Despite the increase in neurodiversity awareness in the workplace and discrimination laws being implemented to stop harm against those in the community, there are still unconscious biases that rule over the workforce, causing misconceptions and misunderstandings. These misunderstandings can lead to wrong assumptions and people getting hurt in the process. While the ADA helps protect individuals with disabilities within the workplace, it is up to the leaders in our organizations to eliminate unconscious biases. 

There Have Never Been Neurodivergent Individuals on the Team Before 

One of the biggest misunderstandings that business owners and leaders can have is that there has never been a neurodivergent individual on their team and that they are only now seeing a rise in neurodivergent workers. There have always been neurodivergent workers, but lately, speaking out about who we are and our needs has felt safer and more welcoming. Additionally, other neurodivergent individuals may have also learned more about neurodiversity and their own identities to accurately describe their experiences. This level of perceived safety and a gradual cultural shift has made it seem that there has been a rise, but in actuality, there have been neurodivergent individuals in the workplace forever. Only now are the right processes, training, and accommodations being written into law and policy. 

Only HR Needs to Be Trained and Educated 

While, yes, HR is the leader of individuals and cultures within the workplace, they are not the only ones who need to be trained and educated on neurodiversity and the needs of neurodivergent individuals. HR should be 100% trained, but so should business owners, fellow leaders, and every employee on the team. Anyone who is involved in the business should be properly educated to foster a safe, welcoming, and aware environment. It only takes one ill-informed employee to cause biases to roam free, and to ensure that doesn’t happen, we must take training and education seriously. This also means having frequent education and training for all staff. Laws and regulations often change, as does our cultural competence, and organizations should be up-to-date. 

Everyone Who Is Neurodivergent Is the Same 

The misunderstanding that could cause the most issues is assuming that everyone who is neurodivergent is the same. A one-solution-fits-all approach to accommodations and training will only assist a certain few and then leave many neurodivergent individuals without the proper support. There are so many ways to accommodate and support your neurodivergent employees and to ensure you give them what they need to complete their role equally to their co-workers. Proper communication needs to be done to learn what they need and come to a compromise. There should be an interactive process done for every neurodivergent individual who is requesting accommodations to make sure they are properly taken care of and not placing undue hardship on the workplace. 

Neurodivergent Individuals Will Proclaim They Are Neurodivergent

Lastly, a significant misunderstanding is that neurodivergent individuals will immediately proclaim they are neurodivergent. While there are some who will bring this up in the hiring process or during onboarding, you should not be surprised if there are some individuals who keep it to themselves until it is a necessity to bring it up or do not know themselves. Some might not bring it up unless they realize they need certain accommodations within the workplace or for a certain project. It is not their responsibility to proclaim who they are immediately, and many inequities make it difficult for some neurodivergent people to understand how their brains work. 

With so many misunderstandings in the workplace about neurodiversity, it is essential that we work together to bring education and stop unconscious biases. If you want to learn more or educate your organization, contact me!