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Companies that write off workers or potential hires with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Asperger's syndrome or autism may miss out on a talent pool of dedicated people who bring unique skills to the job.

Neurodiverse individuals are often shunned, with about 80% being unemployed or underemployed, says Tom Edwards, an engineering management professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. So reports Philly Voice. But, human resources teams are doing their companies a disservice when they exclude these potential recruits. 

"Neurodiverse" is a term that stresses how differences are normal and how different behaviors are indicative of the wide diversity in human behavior. People who are neurodiverse may have technical skills or may be able to unravel complex problems, for example, that can be of benefit to companies.

When Edwards worked in the aerospace industry, he met a colleague who acted odd versus what was considered traditional workplace behavior. He later learned the colleague, a chief engineer who avoided eye contact and wore mismatched clothing, was autistic. Years later, Edwards' autistic son had a hard time jump-starting his own career. These experiences prompted Edwards to write a book.

"There is no magic formula, there's no silver bullet," Edwards says. "There's a number of challenges. There's different ways to address each of these challenges. You just have to understand it, practice it and get good at it."
Edwards is seeking funding via Kickstarter to publish his now completed book, "Leading Team Members with Super Powers."

Despite Edwards' former aerospace colleague being extremely bright and performing well for his employer, "it never quite worked out."

"I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out," Edwards says of his former colleague. Edwards now heads workshops on why hiring employees with neurodiverse conditions makes sense. "Eventually, it dawned on me--he's not being supervised well."

Erica Wight, a human resources manager for the Children's Inn in Bethesda, Maryland, at first worried when she hired a new employee with autism, The Baltimore Sun reports. Her initial stress over the new hire was unfounded as the worker proved to be a model employee. He did not socialize in the way that was typical for her office, but he was accurate and focused.

Wight shared her experience with 100 HR professionals at a Kennedy Krieger Institute Workshop in November where they learned about changing hiring practices so they can spot neurodiverse candidates.

"We have another minority group here, and they are finished being judged only by their shortcomings," Wight told the other HR professionals. "They're ready to show the world what they can do."

Daniel Durgin, assistant vice president of HR for Kennedy Krieger, urges employers to seek out help to learn more about neurodiverse candidates. He suggests organizations like Baltimore-based Itineris, a nonprofit that helps people with autism become job-ready.

"We believe there is an opportunity for employers that will ultimately help these individuals gain meaningful work--and that's the key, that's it's meaningful and competitive work," Durgin says.

Denise Brodey, a Forbes contributor who writes about disabilities in the workplace, suggest for people with ADHD to focus on doing a great job and to not pick battles with every colleague who is insensitive to their condition. It is likely that people are not trying to be rude or insensitive, but that they just don't know enough about ADHD.

"Only 10% of organizations factor neurodiversity into their human resources policies," Brodey writes. "In other words, there are people in human resources, hiring managers, chief diversity officers and other middle managers who have no understanding of what it is like [to] work with, support, advise or promote people with ADHD."

Last modified on Friday, 15 February 2019
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