Best Practices

Neurodiversity Partners and Best Practices

October 2018

Neurodiversity is the full range of neurologically based variations in behavior, cognition, learning, communication, and socialization that occurs among people, reflecting the whole range of human function. It includes both those neurological traits which are more common, or neurotypical and those that occur with less frequency such that they would be considered neuro-divergent.

Neurodiversity is the full range of neurologically based variations in behavior, cognition,
learning, communication, and socialization that occurs among people, reflecting the whole range of human function. It includes both those neurological traits which are more common, or neurotypical and those that occur with less frequency such that they would be considered neuro-divergent.

What You Need to Know About Neurodiversity

One in 59 children are identified with autism spectrum disorders and millions of children have been diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S.—yet psychologist Devon MacEachron, PhD believes that there is too little attention given to enabling people with neurologically different minds.

“Neurological differences like autism or ADHD are considered to be dysfunctional, disorders, and disabilities under the medical model of mental health,” she explained. “When most of us think of diversity, we think of things like race or sexual orientation. But there’s a different kind of diversity you might not know about: neurodiversity.”

Neurodiversity is the concept that neurological differences among people should be recognized and respected, and Dr. MacEachron thinks it’s time for this movement to take off.

“Neurodiversity is a part of our genetics and our evolution as a species,” she explained. “The genes for autism and ADHD are not errors, but rather the result of variations in the human genome that have and will continue to have advances for society.”

Dr. MacEachron’s vision is for a neurodiversity-tolerant and accepting society that celebrates people’s differences, rather than antagonizing them. Instead of changing to fit other people’s ideas of normal, children who are wired a bit differently should be encouraged to find their place in the world where they feel they fit.

Organizations for Partnerships

The Viscardi Center

The Viscardi Center is a network of non-profit organizations that provides a lifespan of services that educate, employ and empower children and adults with disabilities. Services are provided through:
• Abilities, Inc. prepares adolescents and adults with disabilities for entry or re-entry into the workforce through job training, employment placement, transitional services, career counseling and more.
• Henry Viscardi School serves children with severe physical disabilities and are medically fragile and is an option when a local school district cannot meet the academic, health and assistive technology needs of the child.
• Kornreich Technology Center (KTC) is a hands-on laboratory where education, evaluation, and training services are offered to children and adults with disabilities and others who require assistive devices for work or home due to illness, injury or healthy aging.
• National Business & Disability Council (NBDC) an employer membership organization and comprehensive resource for disability employment best practices.

Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)

We support them in their efforts to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified individuals with disabilities. Here’s how:

Education and Resources:

This website——is the initiative’s online hub, serving as a centralized source of employer-focused tools, resources and publications on disability inclusion. Check out our easy-to-navigate information on a wide range of topics, from recruiting qualified job candidates to tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities.

Online Training:

EARN is your gateway to free training on the latest disability inclusion topics. Take advantage of our interactive webinars and download free training resources to share with your staff. Topics include, but are not limited to: disability etiquette, interviewing job candidates with disabilities and reasonable reasonable accommodations. EARN webinars frequently offer HR Certification Institute (HRCI) credits for attendance!

News and Information:

EARN makes it easy to stay up to date on the latest disability employment news and
information. Subscribe to our e-newsletter and e-blasts, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube and visit our home page to learn about upcoming events, developing news and promising practices in the world of disability diversity and inclusion.

Research and Exemplary Practices:

Behind the scenes, EARN is busy researching disability inclusion issues and gathering exemplary policies and practices from employers who are getting it right. This research informs the tools and resources we bring to you through and ensures that we bring you the latest, most effective technical assistance.

The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation

The Mission of the Council shall be to maintain and enhance a strong, effective and efficient national program of public vocational rehabilitation which, in partnership with education, business, and the workforce system, empowers individuals with disabilities to achieve employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, inclusion and integration into our communities.

The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation is composed of the chief
administrators of the public rehabilitation agencies serving individuals with physical and mental disabilities in the States, District of Columbia, and the territories. These agencies constitute the state partners in the State-Federal program of rehabilitation services provided under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. The Council’s members supervise the rehabilitation of some 1.2 million persons with disabilities.

The NET (National Employment Team) offers business customers in the private and public
sectors, a designated single point of contact to connect with qualified applicants, resources and support services in their local state area, multi-state, or national marketplace. The NET provides employment supports in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories.

Our mission is to provide opportunities for children and adults with autism, learning and
developmental disabilities to pursue enviable lives, promote their independence and foster
supportive relationships within the community.

ACLD offers a wide variety of supports and services to children and adults with learning and other developmental disabilities, and their families. Services start at 3 years old and continue throughout the life span. ACLD has a 60 year history of providing services that afford people with disabilities to live an enviable life. Our commitment to quality, excellence and inclusion is evident throughout all of our programs. Eligibility for each program may vary due to regulations and/or funding.

The Autism Society of America

The Autism Society of America has been improving the lives of all affected by autism for over 50 years and envisions a world where individuals and families living with autism are able to maximize their quality of life, are treated with the highest level of dignity, and live in a society in which their talents and skills are appreciated and valued. We provide advocacy, education, information and referral, support, and community at national, state and local levels through our strong nationwide network of Affiliates.

Founded in 1965 by Dr. Bernard Rimland, Dr. Ruth Sullivan and many other parents of children with autism, the Autism Society is the leading source of trusted and reliable information about autism. Through its national network, the Autism Society has spearheaded numerous pieces of federal, state and local legislation, including the 2006 Combating Autism Act, the first federal autism-specific law. The Autism Society’s website is one of the most visited websites on autism in the world and our on-line resource database, Autism Source™, and National Contact Center (800-3-AUTISM) provide information and service referrals to thousands of people each year.

Services: What We Do

Since 1965, the Autism Society in partnership with our over 100 local and state affiliates has supported millions of individuals and families impacted by autism. The Autism Society envisions individuals and families living with autism are able to maximize their quality of life, are treated with the highest level of dignity, and live in a society in which their talents and skills are appreciated and valued.

Neurodiversity Best Practices

Microsoft and SAP

CBS News Spotlight on Neurodiversity in the Workplace
February 27, 2018 by Mike Caprara

A recent Feature on CBS News’ “Sunday Morning” television newsmagazine program shined a light on companies—among them tech giants Microsoft and SAP—that are realizing the benefits of workplace neurodiversity and developing programs to proactively recruit, hire, and retain people on the autism spectrum. Among the strategies highlighted were task-based interviews, soft skills training and workplace mentoring. “There really is, and was, a lot of data on the table that said to us that we were missing out,” said Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer Jennie Lay-Flurrie, who was interviewed for the segment. “We were missing out on an opportunity to bring talent in with autism.”

Take a look at the growing acceptance of autism in the workplace.

Study of External Organizations: Compendium of Good Practices Concerning Inclusiveness & Diversity

HPE/DXC Technology: The Dandelion Program

The Dandelion program is a pioneering neurodiversity inclusion program, with particular focus on autism. The vision of the program is to create a sustainable work environment and careers for people on the autism spectrum and increase their participation in the workplace. Unemployment rates for people with autism can exceed 85%. ASD or autism spectrum disorder affects about 1 in 68 people, more commonly in males than females and impacts an individual’s ability to interact socially. However, people with ASD have gifts which can be leveraged, such as truthfulness and great attention to details, and at least half of people with ASD have average or higher cognitive abilities.

The Challenge:

The challenges of autistic workers can fall into four categories:
• Work environment: physical set up, organization support structure, requiring for
example an Employee Assistance Program, and mental health support
• Workplace culture: understanding the unwritten rules, for them and their co-workers
• Executive functioning skills and adaptive skills

There are multiple benefits for hiring people with autism:
• Greater diversity with our organization that drives diversity of thinking and innovation
• Increased productivity
• Unique skills that add value to the organization and our clients

The Solution:

The Dandelion Program consists of two streams—internships and employment.
The Dandelion internship is focused on providing autistic students with work experience to increase their employment opportunities and thereby help them project forward about career opportunities.

The Dandelion employment program is a three-year program focused on building careers and the skills of people on the autism spectrum; similar to a graduate program. The program is broken into 3 stages / years:

  1. Job Awareness: The staff member is trained in the environment and job processes
    and commences work activities. Technical and social development is tracked and staff
    integration into the workforce commences.
  2. Self-Advocacy and Determination: Involves the individual improving their work
    profile and taking note of their key strengths and support that may be required;
    introduced to networking opportunities and focus on certifications.
  3. Transition to Roles They Aspire To: The individual is set up for transition at the end of
    the program and to provide all opportunities for employment.

There is substantial training throughout the program, covering their technical role; executive functioning skills, e.g. organizational skills, memory management; adaptive / life skills, e.g. financial management, nutrition, etc., and autism awareness and management training focused on co-workers, team leaders and managers (the existing work force).

The Outcome:

There have been many unexpected outcomes and benefits from the program.
The unique skill-sets that team members bring to the workforce such as attention to detail, out of box thinking and the ability to do repetitive tasks accurately, significantly impacts the identification of defects and issues that no one else has identified, and which can and do have major financial implications.
• Hiring costs are reduced, through employee loyalty. The Dandelion program has a 96%
retention rate.
• Productivity is between 30% – 48% higher than neuro-typicals on the same tasks.
• Estimated impact to the GDP in Australia. If we provide 101 autistic people with 20 year
careers, it will add $465 million to the GDP.

The program has increased team morale of the staff around the Dandelion team members, and managers and team leaders have become better managers and leaders. Finally, the program has had a positive impact on the families of the people on the autism spectrum, providing a strong sense of relief that there is opportunity and a career-based future for their family

Some of the Key Learnings From the Program to Date Are:

A systemic approach that ensures the organization is ready for people with autism, including Autism awareness sessions, Autism manager training, and communication to the workplace; appropriate skill building for the individuals covering technical skills, life skills (financial awareness, nutrition, travel), executive functioning skills, and empowerment; and support through technical and life mentoring, and social relationships and shared experience.

The Dandelion Program now has 58 people (DXC employees) working in the areas of
cybersecurity, data analytics and software testing for the Australian Federal Government
Department of Defense, Department of Border Protection and Department of Human Services. The Dandelion Program has been open sourced to Cornell University to allow other organizations to take advantage of learnings and materials. The Harvard Business School has documented a case study on the program.

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