shared electronic documents).
˲ Provide advance notice of meeting
topics, and allow employees to submit
ideas and feedback in writing, pre-, or
Offer flexible workspace arrange-
ments to support organizational and
concentration in open work environ-
˲ Enable employees to organize their
personal workspaces and approaches
to best fit their strengths and their own
˲ Designate quiet/private spaces that
employees can use throughout the day
to minimize distractions and focus.
Organizational commitment to
utilizing management techniques
like these requires dedication, person power, and time, yet these simple
strategies are a low, or no-cost starting
point to support workers with attention and learning disorders. In fact,
some of these approaches are likely already used by effective managers. Employers, like classroom teachers, are
responsible for adjusting practices to
meet the needs of neurodiverse talent
and providing workers with appropriate tools for success. Using strategies
to support these workers (and make
work less stressful for them) will ultimately maximize the contributions
of all employees, improve team efficiency and productivity, and increase
retention of great workers.
1. Cortiella, C. and Horowitz, S. The State of Learning
Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Emerging Issues.
National Center for Learning Disabilities, NY, 2014;
2. Dyslexic Advantage Team. Dyslexia and computer
programmers. (Sept. 2016); http://bit.ly/2kG YiEh
3. Horowitz, S, Rawe, J., and Whittaker, M. The State
of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5.
National Center for Learning Disabilities, NY, 2017;
4. Morris, M.R., Begel, A., and Wiedermann, B.
Understanding the challenges faced by neurodiverse
software engineering employees: Towards a more
inclusive and productive technical workforce. In
ASSETS ’ 15 (Oct. 26–28, 2015, Lisbon, Portugal), 173–
184; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2700648.2809841
Sarah Wille ( email@example.com) is a Senior Research
Scientist and Director of Computer Science Education
Research for Outlier Research & Evaluation at UChicago
STEM Education, University of Chicago, and a member
of UChicago STEM Ed’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Daphne Sajous-Brady (dsajous-brady@wolcottschool.
org) is the Director of Student Services and Lead Teacher
of the Learning Strategies Department at Wolcott School.
This material includes work supported by the National
Science Foundation under grant number CNS-1542963.
Copyright held by authors.
learning disorders often result in better
academic success for all individuals.
Strategies for Increasing
While there are many resources that
provide specific strategy suggestions
to improve accessibility of work environments, we offer a synthesis of
these recommendationsd, 4 and our
own from experiences supporting
neurologically different youth and
adults. While particularly well-suited
for neurodivergent employees, these
strategies are also beneficial for the
range of neurotypical employees in a
We realize there is considerable
challenge for managers in recognizing
which employees might need accommodations when so few disclose their
differences. One great approach in this
situation is to incorporate suggested
strategies into all regular team operations, to create a workplace more inclusive of a range of workers. Shifting
management approaches requires effort and flexibility, but the benefits to
both employees and employers are
considerable. Inclusive practices create an environment that allows employers to tap into, and acknowledge a
range of perspectives and experiences,
which are at the heart of innovation. As
managers shift, neurodiverse talent
must also take responsibility for establishing and sustaining their own practices to ensure success, to self-advocate
when supports are needed, and to implement additional strategies to increase their focus and productivity.
Here, we share management strategy recommendations to maximize the
strengths and performance of a neurodiverse workforce:
Present instructions and expectations both verbally and in writing to
avoid ambiguity, support employees
with memory deficits, and explicitly
˲ Provide project details and work
tasks in both verbal and written communications.
˲ Clearly describe key expectations
and instructions in writing for employees to revisit as needed.
Break down tasks and identify spe-
cific goals to support organization, pri-
oritization, and time management of
˲ Provide task checklists; Promote
use of collaborative project management and time management systems
to separate tasks for completion, and
to keep track of time on tasks.
˲ Share flowcharts to describe steps
of complicated processes and appropriate completion time.
Schedule frequent check-in meet-
ings between employee and supervisor
to provide time for direct communica-
tion and specific feedback.
˲Establish a structure for weekly
check-in meetings to keep work on track
and clarify any misunderstandings.
˲ Provide personalized training and
job mentors to support targeted areas
Recognize the hurdles email writing
presents for some employees.
˲ Grant sufficient time for writing
and editing email communications.
˲ Offer editing options, like the use
of text-to-speech software (to listen
to their own writing), or support from
co-workers to proofread email content
and subject lines.
Permit employees to “pass” on note
taking and on-the-spot idea generation
to minimize anxiety from spelling and
writing, and social or communication-related challenges.
˲Be flexible with group note-tak-
ing duties in meetings (whiteboards;
practices to meet
talent and providing