Neurodiversity In the Workplace - What More can we Do?

04/04/2022


During Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Busy Bees Education and Training brought together a variety of different speakers for a neurodiversity roundtable that aimed to look at just some of the issues faced by neurodiverse people in the workplace. We wanted to better understand the issues while also looking at how everyone can get better at helping people to thrive and develop within their settings.

 

We were kindly joined by:

Helen Wilson – Science and Communications Manager, Cognassist UK 

Salwa Booth – Co-Ordinator, Shropshire Autistic Adults Society

Tomas Higginson – The office of Sharon Hodgson MP, APPG for Dyslexia and other SpLD

Jody Dean – Education and Quality Manager, Busy Bees Education and Training

Jon Douglas – Director of IT, Busy Bees Nurseries

Yvonne Brookstein – Head of Inclusion, Busy Bees Nurseries

Catrina Lowri – Director, Neuroteachers

Gemma Green – Area Team Leader, Busy Bees Education and Training

Terri-Anne Fell – Digital Marketer, Busy Bees Education and Training

Are schools adequately preparing neurodiverse students for the workplace?

The roundtable began with a look at whether education settings were doing enough to provide support to neurodiverse students. It was agreed that students were not being prepared for independent living and were almost being trained to be dependent on others for the rest of their lives. Huge numbers of neurodiverse children are out of school, with almost a million non-attenders. The group agreed that more must be done to identify when children require support and that there was no reason this could not happen on day one of education.

Salwa Booth, Co-Ordinator, Staffordshire Autistic Adults Society, said: “I deal with young adults who have been through the system. These are people with great brains and great thinking but come to us under-educated and not trained for life skills. They are almost trained to be dependant, rather than independent.”

Catrina Lowri, Director at Neuroteachers, said that “It is not about just getting a job, it is keeping a job. We need to empower neurodiverse people to have big conversations and set out their support needs to employers.”

 Why do so many organisations fail to hire neurodiverse workers?

Moving on to discuss why so many organisations fail to hire neurodiverse workers, it was established that larger organisations fail to organise and harness neurodiverse people effectively. In many workplaces, the use of situational judgment tests in job application processes sometimes cause trouble and distress for many neurodiverse people, with the group agreeing that they should be scrapped to help in the job application process. The group also agreed that the bill for universal screen for neurodiversity, to help more people who may be neurodiverse discover this and be able to seek support, was a great idea, and more should be done to support it.

Tomas Higginson, from the office of Sharon Hodgson MP, APPG for Dyslexia and other SpLD, said: “This is a terrible problem we find. We’ve heard a lot from testimonies that larger organisations fail to organise and harness neurodiverse people. Situational judgment tests mean neurodiverse people have to mask to a ridiculously high level. The APPG believes they should be scrapped.”

How can we better educate neurotypical people to support their neurodiverse colleagues?

The group discussed how neurotypical people could better support neurodiverse people in the workplace. Many people in the panel revealed how they almost had to explain to their employers or colleagues what their neurodiversity was. It was mutually agreed that neurotypical people should have some awareness training as to how to better help neurodiverse people in the workplace.

The panel also discussed how helping neurodiverse people should be a key part of the businesses, and that someone in the business should have someone who is neurodiverse, or understands them, to help them to be better represented in the workplace. However, it was made clear that there shouldn’t be some blanket, cover-all method for helping neurodiverse people, as they are all different, with different personalities and needs from others.

Terri-Anne Fell, Digital Marketer at Busy Bees Education and Training, said: “It always does fall on the neurodiverse person to explain neurodiversity to neurotypical people. On Job applications, it is normally written as ‘do you have a disability' on the form and it is a difficult question. I didn’t refer to myself as disabled as I don’t like to be referred to as a disabled person.”

Helen Wilson, Science and Communications Manager, Cognassist UK, said: “People in education are passionate about providing for neurodiversity and understand this. There is a lot of people who also want to understand this. People are going to get marked down in Ofsted if they fail to provide adequate support for neurodiverse learners.”

Whilst support has come on a long way in recent years for neurodiverse people within work and education settings, this roundtable has made it clear that there is still a lot more to do to truly help people.

Busy Bees Education and Training are again supporting Autism Awareness Week this year, as we believe that there should be no limit to individuals learning journey during their time with us. We provide various methods of support to our learners, including a short assessment prior to the beginning of the course, so we can get a better understanding of how we can better help all of our learners. You can also access our Autism and SEND training courses, designed specifically for nursery settings here.