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Office Meeting

YOU CAN ASK THAT


Questions

Answers

What is the pathway for getting a diagnosis for ADHD or autism?

Getting a diagnosis of autism or ADHD typically involves a comprehensive assessment by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or developmental pediatrician. It's important to seek evaluation and diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional experienced in diagnosing and treating autism or ADHD. A thorough evaluation can help guide interventions and support to improve quality of life and functioning.

Is treating a neurodivergent staff member differently considered discrimination?

Treating a neurodivergent staff member differently can be considered discrimination if it is unfair, harmful, or based on stereotypes or prejudices related to their neurodivergence. However, treating a neurodivergent staff member differently to accommodate their specific needs is not considered discrimination. 
Our diverse population includes various neuro-types, each with unique strengths, challenges, and needs. By treating people as individuals and addressing their specific needs, we respect these differences and ensure everyone has the support they need to succeed in the workplace.

Do neurodivergent students tend to have better experiences at specialist or generalist schools?

The experience of neurodivergent students can vary widely depending on the individual and the specific school environment, whether specialist or generalist. Ultimately, the best school environment for a neurodivergent student depends on the individual's specific needs, preferences, and the level of support available in each setting. 
Some students may thrive in a specialist school where they receive targeted support, while others may do better in a generalist school with a more inclusive environment. It's important to consider each student's unique strengths and challenges when determining the most suitable school environment.

Are there any processes that can help to proactively reduce stigma in working groups?

Stigma around neurodiversity often comes from misunderstanding or lack of understanding of what it means to be neurodivergent. One of the most powerful ways a working group can de-stigmatise neurodiversity is to encourage all staff to be inquiring, open-minded and accepting of difference. Open and honest communication is key to this. Building trusting relationships, where staff can feel heard without judgement, is critical to shaping an inclusive workplace.
Other things to help reduce stigma include providing education and training about neurodiversity in the workplace which can actively debunk common myths and misconceptions. Additionally, providing coaching and support for the manager and team can help them put the principles of creating a supportive, neuro-inclusive workplace into practice.

I know someone who is autistic outside the workplace - they tend to ignore people (not saying hello or goodbye) and how they talk to people could be interpreted as rude. They have often said that they are autistic, and that's why they behave this way. I just wanted to ask if you think this is fair, especially if you're working closely with this person? I often find it upsetting when they ignore me or speak rudely to me.

It’s important to understand that this person is not choosing to behave this way, but it is how their brain functions that impacts how they communicate, process and interact with the world. Social communication can be very challenging for an autistic person. It can be hard reading facial cues, understanding the rhythm of conversation like when to speak and when to listen, knowing the right words to use that won’t offend others, brain chatter that makes it impossible to focus on the conversation, sensory sensitivities that may override everything else in the environment, or being highly anxious in a social setting, are all things this person could be experiencing. 
As you can see, many things could impact an autistic person’s ability to say hello and hold a conversation. Understanding and acceptance of this is the most helpful approach by others. 

My son is autistic and has finished an electrical engineering degree. He is finding it hard to find a job through the usual means. Is there a place he could go to help him get into the workforce?

Specialisterne works with many highly skilled and talented neurodivergent individuals who are looking for a meaningful career. We help educate employers about how to embrace the strengths of neurodivergent individuals and what they bring to the workplace, with an inclusive recruitment process that removes the barriers to employment for neurodivergent individuals. Specialisterne regularly post job opportunities with our employer partners on our website.
Additionally, we recommend searching for employers who are leading the way in diversity and inclusion, particularly in neuro-inclusion, as many of these employers will have neurodiversity hiring programs.

 

How do we talk to our managers about being neurodivergent and how it affects our work? Do they have a new duty to learn about eg autism masking, and the consequences that come from that (eg someone who seems to be coping each day may have emotional and physical overwhelm later)?

A manager has a duty to provide a working environment that supports the employee to perform their job. While they may not need to become an expert in autism they do need to listen to the individual’s needs and make any adjustments and accommodations in the workplace that are necessary to perform your job.
For a neurodivergent employee, these conversations can sometimes be challenging due to fear of lack of understanding, or from previous adverse experiences in other workplaces. It is important to feel like you can talk about your needs safely. Sometimes it may not be necessary to disclose your specific neurodivergent condition if you don’t feel comfortable, but you can still ask for the things you need.
Consider that there may also be other people in the workplace who can assist with ensuring your adjustments or accommodations are met. These people may be in HR, People and Culture or Diversity and Inclusion. Or you may have a team member or buddy who is an ally who can assist you in advocating for your needs in the workplace.
In essence, your workplace must provide you with what you need to successfully perform your job, so if your autism is impacting your ability to do your work, it is important to make it clear what you need. 

What are the top 3 things workplaces could do better to support neurodivergent staff?

Our top three things would be:

 

  1. Listen: Ensure your workplace listens to the needs of neurodivergent team members. When they come to you explaining their way of seeing and perceiving the world, listen, accept and act. Then ensure you put in place a range of adjustments and accommodations (many of which are not difficult or costly) to support each individual.

  2. Learn: Provide training and education across the organisation about neurodiversity and build the capacity and capability of managers and team members to work with and manage neurodivergent team members successfully.

  3. Embrace: Truly recognise and celebrate neurodiversity by valuing difference throughout the whole employee life-cycle, from neuro-inclusive recruitment practices through to supportive onboarding and on-going inclusive workplace practices that support staff to thrive. 

What are some useful tips to help neurodivergent staff members who may be having a difficult day or sensory overload while at work?

Supporting neurodivergent staff members who are experiencing a difficult day or experiencing sensory overload involves creating a supportive and understanding environment first and foremost. Here are some useful tips:

 

  • Is there a space that you can suggest the team member go to that is quiet with low stimulation where they can take breaks to recharge? This will help with sensory overload and may help avoid a shutdown.

  • Use clear and direct communication to avoid misunderstandings, and be patient if they need extra time to process information. Ask if they need further explanation and reassure them that it’s ok to ask again if they don’t know.

  • Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps and provide clear instructions to help them stay focused and organised. If the staff member is having a difficult day, cognitive functioning or memory may be impaired, so the more clear and direct you are in your communication, the better.

  • Encourage a supportive and understanding workplace culture where colleagues know and respect neurodiversity. Help others understand the needs of this staff member and encourage acceptance and inclusion.

  • Be open to providing accommodations such as noise-cancelling headphones, adjustable lighting, or flexible workspaces to meet their individual needs, and offer flexible work arrangements.

  • Regularly check in with them to see how they are doing and if they need any support or accommodations.

What term do you prefer to use when referring to someone who is autistic who requires assistance – ‘all abilities’, ‘special needs’?

We don’t differentiate between autistic people who need assistance and those who don’t. It’s best to ask the individual how they like to be addressed or referred to, but most people’s preference is to be referred to as autistic.

How do you feel about the notion of a spectrum? And that some people say most people are on ‘the spectrum’?

Not all people are on the autism spectrum. The autism spectrum refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication. These conditions are diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) according to the DSM-5 criteria.


While someone may exhibit some autistic traits or behaviours to varying degrees, not everyone meets the criteria for an autism diagnosis. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it can manifest differently in each individual, with a wide variation in symptoms and severity. Some people may have mild symptoms and be able to live relatively independent lives, while others may have more severe symptoms and require more support.


It's important to understand that autism is just one of many ways that the human brain can be wired, and neurodiversity is a natural and valuable aspect of human variation.

How best can an autistic person be supported? Are there any basic dos?

Dos:

  • Be patient and understanding: Recognise that autistic individuals may process information differently and may need more time to respond or communicate.

  • Respect their sensory sensitivities: Be mindful of loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells that may be overwhelming for them.

  • Use clear and direct communication: Be specific in your instructions and avoid using figurative language or sarcasm, which can be confusing.

  • Provide structure and routine: Autistic individuals often thrive in predictable environments, so providing a clear schedule or routine can be helpful.

  • Encourage their interests: Support their passions and interests, as these can be a source of comfort and motivation for them.

  • Be supportive of their communication preferences: Some autistic individuals may prefer alternative forms of communication, such as using pictures or writing.

  • Respect their need for personal space: Allow them to have space when they need it and avoid invading their personal space without permission.

  • Recognise and celebrate strengths: Acknowledge and celebrate the individual's strengths, talents, and unique perspectives.

How best can an autistic person be supported? Are there any basic don'ts?

Don'ts:

  • Assume all autistic individuals are the same: Autism is a spectrum disorder, so each individual is unique and may have different strengths and challenges.

  • Force eye contact: Many autistic individuals find eye contact uncomfortable or overwhelming, so it's important to respect their preferences regarding eye contact.

  • Dismiss their feelings or experiences: Validate their feelings and experiences, even if you may not fully understand them.

  • Use negative language or stereotypes: Avoid using language that is stigmatising or perpetuates negative stereotypes about autism.

  • Interrupt their routines without warning: Changes in routine can be challenging for autistic individuals, so it's important to provide advance notice of any changes whenever possible.

  • Underestimate their abilities: Autistic individuals have unique strengths and talents, so it's important to recognise and encourage these abilities.

Neurodiversity Confident Employer
Enhance understanding, challenge misconceptions, and build organisational capacity to create inclusive hiring and management practices.

The Neurodiversity Confident Employer Pack includes:
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1 - General Neurodiversity Awareness Training
2 - Autism and ADHD at Work, Training for Managers and Team Leaders
3 - Autism and ADHD at Work, Workshop for HR, DEI, People and Culture
4 - You Can Ask That
5 - Designing Neurodiverse Inclusive Recruitment Processes
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