Wondering which resources benefit people with dyslexia, ADHD, and autism the most? Read on to learn about the best neurodiversity tools and accommodations.
Neurodiversity refers to the natural differences in the ways people’s brains operate. The term promotes inclusivity and urges society to treat people with neurological conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with more compassion.
People with neurodiversity-based conditions often face challenges in their day-to-day life. These obstacles negatively impact society because they prevent neurodivergent individuals from reaching their full potential. But with the appropriate tools and accommodations, they can thrive and positively contribute to the modern world.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is all about acknowledging that there’s no “right” way to behave, think, or learn. It’s also an initiative to show more compassion towards those with neurodiversity-based conditions like ADHD or dyslexia.
These people have different brain structures from what mainstream society considers “normal,” which isn’t necessarily bad. It just means they interact with their environment and process information in unique ways.
Examples of neurodiversity-based disabilities
The neurodiversity spectrum encompasses several conditions:
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Tourette’s syndrome
Keep in mind that the neurodiversity movement doesn’t view these disabilities as deficits. It views them as the result of the complexity of the human brain.
While the modern work environment isn’t always suitable for neurodivergent employees, these individuals often have excellent problem-solving skills. Because they process information differently, they’re sometimes able to find more creative solutions than their neurotypical peers.
Tools and accommodations to help neurodivergent people
Neurodivergent individuals may struggle with schoolwork and job responsibilities, but not because of impaired brain functions. Public schools often don’t have the appropriate resources to address the specific needs of neurodiverse learners.
Similarly, businesses might be unsure about the most effective ways to create an inclusive work environment. Fortunately, schools and companies can rely on assistive technology and other helpful tools and initiatives to support neurodiverse people.
Many people with autism spectrum disorder have sensory sensitivity. Consequently, loud sounds typical of schools and workplaces can overwhelm them and minimize their productivity. Moreover, the stimuli can negatively impact their mental health and self-esteem.
One of the most effective methods to resolve this issue is wearing noise-canceling headphones. These headphones fit snuggly in the ears, helping those on the autism spectrum reduce sensory overload.
Removing jargon from communications
Neurodiverse employees are incredibly driven, but the employer should create an environment that supports their strong suits. An excellent first step is simplifying communications and removing jargon.
People with neurological differences may struggle to understand emails, job ads, and webinar announcements full of hard-to-decode jargon.
Before printing a document, open it in Microsoft Word and ensure you’ve eliminated words with double meanings. Not only will the documentation become more accessible to neurodivergent workers, but it will also be easier to understand for neurotypical employees.
Understanding legal obligations
Businesses should be aware of which laws support a more neurodiverse workforce and require them to make appropriate accommodations for employees and job seekers with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. This civil rights law prohibits discrimination against neurodiverse individuals in aspects of public life, from jobs and schools to transportation.
Companies working through contracts with the federal government must adhere to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It stipulates that contractors working with the federal government should strive to make at least 7% of their workforce neurodiverse. Furthermore, companies must establish an action plan to achieve this number.
The ADA is a broader law that safeguards the rights of all people with disabilities. Thus, it guarantees reasonable accommodations in the workplace and during the interview and onboarding process.
While neurodivergent individuals aren’t necessarily disabled, the nature of their impairment could limit one or several major life activities. For this reason, the ADA protections are invaluable.
Assistive technology refers to computer programs and special equipment that allows people to improve their productivity. It’s suitable for both neurodivergent employees and learners who want to boost the quality of their work and studies.
This reliable app has been around for a while and has inbuilt advanced accessibility features. Users of Office 2016 and newer can access spell-checking tools. The program analyzes the content of the text before producing possible corrections.
Those whose disability affects their reading skills may be surprised to learn that the app also has read-aloud features.
Although similar to Word, OneNote implements OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technologies.
Consequently, it allows users to convert scanned handouts, documents, and more into scannable PDFs or Word docs.
Text to speech apps
Many companies have released text to speech (TTS) programs to meet the needs of neurodiverse people. These apps are suitable for young learners for the following reasons:
- Improve vocabulary retention
- Bolster word recognition
- Simplify reading assignments
TTS or “read aloud” apps operate on OCR technologies that aid neurodiverse adults in completing tasks with heavy reading, editing, or proofreading.
Introducing Speechify – The TTS tool that helps the neurodiverse
Speechify is by far the most functional TTS app on the market. While similar programs offer robotic voices that complicate listening comprehension, Speechify provides multiple natural-sounding voices for a stress-free experience. Moreover, it’s highly customizable, and you can adjust the reading pace with just a few clicks on the mobile or web version.
Speechify users can take photos of reading material and quickly complete day-to-day tasks like doing homework, reviewing paperwork, and organizing bills. Thanks to the app’s easy-to-use interface, it caters to the needs of those diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, epilepsy, Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other neurodiversity-based conditions.
How can employers accommodate neurodivergent employees?
Employers can accommodate neurodivergent employees by implementing more inclusive hiring methods. They should also foster a positive work environment that embraces neurological differences and recognizes the talents of all employees.
How can schools accommodate neurodivergent students?
Schools should invest in educating staff about the nuances of neurodiversity-based conditions. Annual or biannual training sessions can help educators keep up with the best teaching methods for students with special needs.
Is neurodiversity covered under the ADA?
While the ADA primarily protects the rights of people with disabilities, it applies to neurodiverse individuals too. The law views neurodivergent conditions as “mental impairment,” guaranteeing reasonable accommodation for neurodiverse employees and job applicants.