Neurodiversity at Work
Individuals who are neurodiverse may experience unique challenges when applying for and onboarding to a new job. They may require more explicit instructions than their neurotypical peers about where to report, or they may have trouble picking up on certain social cues during their interview. Once hired, they may also need assistance navigating the workplace itself or understanding unwritten rules like when and where to eat lunch.
Saint Joseph’s Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support is working with employers to address these needs from the top down to create more accommodating and inclusive workspaces. Most recently, the Center conducted a Neurodiversity at Work training for 250 managers of The GIANT Company.
"We’re clear with folks that this work isn’t charity, it’s an investment in your business, your employees, your community.” - Angus Murray, MS, NPL, executive director of Kinney
Kinney had offered a neurodiversity lunch-and-learn in collaboration with the Academy of Food Marketing years prior, and GIANT attendees were so impressed that they requested training for all of their managers.
“We had been looking to partner with both blue-collar and white-collar companies and were so excited when GIANT reached out. Grocery stores are a great fit for both our ASPIRE students and those who are not college bound,” says Murray.
The training, conducted by Kinney staff Mary Ann Newell, MS, LPC, NCC; Theresa McFalls, LSW; and Ali Flukes, LCSW, consisted of five components: the benefits of a neurodiverse workplace; hiring and interviewing; accommodations and special considerations; effective communication; and building supportive teams. Not only did the team introduce these concepts to attendees, but they also offered concrete and actionable goals for them to bring back to the workplace.
“We talked about pairing an employee with autism with a supportive manager who’s able to communicate patiently and compassionately,” says Flukes. “We talked about incorporating workplace mentors — someone the employee could go to and ask questions that might not fall under the realm of a supervisor. These things can make employees with autism more comfortable.”
Following their training with GIANT, Kinney also partnered with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies and FIDx to offer similar programming.
“There’s a growing interest in the market and managers really want to learn more about how they can support this population. Not only is there a wave coming, but there’s a wave already here,” says McFalls.
In addition to corporate trainings, the Kinney Center also offers a managing neurodiversity in the workplace minor, which equips students to be future employers and management professionals with the skills necessary to navigate a neurodiverse workforce.
With an estimated 85% of neurodiverse individuals underemployed or unemployed, the opportunity to grow and support these potential employees has only just begun.