In celebration of Neurodiversity month, Elizabeth Alden and Jay Davis, Maxar's Disability and Neurodiversity (DAND) Employee Resource Group (ERG) co-leads, provide valuable insights to help us understand neurodiversity, recognize common examples and support someone who is neurodivergent.

What is neurodiversity month?

Many celebrations for neurodiversity occur in April. For example, April 2nd is recognized by the United Nations as World Autism Day. The worldwide Neurodiversity Celebration Week also occurs in April. As such, April has expanded into neurodiversity month.

How do you define neurodiversity?

An Australian sociologist named Judy Singer created the term "neurodiversity" in the late 1990s. It's a very broad term that means a different way of thinking, learning or behaving. It doesn't mean different in a bad or abnormal way—just different. People who are "neurodivergent" can have unique strengths or struggles from "neurotypical" people, but they bring a lot of value to society and should be understood and celebrated for their differences.

What are some common examples of neurodiversity?

Common examples of neurodiversity include Dyslexia, DCD (Dyspraxia), Dyscalculia, Autism and ADHD. Within each of these categories, there is also a spectrum of affected behaviors. It's estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the world's population is neurodivergent, so one in five people you know may be neurodivergent.

How can I support someone with neurodiversity?

  1. Don't make assumptions: Everyone's brain is unique, just like everyone's fingerprint is unique. No two neurodivergent people are the same, so don’t assume their intelligence or capabilities.
  2. Avoid value-based labels: Experts recommend against using the terms “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” to describe conditions like autism. They often assume a person’s level of function based on how much they behave like someone who’s neurotypical. Don't use the word "normal"; there's no standard definition of what is "normal" or "abnormal" for the human brain.
  3. Be willing to listen: The personalities and preferences of neurodivergent people can be widely different, even when they have the same underlying condition. For example, the language they use to describe their neurodiversity is important ("Person with autism" vs "autistic person"). Let them know you hear them and respect them and their choices.
  4. Communicate clearly: Avoid sarcasm, euphemisms, and implied messages. Give them the time and tools they need to communicate. Sometimes people who are neurodivergent prefer written communication, such as instant messaging, texting or emails, over a phone call or face-to-face conversation.

How can employers make their workplaces more neurodiversity-friendly?

  1. Recognize that neurodiversity is a competitive advantage: Neurodivergent employees are more creative, more productive, and have higher retention rates than their neurotypical peers. Given the right environment, neurodivergent people can thrive.
  2. Revisit hiring practices: Recruiters may have unconscious biases about different personality types and non-verbal communications such eye contact, handshake, gestures, etc. Provide training to reduce biases and alter the hiring process to welcome all candidates.
  3. Allow reasonable accommodations: Companies shouldn't see "accommodation" as a bad word - it simply means "something that satisfies a need." For example, glasses are considered an accommodation, but they are so common that we don't think of them as such. For neurodivergent people, reasonable accommodations could mean noise canceling headphones, dimmer lights or even working from home where they can control their environment. If employees are in the office, have a less stimulating place where people can reduce stress and decompress.
  4. Use a clear communication style - Inform people about workplace/social etiquette, and don't assume someone is deliberately breaking the rules or being rude. Provide concise verbal and written instructions for tasks and break tasks down into small steps. Allow time for questions and answers at the end of every meeting for clarification.

Together, we can build a more inclusive workplace!

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Maxar

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