Learnings from Neurodiversity Celebration Week 

April, 2024 - Shoosmiths LLP

18 – 24 March 2024 marked Neurodiversity Celebration Week, a week held annually which aims to challenge misconceptions regarding neurological differences. We look at what employers can do to improve neurodiversity support in the workplace going forward.

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term which is used to describe alternative ways of thinking and learning and it includes conditions such as autism, dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These conditions often exist on a spectrum and the symptoms can vary and differ between individuals. It is thought that approximately 15% - 20% of the global population has a neurological difference yet, despite this, traditional working practices are rarely designed with neurodivergent employees in mind. Neurodiversity Celebration Week was founded in 2018 and seeks to change the narrative and challenge stereotypes surrounding neurodivergent individuals. Whilst this week of celebration is a great place to start, recognition and progress in this area must extend beyond this dedicated week in order to drive genuine inclusion.

The ‘challenges’ faced by neurodivergent individuals can be exacerbated because the environments they are expected to operate in are designed by the majority population. For example, there can often be a lack of appropriate office infrastructure (such as a workspace which lacks any quiet space or sound sensitivity) which, in turn, can exclude neurodivergent individuals.

A diverse and genuinely inclusive workforce brings many benefits for both employees and organisations. Not only does it create an improved working environment, it also drives retention of staff and, in particular, statistics show that teams with neurodiverse members are 30% more productive. It is therefore key that employers harness the strengths and unique perspectives that neurodivergent employees have to contribute.

Employers can make progress towards achieving genuine neuro-inclusion in the workplace by:

  • recognising that no two people are the same and therefore a “one size fits all” approach to workplace processes is rarely ever suitable – instead, employers should understand and adapt to individual employees’ strengths and challenges;
  • listening to neurodivergent employees in order to improve accessibility and make adjustments to the workplace to support these individuals – for example, for employees who find it challenging to focus, allowing additional short breaks throughout the day or reducing noise and light where possible could provide some assistance;
  • educating staff and managers through the provision of training and ensuring that language used within the workplace is careful to focus on the talents of neurodivergent individuals, rather than making them feel insufficient due to their differences;
  • mitigating barriers to disclosure and ensuring that neurodivergent employees feel comfortable in speaking out about their learning differences and needs; and
  • providing space and support for employee led networks in this area - for example, at Shoosmiths, we have our Unique network which champions support for people with long term health conditions, disabilities and neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week provides an opportunity to reflect on progress and celebrate diverse minds, but the conversation must continue beyond this particular week. Employers should ensure that they celebrate difference and support neurodivergent employees all year round in order to create a genuinely inclusive workplace.


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