The Workplace Mitigator: The Positive Influence of Workplaces on Mental Health of Neurodivergent Employees

Presenter: Jennifer Feldman, Specialisterne US

In the United States, the estimated unemployment rate of neurodivergent individuals has reached 30-40%1 compared to the national average unemployment rate of 3.7%2. Of self-identified autistic adults, anxiety and depression co-occur in 20% and 11% of the population respectively3 and this has been proposed to align with similar neurodiversities. While some of these numbers are stark, Specialisterne and the neurodiversity hiring movement have demonstrated that with understanding, education, and inclusive process, it is possible to improve outcomes for neurodivergents by aligning them with meaningful and fair employment opportunities. These invalidating experiences can be present throughout a lifetime from educational settings to workplace environments. Some of the mitigating variables researchers have considered to either positively or negatively influence include: accessibility to employment, workplace relationships and communication, role alignment, sensory and mental health needs, colleagues' knowledge and beliefs about diagnoses, and, family and community context4 and masking5. There is even a growing body of research that is also demonstrating Dialectical Behavior Therapy6 as a trauma-informed Evidence-Based Practice as a viable treatment for the trauma and invalidation a neurodivergent person could experience. When looking at predictors of Quality of Life in autistic adults7, employment and living independently are two considerations Specialisterne makes when supporting neurodivergent individuals. Specialisterne is often grappling with the question of what comes first: the stable work environment or stable mental health. Due to invalidating and traumatic experiences, is someone identifying with a neurodiversity able to fully embrace their adulthood including employment and financial security? In our presentation, the Specialisterne team intends to take advantage of the safe space this conference will provide by sharing lived experience and anecdotal assessment of our social impact, how neuroinclusive recruitment and retention practices directly correlate with increased quality of life for neurodivergent job seekers/employees, with secure and meaningful employment there is decreased anxiety and depression in our candidates, and all of this leads to a positive influence on someone’s mental health and wellbeing. We will discuss strategies that can be deployed to promote clarity in both behavior and communication, respect, and structure which decreases anxiety and increases stability. We also intend to share tools to develop a strong understanding of unique strengths and support needs to move beyond the label of neurodiversity and begin to normalize how each unique person operates in the workplace.

Friday, April 19, 2024
2:10 PM - 3:00 PM (EDT)