In the workplace, Sara reminded us that spLDs and ASD are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, which means it is illegal to discriminate on these grounds. For Sara, if you know or think you might be neurodiverse, your success will depend on your self-awareness of your personal strengths and weaknesses and your ability to self-advocate. Employers should raise awareness among managers and staff and encourage disclosure, so that line managers can offer support. There are also low cost on-line assessment tools available, such as the Do It Profiler.
“It is important to accept and value the person for their difference,” she explained. “Often when neurodiverse staff are appraised, their challenges will be noted but their strengths are missed. We should be careful to utilise strengths and support challenges instead. When it comes to recruitment, we also need to think carefully that our recruitment methods are not disadvantaging neurodiverse people. Individuals who are neurodiverse process information more slowly, so an interview where you are expected to answer quickly is stressful, providing questions just 30mins ahead of the interview gives that important thinking time, this is something you could do for all interviewees, such that everyone can give their best answers.
Employers can find advice online on workplace adjustments but materials are not always well adapted in the area of STEM techniques, such as learning a new lab process.
“For me personally, my greatest challenges are writing, time management, going to new places and public speaking. However, I’m good at outlining the big picture, being creative, linking disparate ideas and writing concisely and in plain English,” said Sara. When asked how to remove the stigma that might discourage parents and adults to be more open to early diagnosis, she points to the self knowledge and support she has gained by being transparent about her own diagnosis. “Publicising the stories of role models and celebrating strengths are key. I like to tell parents, I think your child is twice exceptional!”