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Continuing my series of posts arising from the ABA Labor & Employment Conference earlier this month, one of the most interesting programs I attended was a plenary session on neurodiversity in the workplace.

“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. The word neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as ADHD or learning disabilities”, according to a recent Harvard Health article on the subject.

The discussion really focused on how, for many, a “weakness” such as a diagnosis of autism or ADHD, can be seen as a strength if the attributes of such a diagnosis are properly dealt with.

The speakers cogently posited that neurodiversity is not seen on equal footing as “visible” disabilities, even though significant portions of the population have these “hidden” ones.

But once a diagnosis is determined, then for employers, there isn’t anything “new” that employers need to deal with at least from a legal sense. The Americans with Disabilities Act applies with equal force for those who have neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism or ADHD. As a result, employers are obligated to engage in the interactive process and provide a reasonable accommodation if it will allow the employee to do the job.

You can view all the materials from the conference at links here and here.

For employers, being aware of such an issue and educating HR staff about the importance of addressing such issues are important steps to ensuring that neurodiversity gets the proper respect in the workplace. HSBC did one such video a few years back; you could do a lot worse than this.