Neurodiversity 2.0 – a premanifesto2 min read

We’ve seen a movement taking the world by storm. Neurodiversity, which emerged in the 1990’s but has become a talent pipeline strategy for employers in recent years. But as a talent strategy, we stand at the precipice of a whole new phase. I’d like to propose we stand at the brink of Neurodiversity 2.0.

In the context of this writing, I’m talking about Neurodiversity primarily within the realm of employment, and not tackling the broader social issues beyond that realm.

If we can expect Neurodiversity 2.0, then it only stands to reason that there must have been a Neurodiversity 1.0, and we ought to be able to clearly discern between the two. And I think we can.

Neurodiversity 1.0 is, and was, an important stepping stone for the neurodivergent population to find and retain gainful employment. But it had some opportunities for improvement. Some hallmarks that were common, but not necessarily universal, across Neurodiversity 1.0 efforts:

  • Run for neurodivergent people, but not by neurodivergent people.
  • Special programs, apart from mainstream talent pipelines.
  • Limited to a narrow subset of the autistic population, which is itself a (larger) subset of the neurodivergent population.
  • Limited to a narrow subset of roles.
  • May not provide a career path / upward mobility.
  • May not have pay equity with mainstream workers who have similar responsibilities.

Neurodiversity 2.0, which has yet to emerge, should likely strive to be recognized by its improvements:

  • Run primarily by neurodivergent people for neurodivergent people.
  • Focused on mainstreaming inclusive practices into the general workforce.
  • Inclusive of a broader subset of the neurodivergent population, and not just autistic people.
  • Inclusive of all of the same roles available to the general population.
  • Deliberately thoughtful toward developing long-term career plans.
  • Compensation parity with mainstream peers in similar roles is a key performance indicator (KPI).

I wanted to get this down, in writing, as I find myself getting close to being able to take a serious run at starting a Neurodiversity 2.0 program with a major employer. But I want to put it out there for the larger neurodivergent population to offer up comments, suggestions for improvement, tell me where I screwed up and how I could do this better.

For our neurotypical allies, while I very much want to learn from your successes and failures, I also ask that you make room for the unheard population to speak up and help lead on our next steps forward.

Nothing about us without us.

Disclosure: I am #ActuallyAutistic.

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