Valuing our people for their differences – embracing neurodiversity

Early Start Australia understands the value of creating a supportive environment for neurodivergent employees.

In Australia, one in 25 people have a neurodiversity yet, the nuances of supporting neurodiverse employees in the workplace often remain overlooked.

Neurodiversity is a term used to describe differences in the way the brain works, and how people can experience the world around them in unique ways.

A neurodiverse diagnosis can include autism and autism spectrum conditions, ADHD and ADD as well as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.

Employers and workplaces are only just beginning to learn more about neurodiversity – and seeing these individual differences as a positive, rather than a shortfall – and understanding where accommodations may need to be made to ensure all employees have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Early Start Australia Grads share their experience

For Kyra Lakau-Little and Jo Woolcock, both Graduate Speech Pathologists at Early Start Australia (ESA), the experience of starting a new role in a workplace welcoming of neurodiversity has been a much-needed confidence boost after previous placements in environments that were less supportive of their neurodiversity.

We spoke to Kyra and Jo, along with some of our experts across ESA, to find out what creates a positive and safe environment for neurodivergent employees.

A welcoming and supportive team

The value of a welcoming and supportive team cannot be overstated. Kyra (pictured below) was initially cautious about disclosing her neurodivergence to her new team, but once she did find the courage to share, the response was incredibly warm and supportive.

Image of Graduate Speech Pathologit, Kyra.

“When I did feel comfortable enough to share, my colleagues let me know how wonderful it was that I was neurodivergent, and how valuable I am to my clients and the team.”

Kyra’s leaders also supported her with tailored adjustments, including providing a cosy beanbag for notetaking, making adjustments to alleviate sensory discomfort, and prioritising one-to-one meetings to ensure Kyra was clear on priorities and had the opportunity to ask questions directly.

Language matters

Inclusive language has been a key part of Jo’s positive experience at ESA, which she feels comes naturally to her team and leaders across the business. Jo (pictured below) believes that stigmatised language is often used in the healthcare industry but acknowledges that truly inclusive workplaces speak in a more collaborative way that helps put people with neurodiversity as ease.

Image of Jo Woolcock, Graduate Speech Pathologist.

“The language used can have a huge impact on someone who is already sensitive to how they fit in at work. I’ve experienced workplaces where the language has been ‘you’ and ‘you’re’. At ESA, there’s focus on the ‘we’ and any issues that arise as ’that’. The difference it makes is huge.”

Flexibility leads to balance

ESA recognises the need for a balance between structure and flexibility and has a culture that offers personalised ways of working and clear boundaries.

This means that Kyra and Jo can schedule their work to better suit their needs, with Kyra observing:

“As someone who struggles to organise my time, and balance life to avoid feeling overwhelmed, having the option to sleep a little later and to work part-time has really helped me balance work and life. I know not all workplaces allow such flexibility, so I feel very fortunate and supported.”

Embracing diverse learning styles

ESA has embraced diverse learning styles and ways of working for its teams across Australia, recognising that we’re all different and work, and learn, in our own way, a factor which has made Kyra and Jo’s experience so positive.

A characteristic of some neurodiverse conditions is that individuals can often only focus on, and therefore learn from, activities that interest them and keep them engaged.

The variety of work on offer and the breadth of ESA’s client-base, along with the opportunity to work with them in a range of settings – homes, schools, and clinics – helps to create a more dynamic and interesting workplace, which enriches Kyra and Jo’s professional growth, and deepens their connection with clients, fuelling their passion to develop as clinicians.

Kyra and Jo’s experience demonstrates the transformative power of neurodiverse affirming workplaces.

Through a combination of support, flexibility, and a commitment to embracing diverse perspectives, ESA has paved the way for individual growth and collective success.

Click here to download our guide on how to create a neurodiverse affirming workplace.

Early Start Australia is a part of the APM Group, which globally now supports more than 2.1 million people of all ages to live a better quality of life. As a Top 75 Graduate Employer in Australia, we have exciting opportunities for allied heath grads in ESA and beyond.

Learn more about where our Allied Health Graduate Program could take you. 

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