Neurodiversity in the Workplace – Inclusion for the 21st Century

by Michael Dentico

I first read the term “neurodiversity” in an article given to me by an English professor while attending Columbia College in Chicago. It was a fascinating read. Its writer focused on the fact that we often have a societal urge to strive for the “normal” life; we don’t want ourselves to be associated with anything “abnormal” or “different,” especially on a mental level.

While the author of this article was strictly focusing on individuals with mental disorders such as autism and attention deficit disorder, the message was clear: we can’t paint every instance of a unique or outlier mind as “wrong!”

Your brain (and mind by extension) is as unique as your fingerprints.

Some of the most brilliant minds throughout history: Einstein, Van Gogh, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group and many others have all come with their own unique brands of neurodiversity. There is a tendency to classify these people with a laundry list of pathological labels, especially if their mental struggles manifest in the physical space (i.e. Van Gogh’s ear) yet that would be missing the point.

Just like our minds, our experiences—both professional and personal—are completely unique and carry us from moment to moment. These experiences influence our decisions, reactions and ideas.

As we work to unravel the stigma toward mental health, it’s time for organizations to embrace neurodiversity with the increasing acceptance shown toward other social differences such as gender equality, sexual orientation and varying ethnic groups. There’s a need to create an environment that can unleash the full abilities of every person.

Rather than looking at an individual with a mental sphere different than most as “abnormal,” we need to embrace them and see what skills they can bring to the table in the professional environment.

Neurodiversity is an element of strength in any organization; with proper management, your company can benefit from the variety of personalities and competencies among your team, making for an efficient and inclusive workplace.

We are each born with a brain that presents unique challenges we must acknowledge, cultivate and embrace. The ability to work in an atmosphere of acceptance and solidarity can only bring positive results as we move into a more inclusive future. This topic is especially pertinent as we observe Mental Health Awareness Month. Bring mental diversity into the workplace. We all have passions, regardless of the hand we are dealt in life. Accommodate those passions, embrace your mental uniqueness and strive toward your goals with constant determination.

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