"Neurodiversity for me is the timeless and incontrovertible reality that every single living being is unique, and that no two human minds, (actually mind-body complexes), are the same.”
- Judy Singer, Australian Sociologist

“Neurodiversity” is essentially the diversity of human brains and minds and is often subject to the same social dynamics and discrimination as other forms of diversity. Asserting that there is one “normal” type of brain or style of neurocognitive functioning, is just as invalid as claiming there is only one “normal” gender, race or culture.

Since the conception of the term “neurodiversity” in 1998 by autistic Australian sociologist, Judy Singer, there has been a powerful and growing global movement championing the civil rights of those deemed “neurodiverse”. Today, psychotherapists who treat the neurodiverse do not attempt to “cure” their clients of their neurodiversity. Instead, they help them to thrive as neurodiverse individuals, whether they are ADD, ADHD, bipolar, autistic, dyslexic or any of the many iterations of “neurodiversity”. The common goal for neurodiverse individuals is to learn ways of living that are more in sync with their natural neurological dispositions, and to break free from discrimination and oppression.

What is the most common type of neurodiversity?

It is estimated between 30-40% of the population are neurodiverse with the remaining majority known as “neurotypical”. Amongst the global adult population, roughly 10% are dyslexic, 5% are dyspraxic, 4% have ADHD, and 1-2% are autistic. Neurodiversity refers to variations in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions. These differences (Nancy Dole) can include those labelled with:

  • Dyspraxia
  • Dyslexia
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Dyscalculia
  • Autistic Spectrum
  • Tourette Syndrome and more

In the workplace, neurodiverse individuals can face many challenges including:

  • Discriminiaton, prejudice, and stereotyping
  • Lack of inclusion or logistical considerations
  • Difficulties communicating during the hiring process and after
  • Environmental or sensory distractions or distresses
  • Inflexible management or office policies

The reality is, the neurodiverse population remains a largely untapped talent pool around the world. In the United States, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is as high as 30-40% which is three times the rate for people with disability, and eight times the rate for people without disabilities.

In the US, it is estimated that 85% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed, compared to 4.2% of the overall population. In the UK, autistic people are the least likely to be employed of any other neurodiverse group, with just 21.7% of autistic people in employment. In Malaysia (according to the 2021 Ministry of Human Resource statistics) there are only 13.8% of registered “Differently Abled Individuals” employed in the private workforce.

Unfortunately, exact data when it comes to employment and the neurodiverse is mostly unknown because few resources are able to track the specifics of unemployment and neurodiversity in all its different forms—including ADHD, ADD, autism spectrum, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and many more.

What to consider when hiring neurodiverse talent

The most important thing to consider when hiring neurodiverse talent is aligning each individual with the organisation’s values and culture.

Hiring Process

Companies can consider being more creative and flexible in the hiring process and work to have a greater understanding of each neurodiverse individual and their needs. To facilitate the hiring process, companies can proactively match suitable roles for the individual, perform certain skill based assessment techniques, and capitalise on assistive technology (for example allowing those with dyslexia to submit video resumes instead of written ones). Job descriptions and postings should be clear and include only essential tasks, as well as be displayed in different formats—such as text and video.

How to Prepare the Workplace

Sensory Accommodations

There are many sensory accommodations in the workplace that can be adopted when hiring neurodiverse talent to help optimise performance.

  • Noise Accommodation - Employers can provide a quiet or enclosed work space or allow neurodiverse employees to wear headphones to listen to soothing music while working. Cushions and pillows can also help to dampen external noise.
  • Smell Accommodation - Employers should avoid using strong detergent and fragrances in the workplace and consider positioning the employee further away from the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Tactile Accommodation - If a neurodiverse employee is working hands-on with challenging textures that could be distracting or even distressing, employers can consider the use of utensils or gloves. Employers can also ensure the employee has enough personal space at individual workstations and even in walkways.
  • Visual Accommodations - Employers can offer flexible lighting options, whether it be dimmable desk lamps or access to windows, as well as reduce visual clutter. Keeping colours throughout the workspace neutral and calming also helps.

Flexibility Accommodations

Allowing neurodiverse employees to work to a flexible schedule, or even remotely, may assist with reducing the challenges of office life—including over stimulation, crowded commutes during peak hours, and unfamiliar surroundings.

Mental Health Support

Companies should provide adequate support in the workplace to neurodivergent individuals who may be suffering from mental health issues due to the extra pressures of employment. Unsupported neurodiverse employees can result in isolation or even ridicule or bullying. Unempathetic managers can potentially contribute to overall stress and anxiety in the workplace. Adequate mental health support is imperative to help neurodiverse employees cope with work life and to identify further support if needed. Please visit page 21 & 22 of this report to learn more.

Organising Skills

Neurodivergent employees may experience executive functioning differences when it comes to day-to-day abilities such as asking for help, evaluating ideas, keeping track of time, planning and monitoring goals, or working in a group. Assistive tools that are intuitive and help keep track of day-to-day responsibilities can go a long way towards strengthening the approach to thinking, processing, and learning. Source:

Buddy / Mentor System

A daily or weekly check-in schedule can provide neurodiverse employees with extra support to clarify work tasks, help with time management and productivity, and even socialising in the workplace.

Awareness Training

Neurodivergent employees need strong support from both managers and peers in their workplace to thrive. It is crucial that managers receive training on how to interact, supervise and work with neurodivergent employees. Managers should learn about the neurodivergent’s ways of thinking and learning, and how to assess their individual needs and sensitivities. Training for managers is a staple feature of Neurodiversity-at-Work programmes globally, and can provide managers with a core understanding of the realities of neurodiversity—including strategies to respond to disclosure, giving clear instructions, assisting with potential challenge areas, introducing change sensitively, and so on.

Benefits of Hiring Neurodiverse Talents

Benefits to Employer

  • Employers gain a competitive edge that brings measurable benefits, both financially and in terms of workplace culture.
  • Employers can match roles with a broader variety of strengths. Some neurodiverse talents can have exceptionally strong skills in innovation, creativity, attention to detail, inferential abilities, maths, or detecting data patterns.
  • Neurodiverse talents can help foster a greater sense of workplace community.
  • Company managers develop greater sensitivities to tap into and recognise the talents and strengths of all staff.
  • Employers can gain tax benefits for training support programs and more.

Benefits to Neurodiverse Talent

  • Neurodiverse employees develop greater confidence and self-esteem
  • Companies acquire a better understanding of neurodiversity not only in the workplace but beyond.
  • Integration of neurodiverse talent positively improves a company’s morale and cultivates an increased sense of pride to be part of an inclusive workplace.
  • Neurodiverse employees establish financial security and an ongoing fostering of positive growth and mental well-being.

Support Neurodiverse Hiring
Supporting Neurodiversity@Workplace

The neurodiverse population often have exceptionally advanced capabilities that include in-pattern recognition, maths, memory, perseverance, innovation and creativity. Yet, traditionally, the neurodiverse often find it challenging to meet the majority of job profiles and requirements. In recent years, however, a rising number of corporations such as Microsoft, JP Morgan, IBM and EY, have reformed their HR procedures to access these exceptional talents. As a result, these businesses are experiencing increasing productivity, quality improvements, innovative capabilities, and all round better employee engagement.

How Oasis Place Supports the Neurodiverse in the Workplace

At Oasis Place our transdisciplinary team is trained to support the neurodiverse, their employers, and the neurotypical. We specialise in guiding and counselling companies to have a better understanding of the neurodiverse community, as well as fostering relationships and respect in the workplace.

Neurodiversity Training for Managers and Team

We provide 360 degree training and coaching for neurodiverse talent to gain more success in job placements. Our psychological and therapeutic services are designed to help our clients transition into new job placements, as well as offer continued support towards a successful ongoing career.

Areas of Support for Neurodiversity in The Workplace Include:

Support for Employers to Champion Neurodiversity, Well-Being & Inclusion

Our Oasis Place Clinical Team supports businesses to help foster an inclusive environment through various training and engagement programmes. These programmes are especially designed to support managers and teams to have constructive conversations and effective practices around hiring and managing neurodiverse talents.

Our Training Programmes Include:

  • Neurodiversity training for managers and employers to facilitate:
    • Knowing and understanding neurodiverse talent
    • Training on recruiting neurodiverse talent
    • Implementing supportive workplace best practices
    • Maintaining mental health and wellbeing workshops
  • Coaching for internship and job placements
  • Self care workshops for both neurodiverse employees and their employers
  • Independent Life Skill and Executive Function Coaching
  • Training and engagement programmes

Support Employee Wellbeing
  • Peggy Lam- Lead Coach, Bridging Hope Sdn Bhd
    When Dr. Choy asked me to share about Oasis Place, I thought, where do I start? I finally decided to use their acronym to summarise it!
    O – Opportunities A – Ambiance S – Specialists I – Inclusion S – Success
    Oasis Place is truly a one-stop transdisciplinary centre that fulfills all the above and more. Well done Oasis Place and best wishes.
    Peggy Lam- Lead Coach, Bridging Hope Sdn Bhd
  • Kathryn Balsamo, Speech-Language Pathologist, International School Kuala Lumpur

    Since 2014, Oasis Place has emerged as the leading multidisciplinary centre, raising awareness for differently-abled learners. Under the direction of Dr Choy, Oasis Place has contributed to the professional growth of special education practitioners in the region by providing access to the experts in the field through workshops, conferences and online forums.

    Kathryn Balsamo, Speech-Language Pathologist, International School Kuala Lumpur