Understanding Neurodiversity | A Q&A with Occupational Psychologist Nancy Doyle
It was a delight to welcome amazing speaker Nancy Doyle to Speakers Corner HQ who shared with us her research and personal experiences with neurodiversity. We reached out to Nancy for her insight into how we can bring about positive change, raise awareness and understanding of neurodiversity.
Nancy is an occupational psychologist and CEO of Genius Within, specialising in the workplace support of adults with neuro-differences. She also helped create and featured in the BBC Two series Employable Me, where she supported a group of extraordinary job seekers to unlock their own unique talents and abilities in order to secure employment.
Hi Nancy! So, you helped create the BBC Two series Employable Me, why was that show so important?
It was important to show that people experience very real discrimination and difficulties, but also have a lot to offer. It was warm and authentic, avoiding the 'poor me' syndrome but not glossing over the reality of disability. The show portrayed the balance between strength and struggle perfectly.
It was recently Dyslexia Awareness Week and National Inclusion Week, what kind of role do these campaigns play?
I think they can bring different conditions to the top of the awareness list, reminding people that they exist, and each time chipping away with a bit more insight and advice. Also helpful for those of us working in the field, to galvanise and improve our message.
See my video, created for National Inclusion Week:
How can companies help create a welcoming, inclusive culture to get the best from their employees?
Instead of asking them to name a condition, offer adjustments. Ask everyone "How can we support you to work at your best"? Give examples of things you have tried before, so that applicants and employees can see that you are genuine.
If it's box ticking, they are just aiming for compliance with the law. Inclusion works best when people realise that when they exclude significant percentages of people from their staff, they miss out on talents. Businesses have diverse customers, diverse clients and diverse stakeholders. If these groups don't have representation in the company service design and delivery, how will they be sure they are meeting diverse needs?
Do you think we need to look at our education system, to make it fairer and give more equal opportunities for neurodiverse children to excel?
Yes - English and Maths factories don't reflect the skills needed for a modern workforce. Why do you need GCSE standard literacy for a modern apprenticeship in hairdressing, plumbing or plastering? These skills don't match and they exclude people who are naturally mechanically and visually minded but lack literacy.
What do you think the future of our workforce looks like?
I think neurodiversity will become as commonly understood as personality diversity and we will start allowing people to be specialists rather than trying to make everyone a 'jack of all trades'.
So finally, what are you working on now? What’s next for you?
I'm working on how to ensure that businesses understand how to make adjustments and what they can do, also ways to adapt our service so that more people can develop their own, personal adjustments without waiting for expensive expertise. I think the issues we face would be less overwhelming and more inclusive if they lost their mystery, and people felt able to talk openly about adjustments to environments and workflows that would work. Parallel to this, I am stocking up the research evidence around adjustments. There's a lack of decent longitudinal studies to help us determine where to put our limited resources. This is needed to reassure employees and employers that if they make the investment, it will pay off.
Thanks so much for speaking to us about such an important topic Nancy.
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