folded into the diversity equity and inclusion idea, kind of initiatives which is really cool.

Louis: Yeah, absolutely and it’s so important to start with neurodiversity and um, we’re saying this selfishly because when we think about the principles of neurodiversity and recognizing that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences and perspectives that’s applicable across race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and so building in that that that acknowledgement and really honoring it and seeing its value can only not only help individuals who are you know neurodiverse but individuals that are coming in you know from different, but the different sectors of society. You know who may be going into an environment that um you know they’re surrounded with people who are who are not like them. You know who don’t look like them who don’t have similar experiences. It would be great you know to build out an environment where if people are cut from the same cloth. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Um, and we’re still working on that.

What Is Encouraging About Neurodiversity Today?

Angela: Right? Yeah well that actually takes us to our last question really nicely. What are you encouraged about Lewis in the workplace when it comes to neurodiversity what what’s looking up for you from your vantage point?

Louis: Um I think it’s more and more people are talking about it I have to say the friends that I am close with you know who live in I’m based in historian Queens so I live within a great community and I’ve made ah a lot of friends here and they’re aware of what we do, and they’ve come forward and they said look you know, I have I struggle with writing with you know it takes a lot of effort for me to write and I’m not sure why you know this is or um I find myself when I’m talking to others that I’m not picking up on specific queues, so people are becoming a little bit more attuned to you know to ah certain aspects of themselves, that may have presented challenges for them particularly um, you know in environments where they’re expected to perform like you know the person who doesn’t pick up social cues says he is difficulty with dating. And then there was a friend of mine ah, we were celebrating July fourth together and ah our mutual friend ah had fireworks and he had stayed behind. He didn’t want to be close. He said I don’t like loud popping sounds and then he started to go into hey I maybe I maybe neurodivergent and so forth I said Okay, okay I think the most important thing is what you’re doing right now is that you’re advocating for your needs. You’re not going out there to make others comfortable just by having your presence. You’re staying inside because that’s what you need right now and that’s really going to help your well-being ultimately and so I like I feel positive that people are ah are not just being in tune to the things that present challenges to them, but also really just advocating for their needs and a lot of times when someone is asked for accommodations. It really doesn’t infringe on ah the let’s say we’re going back into the workplace. It doesn’t infringe on the quality of work that they produce. Or it doesn’t infringe on the quality work that other people produce, or it doesn’t really interfere with relationships if someone doesn’t want to go out for drinks after work then let them stay behind and don’t hold it against them. If somebody um you know doesn’t feel comfortable with presenting that’s fine. If they need a script or if they need you know something in front of them to guide them then you know let them do it? Um, but have that reassurance that when somebody is asking for a particular accommodation or expressing their needs that most of the time it’s not going to have a negative impact on the work that’s going to be produced like that’s just that’s something that we need to remember.


Angela: Um, yeah, absolutely well I think that’s a great way to wrap it up.

Kristin: Yeah I was just thinking that such a good so many helpful tips in here and just I have so much great information so, I hope everyone um or all of you are able to walk away with a little something. Thanks Louis for joining us. We were so happy to have you here.

Louis: Thank you for having me. This has been an enriching conversation for me and thank you for yeah, giving me a platform to talk.

Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thanks, everyone for joining us on our 38th episode of Behaviorally Speaking on our next episode we will be discussing keeping kids safe. So, until then don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform so you never miss an episode

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