Management and Workplace

Things Managers Can Do to Create a Neuroinclusive Workplace

See the expanded version to view additional content, including contextualizing statements for the sections below.


These ideas are intended to foster management practices that intentionally build and maintain a neuroinclusive workplace. The audience for this document, broadly referred to as managers, includes administrators, managers, supervisors, deans, directors, team leads, people who lead meetings, people who review and update policies, and anyone who participates in the recruitment, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and retention of employees. Additionally this document has ideas for people who create employee development opportunities, especially those directed at building workplace culture.


  • Begin with an overt commitment to being a neuroinclusive organization (Peters, 2023 (video))
  • Make your commitment explicit and, as much as possible, include neurodiverse perspectives in all aspects of the planning and decision-making processes
  • Commit to creating a psychologically safe space where people do not fear that they are going to experience negative repercussions for being neurodiverse (Peters, 2023 (video))

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Develop an Inclusive Mindset

  • Educate yourself and be intentional about becoming as informed as possible about all kinds of neurodiverse experiences
  • In all situations, always assume that some employees and patrons are neurodivergent, disclosing should not be required (Anderson, 2021)
  • Be aware of unconscious biases
  • Reflect on and question your personal experiences and assumptions concerning neurodiversity
  • Do not make generalizations
  • Immerse yourself in literature and voices from the neurodiverse community
  • Do research (in-depth if possible) on the perceptions and experiences of people with disabilities about library services and the library work environment (Shea & Derry, 2019)
  • Get to know neurodiverse employees and students
  • Understand that not all people who are neurodiverse identify as disabled, but it is an invisible ‘disability’ recognized and protected under Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Peters, 2023 (video))

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Nurture an Inclusive Workplace Culture

  • Hire people with autism and other types of neurodiversity to work in the library and take neurodiverse people seriously as users of the library (Shea & Derry, 2019)
  • Adopt a social model approach (Shea & Derry, 2019) by considering disability not as inherent in the person, but as an interaction between a person and an environment in which there may be some kind of mismatch so strive to improve the environment (Peters, 2023 (video))
  • Update DEI policies and statements to Include neurodiversity (Peters, 2023 (video))
    • Regarding Neurodiversity in the DEI framework
      • Diversity = Diverse cognitive function
      • Equity = Accommodation is an act of equity and is an essential aspect of neurodiversity inclusion in the workplace
      • Inclusion = Acceptance of people as they are
      • Belonging = Affinity and Well-being
    • Regarding Intersectionality (from Peters, 2023 (video))
      • Be aware that intersectionality and comorbidity result in complex identities
      • Co-occurring minority identities, which can include health and non-health related identities, make it exponentially more difficult in the workplace. For example, trans people have higher incidences of eating disorders (Rasmussen et al, 2023)
      • Consider, 50% of people with ADHD have dyslexia, 50% with ADHD have dyspraxia, 90% with Tourette’s have ADHD, 70% with ADHD have ASD traits
  • Educate all faculty/staff/students about neurodiversity by providing regular training opportunities (Shea & Derry, 2019)
  • Use neurodivergent and neurotypical collaboration to create training curriculum and culture building activities – this avoids putting extra work burdens on neurodivergent employees, while still surfacing voice and perspective from within the community and hopefully mitigating misrepresenting insider experience and perspective (Anderson, 2021)
  • Shape trainings around true need as described from members of the population, for example, spend time in collaboration w/out an agenda or specific idea of a training in order to build that training w/ neurodivergent input from the onset (Anderson, 2021, referencing Fletcher-Watson et al., 2019)
  • Provide ongoing training at all levels of the organization about the nuanced relationship between hidden or non-visible disabilities and accommodation (Peters, 2023 (video))
  • Create and promote autism and other neurodiverse awareness programs focused on training neurotypical library employees on strategies to engage with their autistic/neurodiverse peers (Shea & Derry, 2019)
  • Increase awareness and acceptance through various initiatives such as planning events for Autism Awareness Month in April, inviting experts on neurodiversity to the library including people who identify as neurodiverse, hosting panel discussions featuring neurodiverse students, and highlighting library materials on various kinds of neurodiversity (Shea & Derry, 2019)
  • Keep the social demands of the job manageable and predictable
  • To consider – Peters (2023 (video)) includes neurodiversity diagnosis in her signature line along with pronouns (ADHD, she/her) to help destigmatize neurodiversity
  • Work against ableism, sanism, and ableist language so that they do not shape the workplace culture (Peters, 2023 (video); Mellifont, 2023; Lydia X.Z. Brown’s post on ableist language)
  • Avoid judgemental words like unfriendly, demanding, needy, difficult, lazy, careless, clumsy, forgetful, flakey, and moody which are used to describe someone acting in a way you do not expect them to (Peters, 2023 (video))
  • Call out instances of offensive discourse (e.g., ‘broken brain’) and be sensitive to violent discourse in the medical model, for example, ‘syndrome’ and ‘disorder’ (Mellifont, 2023)

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Amplify Accommodation Awareness

  • Be overtly accommodation friendly in the workplace
  • Identify and collaborate with partners on campus who can facilitate accommodations
  • Connect with partners, such as HR, to amplify accommodation awareness and training
  • Consider that equal treatment for all, equal practices and policies, may seem fair but can indirectly discriminate because they have disparate impact
  • Educate all employees about accommodation
  • An employee may disclose to a manager and request that the manager keep that disclosure confidential. Other employees may interpret something as preferential treatment because they are not considering the possibility of a non-visible condition. In a case like this, the accommodation might be perceived as favoritism and preferential treatment, so all levels of the organization need to be educated about accommodations for visible and non-visible conditions.
  • Provide guidance around disability law even though it is complicated (Peters, 2023 (video)).
  • Be familiar with important resources (e.g., Disability Law and Policy (Concepts and Insights) by Peter Blanck (WorldCat))
  • Be aware that Rehabilitation Act – Section 503 (2014) says that employers with at least 50 employees and contracts/subcontracts of at least $50,000 must have in place an affirmative action program for hiring individuals with disabilities
    • This entails new rules strengthening the enforcement of ADA, including new employer requirements around recruiting, hiring, and accommodating individuals with disabilities.
    • Covered employers must now attain, or show progress toward attaining, a workforce that consists of at least 7% people with disabilities, which will apply to “each job group” in the workplace.
  • Locate the language from the institution that shows they are complying with Rehabilitation Act – Section 503 (2014) and that they are making progress toward the 7% goal
  • Locate where progress towards compliance with the Rehabilitation Act is being tracked and include what the library is specifically doing to move the department/institution forward
  • Once an employee discloses their disability to be eligible for an accommodation, use the process ADA encourages, a flexible, consultative, “interactive process” between the employer and employee to decide upon an appropriate accommodation
  • Know that if the interactive process fails, the individual may bring a “Failure-to-accommodate” claim under ADA Title 1
  • Understand what qualifies as an “undue hardship” when saying that making an accommodation is too difficult or expensive (e.g., “We can’t afford to tear down a support wall to rebuild a workspace because it is too expensive”)
  • Know that the fears or prejudices of other employees are not an undue hardship, so it does not work to say, “Well if I adjust your work schedule, everyone will want one” because adjusting a work schedule is not an undue burden (Peters, 2023 (video))
  • Recognize and accommodate (where needed) employees who do not identify as disabled, but rather as neurodivergent.
  • Work to eliminate obstacles to greater disclosure of neurodivergence
  • Do not disclose without authorization so that the fear of loss of privacy through unauthorized departmental announcements is not an obstacle to disclosure (Mellifont, 2023)
  • Work to have permanent, secure positions so that anxiety around employment uncertainty is not an obstacle to disclosure (Mellifont, 2023)
  • Be supportive of (early-career) neurodivergent academics/scholars who choose to disclose so that fear of stigma is not an obstacle to disclosure (Mellifont, 2023)
  • Challenge negative attitudes that question the abilities of neurodivergent academics (Mellifont, 2023)

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Build Accessible Options for Everyone

  • By default, have options that help neurodiverse people to participate more authentically without the additional barrier of disclosure or requesting accommodations
  • Do not make people ask for accessible options that could be built in for all with a small amount of forethought
  • Understand that many people, perhaps most people, choose not to disclose neurodiverse conditions while job seeking or on the job (Anderson, 2021) because of prior negative experiences with enacted stigma, anticipated stigma, and internalized stigma (Peters, 2023 (video)).
  • Recognize that disclosure is context-oriented and varies by individual and circumstance
  • Consider the challenge and stress of balancing the need for more general workplace accessibility with requesting formal/specific accommodation when someone does not want to self-disclose
  • Always assume, in all situations, that you work with employees and students who are neurodiverse, whether you know it or not
  • Be flexible

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Accessibility Ideas


As Peters (2023 (video)) explains, accommodations are essential for equity. That said, rather than accommodations, Dali (2019) prefers to frame these types of interview tips as inclusive interview practices that benefit all candidates, and by extension, candidates with hidden disabilities or conditions.

  • Interviews may be disadvantageous to neurodiverse applicants. Research and examine alternate assessment measures (i.e., alternatives to traditional interview practices) (Mellifont, 2023)
  • Set formal expectations that all hiring managers will be knowledgeable about, and facilitate hiring committee conversations about, neurodiversity generally and various kinds of neurodiversity specifically, and incorporate this awareness into the interview process (Anderson, 2021)
  • Provide communication options during the interview process (Anderson, 2021)
  • During the interview, discuss with candidates the work your institution is doing to become neuroinclusive and why it is one of your cultural values
  • If your interview includes a question about DEI knowledge, recognize and value expertise and experience around neurodiversity
  • Destigmatize variations in affect (Mellifont, 2023).
  • Consider during interviews (and other work situations) that the following may be due to neurodiversity:
    • Variations in how emotion is displayed, particularly displaying less emotion than expected, or variations in the way emotions are interpreted (Mellifont, 2023)
    • Interviews and other situations that require the ability to maintain eye contact can be exclusionary or a barrier to progressing through something like an interview process (Mellifont, 2023).
  • In the interview process, prioritize skills (as opposed to prioritizing navigating social interactions). This theme is described in terms of the job interview process where there is a disconnect for an interviewee who has to navigate social expectations rather than demonstrating librarian skills (Anderson, 2021)

(In consideration of mobility problems caused perhaps by auto-immune or neurological conditions resulting from treatment, medications, or injury…)

  • When giving a campus tour, consider heading for the elevator or escalator by default rather than making the candidate ask
  • Slow down (literally move slower) when taking candidates on tour or from place to place
  • Make sure candidates are not carrying excessive weight (give them a place to set down possessions or offer assistance in carrying belongings)

(In consideration of conditions or treatments for conditions that involve dizziness, difficulty with spatial orientation, fatigue, reduced concentration, hypersensitivity to multiple stimuli, and tiring easily…)

  • Upload the interview schedule to help candidates focus better on the next upcoming conversation and take a breather before the next meeting
  • Consult with HR and organizational psychologists about the number of events a candidate can handle and still maintain mental acuity, motivation, concentration, and a good mood, without getting overly tired. Four to five events may be optimal (e.g., panel interview and formal presentation)
  • To cut down on the number of meetings, consider group meetings for peers, save one-on-one meetings for deans or other top level administrators
  • Consider thematic informal meetings which the candidate will be aware of in advance (e.g, meetings about research, teaching, service, meetings to get familiar with masters students). Themes help candidates focus and alleviate some anxiety caused by the unknown.

(In consideration for ways that standing and speaking can put undue stress/strain on people and cause unnecessary exertion that might impact the quality of the presentation…)

  • Make sitting during the presentation a norm, not an exception or accommodation.
  • Prepare room to make it comfortable for candidates to sit or stand
  • Make sure room has some sort of voice amplifier (microphone or loudspeaker)
  • Do not assume that ‘acoustics are good’
  • Do not go by your personal assessment that ‘I usually have no problem being heard in this room’

(In consideration of conditions and medications that involve digestive difficulties and necessitate dietary needs/dietary schedules…)

  • Let people eat in peace during the interview, allow people to use the meal as downtime (resist the urge to use meal time to learn more about the candidate)
  • Make sure candidates do not go for hours without a drink or nourishment of some sort
  • Do not hold it against candidates if they talk very little and focus on food
  • Let the candidate take the lead on how meals go, even dinner which tends to be more relaxed, because some people are exhausted and quiet at the end of the day.
  • Do not interpret quietness as insufficiently sociable, unpleasant, too shy, or too smug.

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Work Schedule
  • Be flexible.
  • Respect and accommodate work schedule requests. Consider, for example, an autistic librarian who finds that working four 10-hour days works best because it allows for three days to recoup (Eng, 2017)
  • Notice and respect that individual differences may exist around the desire to work until a task is completed and reluctance or anxiety about beginning a task that can not be completed within a certain timeframe (Strub, 2010)
  • Respect that some employees may prefer sameness/routine
  • Respect that some employees may prefer a concrete schedule clearly outlined in advance with predictable breaks and lunches (Strub, 2010)

Regarding essential duties, note that not all of the preferred qualifications in a job description are actually essential duties of a position. It is incumbent on the employer to provide evidence that policies or refusal to accommodate are “essential” for the job. Peters (2023 (video)) asks managers to consider the following…

  • Attendance on site is not essential for all jobs
  • Full time attendance is not essential for all jobs
  • Starting at a given time every day is not essential for all jobs
  • Strictly regulated breaks are not essential for all jobs
  • Outcome focus over process (if the outcomes are being achieved, who cares if someone is coming in an hour late and staying an hour late…etc.)

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Work Areas
  • Remote work may be a great option for certain people and projects
  • Consider creating options (e.g., Can people have the option to work away from noisy areas at least for some part of the day?) (Mellifont, 2023).
  • Just as noisy areas may be unwelcoming to students with anxiety disorders (Mellifont, 2023), noisy library work areas may be unwelcoming for employees with anxiety disorders and certain other kinds of neurological demands.
  • Create options for people to work in areas where chatting is welcome, at least for part of the day (some people perform better in situations that welcome social interaction)

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Meetings and Group Work
  • Avoid assumptions and, based on input from autistic library employees, assumptions should not be made in particular about interest in self-advocacy and about communication and participation preferences (Anderson, 2021)
  • Allow people to contribute in meetings based on their individual levels of comfort (Anderson, 2021)
  • For volunteer projects, engage participants to the extent they wish to be involved and then compensate appropriately
  • Create a Community Agreement aimed at making meetings and other work situations respectful and safe spaces for everyone.
  • Create options for providing additional feedback outside of meetings (does input need to happen synchronously on the spot or will planning in advance make it possible for asynchronous or after the fact input?) (Anderson, 2021)
    • Provide options for participation, instead of assuming one approach will meet all communication styles (Anderson, 2021)
      • Do not assume that a neurodivergent person will want a less participatory option or that the preferred option will remain constant across time and different contexts
      • Allow people to choose how to provide input/feedback/answer questions (during interviews or in meetings, etc.). Input options might include written, verbal, audio, and or video (perhaps in Zoom).
      • Consider communication options during the hiring and interview process, as well as on the job (Anderson, 2021)
    • Allow advanced preparation by providing feedback prompts/ meeting materials in advance (Anderson, 2021)

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  • Embed communication options in the hiring and interview process, as well as on the job (Anderson, 2021)
  • Make instructions clear and explicit
    • Written instructions may be preferred
    • Use language that is clear and jargon free
    • Offer discrete choices
    • Provide step-by-step directions about how to participate or get started in activities (this removes a barrier for people who want to participate, but are unsure about how to get started)
  • Use Communication Preferences surveys during on-boarding and as an on-going mechanism to get to know employees and stay in touch with their changing needs
    • Preferences surveys give managers an opportunity to have a conversation with employees whether or not they disclose or even know about having a particular neurodiversity
    • Answers to a survey from one manager might be different from answers to a survey from another manager or employee
    • Preferences might change depending on who is asking and the context of the work situation being considered
    • A Communication or Work Style Preferences survey could be useful at the beginning of a work project or for getting to know project team members

Sample questions:

  • I like getting to know people and developing relationships with them
  • I can easily introduce myself at social meetings
  • I can sometimes be impatient during conversations
  • I usually think before reacting
  • I prefer to work alone
  • I prefer not to share my personal feelings
  • I will never attend a staff party
  • I will always be the one who volunteers to plan the staff party

See Canada Life’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health and the feedback preferences form, as well as the recognition preferences and other forms). Here is an example from Peters’ 2023 webinar, modified to include an “Other Options” column.

Choose one from each of the following statements or add an option not yet considered.

Option 1Option 2Option 3 (Other options?)
I enjoy getting feedbackFeedback can be stressful
Give me the opportunity to restate your feedback so we’re both on the same pageAssume I understand your feedback and that I will ask for more info if necessary
Show appreciation for my effortsOnly show appreciation for exceptional efforts
Give feedback immediatelyGive feedback at a set time
Provide lots of detailOnly give the essential details
Tone of voice and body language matterTone of voice and body language don’t matter
Feedback can be provided anytime, including in group settingsFeedback should be given in private
I prefer to receive feedback in writing before discussionI prefer to have a feedback discussion before receiving feedback in writing

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