As a champion of the neurodiverse community, I’m sometimes frustrated by the misunderstandings people have about the capabilities of neurodiverse people. This is a challenge when attempting to get more manufacturers interested in employing this demographic.
While it pleases me to see big companies like Microsoft, SAP, JP Morgan Chase, and Hewlett Packard actively recruiting this segment of the population into their workforces with unanimously successful results, for every company that has a neurodiverse hiring program, there are thousands who don’t.
This begs the question: why not?
Recent conversations I’ve had with three manufacturers quickly revealed why they’re not recruiting neurodiverse workers. One said the work they do is “too complicated.” The second said their “machinery is very expensive” (the implication being that such an employee might break it). The third, an aerospace manufacturer, said their industry requires too much precision.
The common thread among their feedback is the misconception that “neurodiverse” somehow equals “intellectually disabled.” But they are NOT the same. At all.
While looking for the best way to explain neurodiversity I came across a TEDX Talk by Elisabeth Wiklander, a world class cellist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra who was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism, at age 28.
This incredibly gifted young woman explains it beautifully. “Autism doesn’t necessarily equal disability,” Wiklander says. “Thankfully, we have a word that challenges this negative terminology: neurodiversity. Neurodiversity describes how diverse we are as human beings from a neurological perspective. It suggests that the many variations of human brains, like autistic ones, should be accepted as a natural and valuable part of humanity’s genetic legacy.”
Wiklander goes on to say that many of our most important inventions, pieces of art and music, and scientific discoveries have come from autistic minds. A quick Google search can confirm this. Researchers have long suspected that Albert Einstein, Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and artist Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti were all on the autism spectrum. Today’s entertainment industry is filled with people who have been diagnosed with autism, including Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Dylan, Dan Akryoyd, Anthony Hopkins, and creative genius Tim Burton.
Wiklander notes that autism can have catastrophic impacts on people’s lives, but that it’s not because of the autism itself, but because of the ignorance of it. “If we need a cure for anything,” she adds, “it’s not for autism. It’s for ignorance and intolerance.”
Recognizing how we differ from each other from a neurological perspective helps us to coexist more easily without having to hide who we are. This, Wiklander says, allows our “natural skills, talents, and creativity more freedom to roam, not just for people on the autism spectrum, but for all.”
Wilkander says although her autism negatively affected her social interactions with family and friends for many years before she was diagnosed, they have since embraced her uniqueness, just as she has. She sees her autism as something positive. “My mind had been blessed with gifts, like analytical skills, intense mental focus, and high capacity for memorizing information,” she says.
Neurodiverse people have a great deal to contribute, but they need to be given the chance. In closing her Ted talk, Wilklander says, “Every human being is a resource, and society has to broaden its framework to allow everyone a place in it.”
This includes the manufacturing industry. If you’re looking for capable, dedicated, reliable employees, Contact Us to help you create a program for recruiting, onboarding, and retaining neurodiverse individuals.