With all of the protests that have happened throughout the past year, the public relations industry is under extreme pressure to represent diversity. There are many ways that the industry can represent diversity, for instance, through the use of race, gender and sexual orientation. However, there are other forms of diversity that are far less obvious and cannot be seen. Neurodiversity is a movement that seeks to change the views of people who have “abnormalities” with their brain in terms of function due to autism, ADHD, dyslexia or other learning disabilities. In society, people with these types of neurological differences are viewed as weird, lazy or out of touch, but the reality is, their brain learns new information and processes it differently.
In our society, many people with neurological differences are forced to mask their diagnoses to prevent people from labeling them as stupid or slow. Masking is a term used when a person seeks to hide or minimize their neuro difference in order to fit in with the typical world. People with autism are known to do this through pretending to be interested when they really are not, scripting conversations, and disguising stimming behaviors. This difference in processing the world leads to people interacting differently as well. While many can’t see the disability, most people take notice that certain groups act differently.
People with neuro divergences tend to have above average abilities in pattern recognition, memory and mathematics. Yet, they may not get hired because they do not fit the typical profile that employers look for, resulting in the most capable people remaining unemployed.
So how can employers hire people with neurodivergence and create a welcoming environment? The hiring process filters out people with neurodivergence because they are not part of the typical profile. Companies can promote diversity through adjusting the interview process. Allowing people to take notes, giving them the interview questions beforehand, or even focusing on more skill based interviews to make the environment more comfortable.
The best way to create a safe environment is to be open to accommodations; people with these differences are able to do the work but they may need accommodations to their environment, structure and communication. This can be something as simple as putting them in a corner office where they are faced with less distractions or having special tools that allow someone to have their files read to them. When it comes down to it, people who are neurodivergent just need an environment that is flexible, empathetic and willing to work with them.
This blog post was written by Fiona Hitesman, Assistant Conference Coordinator