The Ultimate Guide to Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Practical advice and information to help organisations of any size better support their neurodivergent people.


Global organisations are recognising the benefits of supporting workplace neurodiversity. And the progress they’ve made has inspired us to produce this guide. Through well-researched, detailed information and practical advice, this ebook aims to support organisations of all sizes to better promote neurodiversity at work. Featuring a comprehensive outline of the definitions of neurodivergence, this guide offers suggestions on how to improve workplace neurodiversity in a variety of contexts. And while our intentions are well-placed, we acknowledge that lasting change in neurodiversity isn’t a straightforward or simple process. 

A report by the Harvard Business Review revealed how typically displayed behaviours of neurodiverse people can run counter to common notions of what makes a good employee. Often, hiring panels look for salesman-like personalities, networking skills, and the ability to follow processes without extra support or accommodation. But these assumptions can result in unfair judgements or instances where hiring panels overlook the potential benefits of hiring neurodivergent candidates. For existing staff with an undiagnosed or undisclosed condition, negative workplace assumptions often prevent disclosure and block access to support from schemes such as Access to Work.

The Ultimate Guide to Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Download eBook

Without the appropriate tools to support them, people with autism, dyslexia, ADHD or even long-term depression will find it harder to bring their talents to work. A survey by Neurodiversity charity Neurodiversity in Business and Birkbeck University suggests 65% of employees fear managerial discrimination and a further 55% worry they’ll face discrimination from peers. Neurodivergent staff need to feel safe disclosing their challenges and much of this lies in creating positive workplace environments that prioritise this area.

We recommend workplace diversity leaders–at all levels and in all contexts–review this ebook and consider the steps they can take to effect change. And while we’re not suggesting any of this is simple, easy, or straightforward, our aim is to inspire you to consider the benefits of promoting neurodiversity at work and present a number of ways to encourage it. 

At Carescribe, we know that leveraging the skills of neurodivergent staff leads to competitive advantages and that’s why we’re committed to designing tools such as Caption.Ed and TalkType. So, while we can’t claim to have our house completely in order yet, we can say that we’re committed to positive change both for employees and for business outcomes. 

The Ultimate Guide to Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Why It’s Important to Support Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Modern workplaces aren’t facilitating neurodiversity. Employees don’t feel safe to disclose and employers are making assumptions about skill sets. Neurodivergent staff don’t feel safe or supported and employers don’t have the knowledge or confidence to improve the situation. Also, workplace cultures can defer to stereotypes and assume neurodivergent staff don’t have the desirable, people-oriented skill sets they would expect from staff like networking and persuasiveness.

“A lack of awareness and understanding has led to hiring processes, management practices and workspaces being designed only with neurotypicals in mind”
Neurodiversity at Work Guide, CIPD 2018

When staff don’t feel confident to disclose their condition, due to fear of stigma or lack of support, they can feel invisible. In some cases, this can lead to higher staff attrition and damaged employer brands. In more extreme instances, employers can face costly legal fees. And Fox & Partners LLP confirms that the number of employment tribunals citing neurodiversity discrimination rose by a third between 2020 and 2021.

Benefits for Organisations

Giving neurodivergent staff the support they need to work to their full potential is important. But there are also many benefits for organisations, employers, and team members.

  • Higher rates of productivity: The Harvard Business Review said neurodivergent staff can achieve 30% better productivity compared to their neurotypical peers.
  • Creativity, innovation, imagination, and ideation: A survey by Neurodiversity in Business and Birkbeck University showed 80% of neurodivergent staff with skills in hyperfocus, 78% in creativity, 75% in innovative thinking, and 71% with detail processing skills.
  • Data visualisation and computational thinking skills: Sparta Global’s 2023 EqualTech report on neurodiversity showed how employees with autism achieve above-average results in machine learning and quantum computing.
  • Reduced attrition rates: The report by Neurodiversity in Business also showed how employees are 50% less likely to leave a workplace when adjustments are tailored to their needs.
  • Improved Employee Value Proposition: GCHQ advertises positions for neurodiverse females to ensure a diverse mix of minds. They say this is crucial for code cracking, reviewing threats and minimising the predictability of UK security systems.
  • Hire from a wider candidate pool: Advertising for neurodiverse talent is an active way to widen your candidate pool and select from a wider range of high-calibre candidates. Very often, neurodivergent candidates will have perspectives that others may not have thought of before. Hiring them can realise their untapped potential while adding significant value to teamwork, operations, and project outcomes.
Benefits for teams and employees
  • Increased focus, observation, and problem-solving: Neurodivergent staff often show higher potential for problemsolving. Sparta Global’s report highlights how employees with these traits drive new developments in robotics and augmented reality.
  • Empathy and intuition: According to CIPD, autistic people often feel very deep emotions but find it difficult to express them. This can enhance teamwork and lead to more supportive environments.
  • Authenticity and adaptability: Increasing visibility for neurodivergent staff can help disarm other team members and allow everyone to bring more of themselves and their talent to their roles.
Jess Meredith is wearing a light blue top and dark blue glasses. She has long curly red hair.

“In order to benefit from the power of neurodiversity, organisations need to create a safe and supportive environment for neurodivergent employees. Neuro-affirmative attitudes, a shift in mindset towards the social model of disability and an inclusive culture are critical to enable this”

Jessica Meredith
CEO and Founder, Differing Minds

What is Neurodiversity? 

It’s important to understand the differences between different types of neurodiversity. Neurodivergent individuals do not all display the same attributes. And while the term is helpful to highlight problems it can also be unhelpful when explaining differences in thinking styles.

So, let’s clarify the terms we’re using and the differences between each type of neurodivergent thinking.

Neurodiversity Definitions

Neurodiversity: A catch-all term that describes groups of individuals who show different ways of thinking. In practice, neurodiversity includes individuals with divergent ways of thinking, such as individuals with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD, for example. But these groups should also include individuals who don’t have diagnosable differences in thinking. Organisations that support neurodiversity will have a workplace that contains both employees with and without diagnosed disabilities. 

Neurodivergence: This refers to individuals who have thinking patterns that the majority of people consider different. Specifically, neurodivergent individuals will have a diagnosed disability relating to the way they process information. 

Neurotypical: Neurotypical individuals are people who show thinking patterns that fit within societal expectations. They do not have a diagnosable disability nor do they show indications of a disability.

Neurominority: These are groups of neurodivergent individuals who share a similar form of neurodivergence. When using the word ‘Neurominority’ it should be assumed to be a group of individuals with the same type of neurodivergence. 

Neurodiversity Stereotypes

A key point to note is how easy it can be to stereotype neurodivergent individuals and make assumptions on the potential for shared characteristics. In a 2016 study, The National Institute of Economic and Social Research–Britain’s oldest independent economic research institute–explained how there is a ‘propensity for neurodivergent individuals to be stereotyped according to the more well-known characteristics of their condition’. And since we want to avoid stereotyping and be more precise about the differences between neurodivergent conditions, let’s get into more detail before we describe each type and subtype of neurodiversity.

In recent years, new ways of thinking have uncovered the possibility that we may be wrong to assume humans have a ‘typical’ way of thinking. Instead, several academics suggest neurodiversity may be biological phenomena to embrace. 

In his 2015 paper ‘The Myth of the Normal Brain: Embracing Neurodiversity’, Thomas Armstrong, Professor at the University of La Verne, highlights the absence of any standard model of a normal brain to compare neurodivergent thinking to. And he explains that the ‘three dimensional’ way of thinking in some people with dyslexia may have been an adaptive measure in preliterate cultures. In effect, he suggests people with dyslexia may have evolved to pioneer innovations such as tool design, shelter construction, and plotting hunting routes.

The Neurodiversity Paradigm and Neurodiversity Movement

Further to this thinking is ‘The Neurodiversity Paradigm’ and the subsequent neurodiversity movement. Defined by autistic scholar Nick Walker, PhD., the Neurodiversity paradigm acknowledges how neurological diversity benefits the richness of the human species. But rather than refer to people as either normal or abnormal, the words ‘neurotypical’ or ‘neurodivergent’ would be better descriptors.

The Ultimate Guide to Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Download eBook

The Neurodiversity Movement originates from the Autistic Rights Movement which emerged in the 1990s. Australian sociologist Judy Singer coined both this phrase and, in fact, the term ‘Neurodiversity’ in a 1998 thesis. An associate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bristol, Robert Chapman PhD, has taken this a step further. They define it instead as a social justice movement that’s moving away from the default approach and making mental, developmental, and cognitive disability not one of pathology but towards what they call a ‘social ecological’ approach which promotes pride, inclusion, and acceptance, akin to what’s seen in the LGTBQ+ movement.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Receiving a diagnosis for a neurodivergent condition can be life-changing. And it often brings with it a sense of relief and acceptance when those affected are able to explain their differences to others. But while Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, and ADHD are considered formal diagnoses, these conditions can sometimes overlap with less recognised disorders, specifically Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). 

SPD is a neurological condition that disrupts the body’s ability to receive messages from its senses. It can prevent someone from filtering out less important sensory information such as background noises but also prevent them from acting on the messages they receive via sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Someone with SPD may become overwhelmed or triggered when lights are too bright or when they hear loud sounds like fireworks. SPD can be comorbid with other neurodivergent conditions and up to 60% of children with either ADHD or SPD will also show symptoms of the other condition. 

Different types of SPD
  • Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD): Impacts sensory processing across single or multiple sensory systems.
  • Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD): This may occur across visual, auditory, tactile, smell, taste, vestibular, proprioception, and interoceptive senses. 
  • Sensory-Based Motor Disorder (SBMD): Affects balance and motor skills. Includes Postural Disorders and Dyspraxia.

Types of Neurodiversity

It can be overwhelming in itself to consider the broad range of neurodiverse conditions and how these can impact people at work. One way to manage this is by grouping conditions into broader categories. According to the Neurodiversity Working Group at the UK College of Police, three categories can help to segment different types of neurodivergence, i.e. Applied, Clinical and Acquired

Applied Neurodivergence

Applied Neurodivergence refers to a condition that someone is born with but isn’t a pathological condition or health condition. Instead, Applied Neurodivergent conditions are innate, genetic differences, and someone’s natural state. People with Applied Neurodivergence may find it difficult to use certain cognitive skills like reading, writing, gross motor control, and numerical cognition. But it’s important to note that Applied Neurodivergence occurs across a full range of intellectual abilities.


People with dyslexia have a different way of learning and processing information from neurotypical individuals. Dyslexia affects accuracy and fluency with word reading and spelling. It can also impact phonological awareness, verbal memory, and verbal processing.


Also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), dyspraxia affects movement and specifically fine and/or gross motor coordination. People with dyspraxia can also have problems with organisation, and speech and language. They may find it harder to keep up with conversations and can have difficulty with attention or memory.


People who have dyscalculia have a specific difficulty with processing and understanding numbers. And this can lead to problems with mathematics. Also referred to as Developmental Dyscalculia (DD), people with dyscalculia struggle with number sense, memorising arithmetic facts, and showing fluency with calculation.


Dysgraphia affects fine motor skills and shows up as distorted or incorrect writing. It can affect all aspects of writing from legibility to word spacing, spelling to general expression. But it can also show up as problems with spatial perception or even having a tight grip on a pen or pencil.


Other conditions beyond the four we’ve mentioned include:

  • Synesthesia: People with synesthesia use blended senses. They can describe visualising music as colours or tasting shapes.
  • Colour Blindness: People who are colour blind can’t experience the sight of colours in a neurotypical way. It can be a genetic and an acquired phenomenon.

“Organisations benefit from the tangible and real-world strengths and abilities to build a neuroinclusive, disability-friendly culture where everyone can thrive. Whilst every individual is unique, there are many reported in-demand skills such as lateral thinking, problem-solving, connecting seemingly disparate ideas, attention to detail, hyper-focus, empathy, and relationship-building, among others”

Dr Deborah Leveroy
Head of Consultancy & Research, neurobox

Clinical Neurodivergence

Clinical Neurodivergence refers to people born with a neurological difference that is also considered a health condition. So while the term refers to innate differences, a person with ‘Clinical Neurodivergence’ will find they have difficulties in communication, behaviour, and social skills.

Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC)

Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) is a neurological condition and a developmental condition. It affects how people behave and communicate. Individuals with ASC can have specific, restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. They may also have delayed language, movement, or cognitive and learning skills. Specific types of ASC include:

  • Level 1 ASC / Asperger Syndrome: ASC is a spectrum and people with Asperger syndrome don’t often have the same learning disabilities as other people with ASC. Asperger Syndrome may present as a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD)
  • Classic Autistic Disorder / Kanner’s Syndrome: Symptoms can include communication difficulties, lack of eye contact, and hypersensitivity to stimuli.
  • PDD-NOS / Pervasive Developmental Disorder / Atypical Autism: Individuals may show fewer or milder symptoms which can include challenges with social interactions and communication.
  • Rett Syndrome: Rett Syndrome is a rare condition resulting in a loss of motor skills and language.
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD): This is a rare disorder that results in a regression of skills such as language or motor skills.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD affects people’s behaviour. It’s marked by inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity which can interfere with functioning or development.

  • Inattention can include difficulties staying focused on a task or staying organised. It may mean people overlooking or missing details or avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  • Hyperactivity may result in a person moving around a lot and in situations when it is not appropriate. They may be ‘always on the go’ or talk excessively.
  • Impulsivity can manifest as a lack of appropriate self-control. An example could be interrupting others in the workplace or not thinking through the long-term consequences of actions.
Intellectual and Psychiatric Disabilities, including Down’s Syndrome

Intellectual disabilities affect a person’s life across three categories: conceptual, social, and practical. This can show up as a lack of empathy, judgement of social norms, or self-care. And while Down’s syndrome is classed as an intellectual disability, people with the condition can and do contribute to the working world in many positive and productive ways.

Tourette’s Syndrome

People with Tourette’s Syndrome suffer from involuntary body movements and noises referred to as ‘tics’. Tics can include eye rolling, blinking, jerking of head or limbs, touching objects, touching other people, grimacing and shoulder shrugging. People with vocal tics can also make noises like whistling, coughing, clicking, animal sounds or blurt out random or inappropriate words.


Other Clinical Neurodivergent conditions include Epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy.

The Ultimate Guide to Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Acquired Neurodivergence

Acquired Neurodivergence refers to changes in cognition and behaviour that emerge from a health condition or injury. These types of neurological differences have the potential to resolve as an injury or illness heals. In some cases, though, the neurological differences remain.

Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, OCD, depression, and anxiety

Acquired conditions include mental health disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and depression and anxiety. Bipolar Disorder is one of the most common Acquired Neurodivergent conditions and it’s thought that around 1 in 50 people has the disorder. Research also suggests Bipolar Disorder exists on a spectrum, with around 5% of people existing on a spectrum.

Traumatic brain injuries that alter cognition

Cognitive impairments can happen to individuals following traumatic brain injury and are fairly common. Impairments can impact memory and levels of attention while decreasing concentration and verbal or visual processing. The variety of impairments that follow brain injuries makes rehabilitation complex and sometimes difficult to achieve.

Illnesses or treatments that limit cognition

Some health conditions and illnesses can also impact cognitive function. One example is the number of people who experience what’s known as ‘Brain Fog’ from illness, inflammation, or hormonal imbalances. Conditions that cause Brain Fog include diabetes, hypothyroidism, Multiple Sclerosis, menopause and perimenopause, vitamin deficiencies, and Long-Covid.


Other conditions which fall into this category include Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). While people with BPD can have a genetic disposition, it’s thought that BPD is a result of problems with neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin.