Friday, October 5, 2018

Tyranny of the Neurotypical

As an owner, the biggest part of my job is creating processes and procedures. I create these by thinking about how my brain would most efficiently perform a task. My brain is fairly ordinary, often described as neurotypical. However, about 10% of the population have some sort of learning disability.

Disability is a cruel label, as the brains of the learning disabled process information differently. Our education system is designed to specifically teach the neurotypical, leaving behind those who process differently. American education declares 90% is a good enough success rate and drags their heels on the other 10%, because that's inefficient in their processes and procedures. Inefficiency, as we know from business, costs money. Even better, if they can call a portion of that 10% cognitively challenged (stupid), they don't have to do anything at all for that child.

I know about this because my own son has learning disabilities and you would be nowhere in my position as a parent, if you didn't learn a bit about how these things work. Amongst my employees, only one of a huge number has ever expressed they have a learning disability, and only after succeeding at the job. The stigma and potential downside of such a declaration must be enormous.

Before I learned about how my son's brain worked, I assumed some employees were just not very sharp, coming to the easy conclusion, like many schools, they must be kinda stupid. This is not surprising, because it's a struggle the learning disabled deal with daily, thinking they're not very sharp, often being told that by their peers and hints that may be the case by their teachers.

The consternation on my part usually arises because the employee is often really, really good in other areas, but they're unable to do some tasks we consider basic. How can this person be so amazing at X, but so terrible at Y? It's a discussion we have at our weekly management meetings. The answer is we are making neurotypical demands and if we just adjusted a bit, perhaps they would be more successful.

This is all my assumption since we don't really have a program where we're up front about accommodating learning disabilities. We've been focused on making a work place safe and comfortable for female employees and customers. It would also be great if we could be better employers for the 10% of people who could use a accommodation with learning disabilities. The goal as an employer is to play to strengths. Employees can work on weaknesses at home, but you shouldn't be asked to play to your weaknesses at work, if it's possible to avoid them.

Anyway, if you know of resources to address this in the workplace, I would love to get more information on how to delicately bring up this topic in a safe, compassionate and legal method. You know, a neurotypical policy and procedure.

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