How to support neurodivergent social workers and create an inclusive work environment

Did you know that over 1 in 7 adults in the UK are neurodivergent? This means that more than 15% of the population experience the world in a different way to neurotypical individuals. 


According to a recent pilot study, over half (56%) of support workers with neurodivergent conditions such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD said they felt unsupported at work. Participants added that they felt anxious and unconfident in their role due to a lack of understanding from colleagues in regards to their condition. 


Looking after the vulnerable is a challenging job as it is, so let’s make sure our social workers feel happy and safe at work. The following article offers some guidance on how to support neurodivergent social workers as a line manager or fellow colleague. 


1.Listen and learn


Find out where you can make adjustments to accommodate people’s needs where possible. For example, turning down the brightness of lights in the workplace if a staff member has a sensory disorder or allowing more time for task completion for those with ADHD. Willingness to be flexible is crucial to making everyone feel comfortable and will likely result in increased productivity!


2. Invest in training 


Neurodiversity training can help educate management on the complex needs of atypical employees, as well as the challenges they may face day-to-day. This will help improve the support colleagues and managers can offer, as well as create a general level of understanding for one another. Ideas for a support system will likely emerge from these sessions too, meaning managers can be confident in how they are meeting the needs of employees. Lastly – and arguably most importantly, providing neurodivergent training to staff acts as a marker of empathy to those with neurotypical conditions and shows that the company takes it seriously. 


3. Communicate clearly 


Ensure that the language you are using is clear and coherent. Aim to avoid idioms, sarcasm and euphemisms, especially when assigning work if you know that the individual is autisic, for instance. What may seem obvious to a neurotypical member of the team, may not be to someone who struggles to understand linguistic oddities. It’s also a good idea to use inclusive language in job advertisements, social posts and mission statements to highlight the company’s commitment to diversity and acceptance. 

Overall, making sure the right support is in place will create an environment of physiological safety for neurodivergent social workers, meaning they can put their best foot forward when it comes to doing their job and looking after the vulnerable. 


For further resources, please see below. 

carlette Isaac

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