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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Report on Neurodiversity at Work

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

 Jessica Lee and Matthew Leger, "Embracing Neurodiversity at Work: Unleashing America’s Largest Untapped Talent Pool." American Enterprise Institute, April 30, 2024. Key Points:

  • Persistent labor shortages, worker disengagement, falling workforce participation rates, and skills gaps currently define the US economy and labor force. Seldom does a day go by without a headline about employers claiming how difficult it is to find and retain talent, with some reducing a complex problem to the fact that no one wants to work anymore. However, this simplistic view risks overlooking a vast, readily available, and untapped talent pool —the neurodivergent workforce.
  • The neurodivergent workforce encompasses working-age adults with neurological and developmental conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and dyslexia, among others. The neurodiversity-at-work movement is about building awareness of, acceptance of, and appreciation for a diversity of minds.
  • Collectively, neurodivergent people make up about 15 to 20 percent of the total population, but despite their talents, research has shown they often face significant barriers to employment and economic mobility. This waste of human potential costs the US economy and taxpayers billions in lost productivity and public safety-net benefits.
  • This problem is pervasive in the US economy because traditional organizational structures, work cultures, and business models have often overlooked neurodiversity’s value. Over the past decade, a small but growing number of businesses and governments worldwide have begun to embrace neurodiversity, but cultural and systemic barriers continue to stand in the way of closing neurodivergent employment gaps across the economy.
  • Today, neurodivergent workers are still deeply misunderstood, underserved, and underutilized by employers and the broader workforce system. To address these gaps, this report dives into this crucial issue by helping employers and governments understand the opportunities and challenges of building work environments that empower neurodivergent individuals’ unique strengths.

Policy recommendation, from the report: 

  • Build a Neurodivergent Workforce Data Collection Mechanism Through the US Department of Labor. 
  • Overhaul Workforce Development and Vocational Rehabilitation Programs, Specifically Job Coaching and Employment Retention Programs.
  • Develop and Promote Incentives and Opportunities That Reduce Risk and Complexity and Encourage Organizations to Pursue Neurodiversity Hiring.
  • Develop a Center to Connect Employers and Employees with Crucial Resources. 
  • Establish Employer Resource Networks for Neurodivergent Talent to Bridge the “SupportCliff.” 
  • Establish Infrastructure to Support Educationto-Career Pathways for the Neurodivergent Workforce. 
  • Promote and Advance Skills-Based Hiring.
  • Partner with Industry and Academia to Research the Neurodivergent Workforce Further.