Podcast | Neurodiversity And L&D

July 27, 2023

“Thinking, attention, memory and behaviour can all be different for someone who is neurodivergent.” 

And with around 20% of the population being neurodivergent, it’s time for a conversation on how L&D can better support employees.

Hayley Brackley, Neurodiversity Specialist and founder of Great Minds Don’t, joined us to have that conversation.

From day-to-day actions we can all take to build a better culture to how we build live sessions and resources, this episode is packed with tangible lessons you can apply today.

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5 lessons On Neurodiversity And L&D

1. "Neurodiversity is a word that covers all of us”

“We definitely have different ways, different brains that do different things… All of us think, feel, process in different ways, and that is the concept.” - Hayley Brackley.

It works in the same way biodiversity does, encapsulating everything in that environment, and that’s why Hayley recommended resisting the urge to be so prescriptive and precise about the term Neurodiversity.

Neurodivergence is different, and often, the two words are used interchangeably. Here’s Hayley’s definition:

“That's people whose brains work in a way that is categorically different to the extent that it can be helpful to attribute a label such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia…”

Typically you’ll see articles explaining how this influences attention, thinking and memory, but as Hayley explains, “these can all be different for somebody who is neurodivergent, but also for somebody that's not.”

And that context is worth keeping in mind for everything else you’re about to read or listen to!

2. Individual everyday actions make a huge difference

  • Avoid death by PowerPoint! Minimal slides with clear copy and design help us all but can be especially helpful for neurodivergent employees.
  • Don’t make assumptions about social environments. If we presume everybody wants to network in a big group, we might alienate people who’d benefit from and find safety in knowing they’re working with just one or two people for the rest of their day.
  • Provide clarity for all of your meetings. Don’t spring meetings on people, provide clear context on what it’s about, what you need from that person, and why.
  • And finally, accept that my reality is not your reality and that’s ok:

“You don't have to necessarily understand my reality to accept it. And so all of us in our work environments, in our life, we can seek to accept somebody else's perspective.” - Hayley Brackley.

3. Actions we do take typically benefit everyone

Nobody likes a meeting being sprung on them! Or it at least hinders most people from bringing their best self to it.

Decluttered slides help everyone take in the key points! And this was a consistent theme throughout the conversation, steps we take to support neurodivergent employees typically benefit us all.

4. Create systematic inclusion across learning experiences

“There's no one neurodivergent way of wanting something. You could have five neurodivergent learners.

“One says, I'm dyslexic, so please don't give me anything in writing. The other one says, I'm dyslexic, but actually for me, my phonological processing is worse than my visual processing. So please do give me this in writing…”

The better question is, if someone does learn better by reading or listening, are there opportunities to do that?

People often sit on bell curves for whatever subject we’re discussing, and the question we need to ask ourselves is:

  • What would we need to do to facilitate a space that's inclusive of everybody on that bell curve?

Or think of it as:

  • Are we systematically including every person in the learning experience we’re designing?

5. Accessible and inclusive live sessions do these three things

  • Provide logistical clarity: When and where is this happening, which facilities will people have access to, and how will we be working together during the session?
  • Offer optionality about how content is consumed: Can I look at the materials before the session if that helps? If I need to provide feedback, can I do it post-session? Is it okay for me not to have to prepare beforehand? Flexibility will ensure you cater to everyone!
  • Consider all five senses: And how the environment influences all of them. For example, is there background noise that’ll make it harder for people to process what they’re hearing?