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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Neurodiversity and Silicon Valley:

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed companies and nonprofits that provide them with training and experience.

Michael Bernick writes at Fox and Hounds:
On the morning of June 6, over 200 neurodiversity advocates from around the country gathered at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, for the “Neurodiversity in the High Tech Workforce” conference. The event demonstrated the growing heft of the movement, while also indicating some of the tough questions that lie ahead if the movement is to yield greater results.
Yet, despite the positive, the conference reinforced certain tough questions about employment that the neurodiversity movement will need to address in California and elsewhere if it is to move to the next level. Chief among these are the following four:
Why aren’t more companies, especially tech companies, adopting the active neurodiversity efforts of SAP and Microsoft? Diversity is a frequently-heard phrase throughout the Silicon Valley today, with companies creating or expanding diversity departments. For the most part this diversity is focused on race, ethnicity and gender categories. The diversity push though has yet to embrace neurodiversity.
Does the talk of neurodiversity and workforce culture have any meaning? Reference was made at the conference to developing a workplace culture of greater inclusion for neurodiverse adults—a culture of greater flexibility and patience. But few specifics were given. What is the more flexible workplace culture envisioned? How is to be achieved?
Does a percentage of the neurodiverse population really possess unusual talents that can be better utilized in the job market? Reference also was made at the conference to the special skills possessed by neurodiverse adults—skills of pattern recognition and memory recall among adults on the autism spectrum, skills of hyper-focus among adults with ADHD, spatial thinking skills among adults with dyslexia. But how widespread are these skills? And how are they connected to individual job openings?
What of the majority of the neurodiverse population who may not possess unusual skills, where do they fit into the job market? While neurodiverse adults, like Mark Jessen of SAP, possess unusual tech skills formerly overlooked, it may be that the majority of neurodiverse adults do not possess these skills. Nearly all express a desire to work and a frustration of their current situation. How can they be better fit into the job market? Is there a role for a form of public service employment for the neurodivers.