Leveraging Resources for Neurodiverse and Disabled Talent Acquisition in the Workplace - American Society of Employers - Lauren Cromie

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Leveraging Resources for Neurodiverse and Disabled Talent Acquisition in the Workplace

In an era where diversity is celebrated, the contributions of neurodiverse and disabled individuals often remain overlooked. Yet, their unique perspectives offer untapped potential for businesses. The unemployment rate for these workers is around 30-40% leaving many looking for meaningful work. In this article, we explore the benefits, strategies, and resources for inclusive hiring practices of this incredible talent pool.

Neurodiversity refers to the variations that exist in the human brain regarding mood, attention, learning and sociability and is typically used to describe individuals with cognitive differences. Examples can be ADHD, Autism, Tourette Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Dyslexia and many more. Disabled individuals are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that limits them from one or more major life activity. It is important to note that there is no one “right” way of experiencing and interacting with the world and that these differences shouldn’t be viewed as deficient but embraced as leveraged.

Let’s start with some best practices for recruiting and interviewing neurodiverse and disabled talent.

  1. Clean up and clearly write your job postings omitting any skills that really aren’t necessary for job performance that may deter a disabled applicant.
  2. Ensure that your company website is not visually distracting and that the career page is easily accessible and straightforward.
  3. When it comes to the interview, choose a quiet environment that is free from bright lights and strong smells. These can be distracting and triggering for some candidates. Also avoid asking abstract questions or using nuances and metaphors; aim for direct questions. Try not to ask what someone else might do in a situation and focus on the individual’s personal experience.
  4. Sometimes these individuals will refrain from making eye contact with the interviewer or they might fidget or display other physical tics. Try to evaluate if social cues like these are a priority for the role and strive to overlook any that are not.

There are also ways to engage and retain this talent once hired with things like starting an employee resource group, making information about accommodations open and easily accessible, embracing flexibility, and increasing patience and most importantly educating yourself and neurotypical and able-bodied employees on how to interact with and support these individuals.

Some benefits that come from hiring neurodiverse and disabled candidates include more creative thinking and innovation because of different perspectives. Neurodiverse individuals have also been found to have higher abilities to process information and even elevated productivity from their neurotypical peers. Higher retention and engagement as well as better talent attraction have been noted company-wide for organizations implementing these initiatives as employees want to work somewhere that cares for others and the community and where they can be their true authentic selves.

Several companies have successfully added initiatives to support this mission. Plante Moran, Microsoft, Corewell Health and Meijer are just a few, however the remainder of this article will highlight two organizations who are paving the way for neurodiverse and disabled talent in preparing and placing them in the workforce.

Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) provides vocational rehabilitation services statewide across all 83 counties that develop and provide customized solutions for both businesses and individuals with disabilities to help prepare them for and engage in employment as well as achieve economic self-sufficiency. They offer counseling on postsecondary educational programs and launched the Michigan Career and Technical Institute with over 350 Students a year, a 99% Graduation Rate, and an 86% job placement rate upon graduating. They have a Talent Acquisition Portal for both job seekers and businesses that helps connect disabled talent with open jobs and hiring managers. The highlights on MRS’s resources for businesses include assisting in finding qualified talent, identifying barriers, setting up accommodations and providing consultation and education to these organizations on how to best support disabled individuals during their employment. MRS also provides a myriad of workplace readiness trainings including communication trainings, job coaching, and a Self-Advocacy Training program with peer mentoring to help them learn about self-determination skills, on-the-job disability disclosure and how to ask for help or special accommodations at work. Their job exploration and work-based learning experience programs aid disabled individuals in discovering their career options and how to find a job that fulfills their needs.

Kristy Schena started her Kids-On-the -Go program for young neurodivergent and disabled children but soon realized there was also a need for support for teens and young adults dealing with these issues to prepare them for life after school. She then started Teens to Work, a program serving Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties, ages 13-18 to provide training on social skills, communication, time management, workplace endurance, financial literacy, and independent living through a variety of methods. Students in the program can learn everything from doing their laundry to using a laser printer to create products. She aims to find their interests and train them in the skills they need to pursue these passions in the workforce. Kristy has placed workers in various local restaurants, healthcare facilities, marketing and promotional companies, and many more.

If you are looking to hire this type of talent, our recommendation is to start with Michigan Rehabilitation Services, a free resource to all businesses in Michigan. You can access their website here: www.michigan.gov/mrs or contact Jenny Piatt at [email protected]. We also recommend reaching out to Kristy Schena with Kids-on-the-Go as she runs the Teens to Work program mentioned above. She can be reached at [email protected]. They both have access to this diverse pool of untapped and unrepresented talent who are looking for meaningful work. Below you can find a list of more resources to assist as well.

Additionally, HR professionals are here to provide resources and aid employees for many different reasons. You may have some employees who are parents or guardians to children with neurodiversity or disabilities; or they may have a parent, sibling, spouse, or loved one that may need extra assistance in this field. Not only are Jenny and Kristy great resources for hiring these individuals, but they can also provide your employees with assistance to help navigate these circumstances, difficulties, or life changes. Jenny Piat recommends this webpage: www.michigan.gov/autism and Kristy Schena’s programs for both young children and teens can be great options.


EARN (Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion): https://askearn.org/

The Arc: https://thearc.org/our-initiatives/employment/employment-services/

Autism Alliance of Michigan: https://autismallianceofmichigan.org/

ODEP (Office of Disability Employment Policy): https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep



Best practices for hiring with neurodiversity in mind. Indeed for Employers. (2024). https://www.indeed.com/hire/c/info/workplace-neurodiversity

Luc, K. (2024, February 1). Neurodiversity in the workplace: Why it matters. Culture Amp. https://www.cultureamp.com/blog/neurodiversity-in-the-workplace#:~:text=Studies%20estimate%20that%20the%20unemployment,rate%20for%20people%20without%20disabilities.

Interview with Jenny Piat from Michigan Rehabilitation Services on 4/30/2024.

Interview with Kristy Schena from Kids on the Go on 5/2/2024.


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