Bridging the Employment Gap for Neurodivergent Individuals in Canada

In Canada, an estimated 1 in 66 youth 5-17 years of age have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). With programs like Reboot Plus, we help employers tap into a population of workers who possess unique talents and capabilities often overlooked in traditional hiring practices

Addressing the Neurodiversity Employment Disparity in Canada

The importance of helping youth realize their fullest potential cannot be overstated, particularly in the context of neurodiversity. In 2017, only 33% of adults on the Autism spectrum were employed, a stark contrast to the 79% employment rate among adults with no disability. This disparity not only affects individuals but also takes a toll on the Canadian economy, with estimated losses ranging from $6 billion to $11 billion annually

Understanding Neurodiversity 

Neurodiversity, a term coined by sociologist Judy Singer in 1998, encompasses a range of neurological variations in thinking, understanding, interacting, and communicating. It includes conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette syndrome, as well as certain mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and OCD. Each neurodivergent individual may have unique support needs, and it’s necessary to recognize the diversity within this group

Increasing Awareness in Canadian Workplaces

Despite its significance, awareness of neurodiversity in Canadian workplaces is still evolving. Surveys indicate that over half of workers and employers have become aware of the term only within the past five years. This underscores the need for comprehensive education and training initiatives within organizations.

Tailoring Support for Neurodivergent Employees

Many neurodivergent individuals face challenges in traditional work environments due to factors like sensory sensitivities and communication differences. Offering flexibility in work location and scheduling can significantly enhance their productivity. Hybrid working arrangements can provide opportunities for a more inclusive workplace, provided there’s adequate support and understanding.

Taking Action: Key Steps for Employers

  1. Improving Accessibility and Awareness: Employers should ensure clear communication about accessing accommodations and implement company-wide awareness training.
  2. Flexibility in Work Arrangements: Providing options for flexible work hours and locations can cater to diverse employee needs.
  3. Inclusive Hiring Practices: Altering hiring processes to accommodate neurodivergent candidates can unlock untapped talent pools. This includes providing interview questions in advance and focusing on job-related skills rather than solely personality traits.^[5]
  4. Streamlining Accommodation Processes: Simplifying the accommodation process can alleviate barriers for neurodivergent individuals. Clear guidelines and readily available supports can facilitate a more inclusive workplace environment.
  5. Embracing People-First Management: Establishing trusting relationships between managers and neurodivergent employees fosters open communication and support. This approach benefits not only neurodivergent workers but the entire team.
  6. Building Community: Creating employee resource groups for neurodivergent individuals promotes awareness, support, and a sense of belonging within the workplace.^[6]

Unlocking Potential and Fostering Innovation

Employers stand to gain significantly by embracing neurodiversity inclusion initiatives. Enhanced company culture, diverse perspectives, increased retention rates, and improved innovation are among the many benefits reported by organizations that have prioritized neurodiversity. By bridging the employment gap for neurodivergent individuals, we not only provide opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment but also address pressing issues such as labour shortages and economic productivity. Neurodiverse individuals bring unique perspectives, problem-solving skills, and creativity to the table, contributing to a more innovative and dynamic workforce.

With funding from the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, we are examining whether a hope-centred education and career development program can help youth find their purpose.

Le projet Reboot Plus est financé par le Centre des Compétences futures du gouvernement du Canada