Last Updated on Thursday, 18 November, 2021 at 12:23 pm by Andre Camilleri
Joseph K. Muscat
What is neurodiversity? This is an umbrella term which refers to individuals with ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia or Autism, to name a few. The entire aim of the neurodiversity movement is to recognise that all behaviours translate into meaningful communication and this results in changing how society, business and employers perceive these wider diverse portions of the population.
Over the decades, societies have treated neurodiversity issues like ADHD or Dyslexia as either a behavioural or intelligent issue related to children with the assumption that they will either grow out of it or learn to manage themselves appropriately. The truth is, because neurodiversity is an invisible disability, societies at large based their assumptions on their observations and didn’t look deeper into understanding how the mind works because neurodiversity is about appreciating how individuals think differently.
When one understands that neurodiversity is about neuroscience, the study of how the brain functions, then one comes to realise and respect that such samples as autism or dyscalculia, are not childhood issues and, in fact, children grow up, become adults and enter the workforce as neurodiverse because, in reality, this is how they think and perform.
When employers, human resources and managers continue with their inaccurate assumptions of neurodiverse individuals, this forces these individuals to mask their invisible disabilities. The masking results from stigma, shame and learned helplessness that they would have experienced over the years, from their scholastic years and from previous employment. All this can lead to lack of self-confidence and poor self-esteem among others, which means that their productivity, innovation and performance would suffer.
The result is that employers focus negatively on neurodiverse individuals’ challenges when they could provide support and nurture their strengths and abilities. Neurodiverse individuals are strong in or have the potential to have talents and skills which are in demand in business. These include strong verbal skills, intuitive thinking, creative visual thinking, observational skills or hyper focus, to name a few.
What can businesses do? Firstly, more and more organisations need to become people-centric, meaning putting the needs of the employee first. Allow them to delegate a particular task, coach them on productivity strategies such as prioritising tasks, help create a safe environment where managers, human resources, fellow team members and employers have had both neurodiverse and skill development training.
Research has shown that when such changes are deployed, neurodiverse persons work harder, take less time off or sick days and are happier and therefore they become producers.
To conclude, it’s just quite simple: when businesses and management adapt to the neurodiverse, they raise these individuals’ levels up to excel for the individual’s benefit as well as for the whole organisation.
Muscat was born in Toronto, Canada. At a very young age, Joseph was diagnosed with learning difficulties, now called neurodiversity. From personal experience, as an employee and entrepreneur, he had to face difficulties in how society, such as employers and clients, perceived his neurodiversity. These experiences have led him to provide consultancy and advice to both individuals and organisations and to bring neurodiversity awareness into the workplace.