by Elise Wulff, MEd
Senior Program Manager, Child and Aspire Works Services
Recent years have provided no lack of evidence for the urgency needed to address systemic issues of inequity and marginalization. The resulting energy behind Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives aims to make efficient and meaningful change in schools, communities, and workplaces. Truly inclusive environments not only hold space to acknowledge our differences but value them as the natural occurring variability that makes our collective power so great.
Aspire has been a long-time advocate of a person-centered, strengths-based model of inclusion at the core of the Neurodiversity movement. While many DEI initiatives look to tackle a wide range of topics that make us alike and different, both the visible and the invisible, neurodiversity is rarely included. It should be.
So, what is neurodiversity?
Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist, is most widely recognized for originating the phrase in the late 1990s, popularized with the help of the writings of US journalist Harvey Blume. Neurodiversity is the concept that there is indisputable naturally occurring variability in our neurology, the way we think, and that we should view our ‘neurodivergences’ as normal, perhaps even as a collective strength, rather than as deficits.
“In the workplace it is the idea of inclusivity that extends to neurological differences, including hiring and retaining talent with neuro-variations such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia.” (Source: Neurodiversityhub.org)
Why do Neurodiversity in the Workplace initiatives matter?
- Estimates of the percentage of young adults with ASD in the United States who have ever been employed are between 53% and 58%, the lowest rate among disability groups (Roux, 2013 and 2015; Shattuck, 2012).
- Young adults with autism that do work earn the least in weekly pay, averaging $101 a week (Cimera & Cowan, 2009).
- In June 2014, only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. were participating in the labor force – working or seeking work. Of those, 12.9 percent were unemployed, meaning only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed. (By contrast, 69.3 percent of people without disabilities were in the labor force, and 65 percent of the population without disabilities was employed.) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014)
- We provide consultation and training to Human Resource departments in everything from Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring Practices to professional development series on Best Practices for Neurodiverse Supervisory Relationships.
- We educate organization leadership on the importance of intersectionalism and, specifically, extending DEI initiatives to include neurodiversity. Intersectionalism describes the framework that an individual or a group of individuals have multiple social identities and that they can face multiple prejudices or disadvantages related to each of those identities that further complicate their inclusion in a setting.
- Our interns are placed in Competitive Integrated Employment with employer partners who agree to receive feedback on the inclusivity of their practices and environments for the neurodivergent population.
- We value first-person voices and are continually modifying our programs to reflect feedback from our participants.
- We attend seminars and participate in local, regional, national, and international working groups to build and share resources.
What can you do to support Neurodiversity?
- Talk with your employer or Human Resources department and ask if their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion vision includes Neurodiversity.
- Ensure your child or adult has opportunities to process their strengths and articulate their unique skills.
To learn more about how you or your organization can partner with Aspire, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.