How can we bridge the gap between job seekers in this community and organizations concerned with inclusion?
Although companies have increased their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, neurodivergent candidates, despite their wide variety of skills, are often overlooked in the hiring process. Consequently, these people remain underemployed or unemployed. According to the Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation at the University of Connecticut, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is 30-40%, or 3 times the rate for people with disabilities and 8 times that for people without disabilities.1 Because work is seen as an integral part of oneself and a positive mental attitude, it can be frustrating for patients and their clinicians.
To better support individuals in the neurodiverse community and bridge the gap between job seekers and inclusion-minded businesses, the Neurodiversity Career Connector (NDCC) has been launched. This program includes nearly 50 employers participating in the Employer Roundtable on Neurodiversity in the Workplace, as well as Disability:IN, a nonprofit organization of more than 400 companies seeking to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. The NDCC job portal features listings of U.S. employers seeking neurodivergent applicants due to neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia and/or Tourette’s syndrome.
Employers who participate understand and appreciate the unique benefits and challenges associated with neurodivergence. Only employers with a proven track record of hiring and retaining neurodivergent people can post to the portal. Microsoft, Dell, Ford and CAI are among the companies that understand the value that neurodiversity brings to their corporate culture, innovation and productivity.
CAI was one of the companies that helped launch the NDCC because they understand that securing employment is an important part of a meaningful career and life for all individuals. They also have a program called CAI Neurodiverse Solutions to further support neurodivergent individuals and businesses interested in fostering neurodiversity.
To better support neurodivergent individuals, CAI’s Neurodiversity Employment Program replaces the traditional interview process with a hands-on assessment called the Talent Discovery Session, which aims to reduce anxiety and allow individuals to demonstrate their skills and express themselves appropriately. The program also allows recruiters to assess each candidate’s abilities, strengths and support needs.
Companies are encouraged to start small by employing 4-6 neurodivergent people to build a successful neurodiversity employment program. CAI Neurodiverse Solutions includes a strong circle of support, work coach and/or mentor to foster community. Additionally, senior executives, managers, recruiters, co-workers, and the candidate must be trained and educated on the objectives of the program, which also leads to employee retention.
The nominees’ success stories are compelling and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For example, a woman who has held a variety of stressful retail jobs is thriving as a claims handler with a national dental insurance company. Another associate who struggled with job interviews now works for a major pharmaceutical company in a quality assurance testing position. His team leader describes him as reliable, reassuring and calm under pressure.
Robert Archer, a full-time employee at a national leader in educational testing, experienced defeat before landing his current job. “I felt like these workplaces continued to put up barriers to my success,” Archer said. “I just couldn’t find an employer who would give me a chance of a meaningful, long-term job. I was in the mindset that I would never find a paid job. It was disheartening and I thought about stopping looking for work altogether.
But once Archer discovered CAI Neurodiverse Solutions, the program helped him find a job that matched his skills with an employer that offered a supportive work environment. Today he is grateful. “For so many years, I truly felt that I would never get a job — let alone a career opportunity — that would allow me to become the person I am now,” Archer said. “A lot of companies are missing people like me. People who normally can’t find a job, but who can do great things if they have the support they need.
Through these programs, individuals in the neurodiverse community have learned to stand up for themselves and gain confidence, and they are developing career mobility skills to support a successful career trajectory and, perhaps most importantly, increased independence. In addition, they thrive in their role and support companies by stimulating innovation and energizing teams.
CAI does not employ clinicians or diagnosticians; however, CAI is committed to helping neurodivergent people find sustainable careers that allow them to live lives of independence. If a patient or someone you know is looking for an interesting job, encourage them to browse job postings with CAI on the Neurodiversity Career Connector.
M Pacilio is Vice President of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI. Pacilio himself is neurodivergent: he has been diagnosed with and overcomes the challenges of social anxiety disorder and depressive disorder.
1. The Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation. University of Connecticut. Accessed June 1, 2022. https://entrepreneurship.uconn.edu/neurodiversitycenter/#