How managers can make the difference in difficult times.

There have been many headlines associated with neurodiversity in recent months. Some of them of the good awareness-raising, even uplifting kind, and others of a more depressing variety.

One that’s been particularly shocking is the insanely long waiting times. These have been particularly bad for individuals seeking an assessment for autism or ADHD, and I’m aware that diagnostic assessments for other neurotypes have become harder to book, too. So, while it’s really great that people are more self-aware and seeking solutions to challenges they’re identifying are possibly associated with their neurodivergence, it does put pressure on a system that wasn’t built to cope with this demand.

The result? People sitting on waiting lists for referrals that are 2 years… even 5 years, in some cases.

What’s more, the amazing fund, Access To Work, you know, the one that doesn’t require diagnostic evidence to make a successful application for funding… has also become a long and tedious journey. 6 months or more have been some of the experiences of recent clients.

So what can be done about all this?

If you’re a manager, please step forward. Here’s some useful things to DO and SAY that will make the difference to your neurodiverse workforce, in the best of times and the worst of times.

DO: Put in reasonable adjustments as quickly as possible when a member of your team discloses their neurodivergence or neurodivergence-associated challenges.

SAY: How does this show up for you? What reasonable adjustments do you need to support your neurodivergence/dyslexia/ etc?

Why?

  1. Showing some respectful curiosity around your colleague’s neurodivergence and how it may impact their work goes a very long way.
  2. Ask straight up what they may need may not mean providing anything that will hit your budget. In fact, over 70% of adjustments are cost-free. You may find that you just need to have more regular check-ins, give them more frequent breaks or offer flexible working hours.
  3. Accept that this will be a regular conversation, especially if they are new. This is because your colleague may not know their job well enough to know where the likely challenges will be.
  4. Book a workplace needs assessment to see what other adjustments can be made.

DO: Make opportunities for conversations with your staff to share that they are neurodivergent or find out if they think they might be.

SAY: Are there things about your identity (ie not visible or disclosed yet) that we haven’t discussed that it would help me to know about, so that I/we can provide you with appropriate support?

Why?

  1. Because if people aren’t given opportunities to tell, they won’t share. If it’s not common practice and openly talked about as normal, they also won’t think it’s safe to disclose so will keep it to themselves. When conversations around neurodiversity are the norm (and yes, there are teams and workplaces where neurotypical brains are the minority) then it’s okay to go there.
  2. Some people don’t have the social, financial or cultural capital to have been able to consider neurodivergence as the possibility or access a screening to get a better picture of where their strengths and challenges might be.
  3. It offers employees who are already minoritised due to other protected characteristics (eg race, gender, sexuality etc) a chance to think about the intersection of neurodiversity with these in a supportive sensitive dialogue.
  4. Offer your staff a neurodiversity screener if conversations with your employees surface self-identification of neurodivergence. Contact Neurodiversity Specialists for details of how to do this.

DO: get informed about neurodiversity and provide neurodiversity awareness training for your team.

SAY: We’re all neurodiverse, we’re just not ALL marginalised because of it.

Why?

  1. It is a chance for the first of many conversations about neurodiversity being a 1/7 workforce statistic (even more in industries where there are skills/talent matches).
  2. It’s only by creating awareness of the diversity of human brains that people may find out they are neurodivergent. There can be huge senses of relief and release when individuals receive the training and recognise their strengths and have their neurodivergence-associated challenges explained.
  3. It goes some way to removing the stigma around difference, as well as helping staff feel valued. Contact Neurodiversity Specialists for more information on awareness training.

So there’s just a few ways to walking the walk and talking the talk. I hope this blog has helped you find some ways of leading your neurodiverse team with timely support.

At a time when diagnostics have become a hard-to-get, it’s an inclusion must-have.

If you’d like to explore how to put this into practice, contact Neurodiversity Specialists for some line manager or executive coaching to improve your leadership skills in this specialist area.

Emma A