One is frequently reminded of the remarkable diversity in the world. Raising awareness of all types of diversity is important, as not all disabilities are visible. Every day, job applicants encounter hiring managers who interview and evaluate them against their organization’s pre-existing on-boarding protocols. It is standard to assess applicants across a set of relevant criteria to select the best person for the job.
Over the past few decades, organizations have increased efforts to make sure hiring practices take into account the ever-increasing diversity of applicants in the job market. In the workplace, greater attention to valuing diversity has resulted in more inclusive practices in the hiring and retention of employees.
Valuing diversity is the practice of honoring and recognizing individual differences. Diversity can span across a wide variety of dimensions including culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender, gender identification, religion, age, marital status and many more categories. While efforts to increase diversity within organizations have resulted in positive change, neurodiversity has been sorely overlooked.
Neurodiversity, a term first coined by sociologist Judy Singer in 1998, further broadens the concept of diversity by bringing attention to differences among us that extend to brain functioning, perception, and social-emotional functioning. This concept invites us to rethink what is normal and to expand and extend our understanding of our rich diversity at the neurological level. Neurodiversity highlights our differences in lived experience informed by the natural and unique differences in brain function, behavior and physical ability.
The prevalence of neurodiversity in the general population is difficult to ascertain because neurodivergence is an umbrella term for a range of descriptive categories. Some estimates place prevalence between 30-40% while other estimates are more conservative between 15-20%. The difficulty in ascertaining a consistent number lies in assessing prevalence along a variety of categories and conditions. Our awareness and understanding of these categories are ever expanding, and each varies in prevalence in the population. Including a range from Asperger’s syndrome to autism, from attention deficit to anxiety disorders, neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.
While some conditions carry with them significant struggles and impairments, viewing individuals through a neurodivergent lens allows for more open, flexible and inclusive practices and accommodations to exist.
For example, because some people travel using wheelchairs, most public spaces have elevators and ramps. While a person in a wheelchair is limited in that they cannot use stairs, this “disability” is removed if a facility is constructed to address the needs of the whole population. In much the same way, hiring practices would benefit from being informed from a neurodivergent perspective.
“Valuing diversity is the practice of honoring and recognizing individual differences.”