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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Rosica

Why You Should Be Paying Attention to the Neurodiversity Movement

You may have heard that businesses like Microsoft, SAP, Independence Blue Cross, Deloitte, PwC, and IBM (among others) are starting efforts to recruit and hire autistic employees. Why? Because it makes good business sense.

For many years, Autism was seen as a deficit. However, in recent times, people have begun to recognize the immense value that people with Autism bring to our society and to our workplaces. If you haven't been paying attention to the Neurodiversity movement yet, it's time to start doing so.

1. Autistic Employees Drive Innovation

EY founded a Neurodiversity Center of Excellence to attract autistic talent. In their first round of hires, EY found that neurodivergent employees performed comparably to their neurotypical peers in quality of work, efficiency, and productivity. However, they excelled in innovation – identifying process improvements that cut training time in half. [Read more in their report here.]

If you've read any articles about the Autism hiring trend, you've probably seen some variation of this sentiment over and over. Although it's mostly anecdotal, it bears emphasizing. The autistic brain simply works in ways that the 'typical' brain does not. Autistic people have brains that connect things differently, process things differently, and bring different value to our teams.

2. Autistic Employees Solve Complex Problems

In a study conducted in 2009, researchers found that Autistic participants solved pattern matching and analytical problems 23% and 42% faster, respectively, than their neurotypical matches with the same IQ (Soulieres, et. al, 2009). They did so with the same or more accuracy than their neurotypical counterparts.

What does this mean? Simply put, autistic people solve problems just as well (or better) as neurotypical people... but significantly faster. In this, autistic employees have one of the most in-demand skills in the workplace. Our business problems are constantly becoming more complex, and it takes a unique mind to solve many of them. Given the right environment, an autistic employee could provide the skill set needed to solve these problems.

3. Consumers Support Companies That Hire People with Disabilities

87% of people would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities (Return on Disability Group, 2016). 87%! Right now, many of the companies that are hiring people with Autism aren't necessarily aiming their product at consumers. Their main benefit is from the talent side. I wholeheartedly believe that many of these businesses are benefitting greatly from tapping into this source of talent, but I also believe that companies could be doing so much more in marketing their efforts. I go out of my way to support companies that support people with Autism. I'm sure the 1 in 59 people with Autism in the United States and their families would do the same.

4. The Autistic Population is Growing... Adapt or Be Left Behind

The reality is that the number of children with Autism is growing in the United States. From 2016 to 2018, the number of children with Autism grew 15% from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59 (Autism Speaks). These children become adults seeking meaningful work. Chances are, there is already someone on the spectrum in your workplace, even if you don't know it. If there isn't, there soon will be. Learning to work with a neurodiverse group of people is crucial to continue obtaining the best talent. If you haven’t started learning about the Neurodiversity movement yet, now is the time.

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