Workplace Inclusion Doesn’t End at Hiring Neurodivergent People

What 'inclusive' workplaces show in the market and in society is far different from the actual reality.

As an autistic individual as well as an autistic employee, I have my perspectives and thoughts to share on inclusion at the workplace.

Many companies have created initiatives/programs for the neurodivergent people on the autism spectrum.

These programs aim to harness unique strengths as well as capabilities like pattern recognition, looking at the details, working with data to be applied for business, technology, innovation, and finance.

These companies also claim that they will be providing equal opportunities, reasonable accommodations, and a supportive informed workplace as well as an empowering environment. Companies modify their hiring/recruitment procedure to suit neurodivergent candidates. There is supportive, smooth onboarding. Till the candidates are onboarded, there is a sense of psychological safety and inclusion.

Dear companies, inclusion doesn't end at hiring though. Real inclusion is giving neurodivergent employees tools as well as means to empower themselves as neurodivergent individuals as well as employees of the company so they can give their best to the workplace. To harness unique strengths of neurodivergents, providing them with only technical training is not enough, a sense of belonging as well as psychological safety is crucial, as are tools to advocate for themselves, reasonable accommodations for the work and an informed aware workplace. 

Companies should have the foundation along with strategies, systems, as well as processes in place before hiring neurodivergent individuals into the workforce.

The systems and processes will be different in context to location. For example, the systems/processes of the neurodiversity program in the US or Europe would be different from that in India due to differences in language, culture, socio-economic status, as well as the state of awareness in India. Though we can incorporate things which are applicable to India, it is not appropriate to incorporate everything in terms of strategies, processes as well as systems from the US or Europe.

The common things which are needed across the world at any neurodiversity work initiative are a sense of acceptance, compassion, awareness, open to listening as well as acknowledging the differences.

Just knowing the employee is neurodivergent or autistic is not awareness, the workplace needs more sensitisation about neurodiversity, how brains work as well as managing a neurodivergent work force.

Dear companies, please let us (autistic employees) help you to help us. We have lived experiences, we know how our brain works, and we know what kind of support we need. 

If an autistic employee (or autistic employees) are advocating for themselves, start listening with an open, non-judgemental mind, involve them in managing and decision-making of the neurodiversity work program. 

Though how we communicate our thoughts may not be appropriate according to non-autistic standards, we mean good. We say what we mean. If the manager or immediate peers are not sensitised, there will be lack of psychological safety in an autistic employee's mind. 

Many times autistic individuals don't reach out to seek help or support as they have traumas due to being misunderstood all their lives. We don't mean offense or disrespect. Don't misunderstand advocacy at the workplace as a sign of arrogance or unhappiness.

Companies, don't hire on that stereotype - that all people on the spectrum are 'savants'. Autism is a spectrum, we are all different with our own unique strengths as well as challenges. Individual needs as well as support are also important.

Though most of the autistic people are good at IT or computers, all aren't. People on the spectrum have different interests as well as expertise, ranging from law, art, science, literature, coding, baking, research and so on.

~ The Gentle Autist

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