The importance of Neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity is an important topic in every workplace and equality, diversity and inclusion aren’t going anywhere. In this issue, we talk to our Education and Training Contract Manager, Neil Vago, about his experience as a neurodiverse leader in the workplace.
How does your dyslexia affect the way you work?
I was originally diagnosed with Dyslexia when I was 11 years old. While there was an understanding of what Dyslexia was at that time there were not many support systems in place and there was not any adaptive technology at the time. When I decided to re-enter third-level education, many more support systems had been put into place which allowed me to gain study support and access more adaptive technology than I had found on my own.
As a Dyslexic or Neurodivergent individual in the workplace, I find I need to be organised in my working methods. This includes making a task list and having a checklist.
What can a leader do to help a neurodivergent staff member to thrive in the workplace?
A neurodivergent individual can have some difficulties with timekeeping, organising work, or managing projects because of short-term memory problems and sequencing difficulties such as following verbal instructions or directions.
If you have a neurodivergent individual in the workplace, being a little more compassionate is one of the best supports you can provide. For example, while technology can aid me as a person with dyslexia when it comes to issues such as spelling and grammar, one of the best supports systems that you can have is having a colleague that you can go to who will spell and grammar check a document for you in a non-judgemental manner.
Managers and teammates can also support a Neurodivergent colleague by understanding that our energy will be different at different times of the day. Later in the workday can often be more challenging for a neurodivergent individual, I often find myself with low energy affecting my concentration levels at the end of the day. Simple support like following up a conversation with an email to reiterate a list of tasks or items will aid a neurodivergent individual, especially if they were not able to make their own list of items to do.
When a neurodiverse person is tired or overly stressed their ‘symptoms’ can be more pronounced as they don’t have the energy to employ their usual coping strategies. This stress will make day-to-day issues harder, require more time than usual may include more mistakes. It is important to try to have empathy if a staff member is feeling this way, as feeling judged by others can lead to more stress and anxiety.
As my handwriting and spelling are two of my weaker skills due to being Dyslexic, as well as having DCD (Dyspraxia) I find I need to rely on technology to aid me in my day-to-day work having a good spelling and grammar program installed on my work computer allows me to correct common mistakes while I am working. This is something I recommend that all team- leaders have in place for their team to relieve the pressure they may feel.
What are the key strengths that you bring to the workplace due to your dyslexia?
People like me who are Dyslexic or Neurodivergent are shown to have abstract and critical thinking skills this will include big-picture, multi-dimensional and out-of-the-box thinking. We can be detail orientated as well as being hyper-focused with a keen sense of observation. Because Neurodiverse individuals are good problem solvers as well as being creative and observant, we are good at making connections this is because of our strong narrative reasoning and our ability to think differently. Anyone who is Dyslexic or Neurodiverse is regarded to have high levels of empathy. These are all key strengths that I or anyone with Dyslexia brings to the workplace.
Here are some examples of why having a neurodiverse team can benefit the workplace:
- Neurodiverse employees bring unique experiences and skillsets to your office, helping your build effectiveness and diversify your outlook on your engaging audience.
- Having a neurodiverse workplace means that you have multiple individuals that have different ways of thinking, problem-handling and working mechanisms. Diversity of all kinds contributes to creativity and innovation. The more unique ideas and perspectives you bring to a project will allow for more interesting and dynamic outcomes.
- Neurodiverse individuals are an untapped pool of talent. 80% of Autistic people in Ireland are currently unemployed so there is a huge resource to help fill the skills shortage gap.
- Neurodiverse companies have been proven to outthink and outperform heterogeneous spaces due to a more diverse approach to projects.
- People with dyslexia often have above-average intelligence with outstanding creative thinking skills. They tend to have strong problem-solving and spatial reasoning capabilities. This allows them to see a variety of solutions to a problem. People with Autism also often excel in areas like rule-based thinking.