Reasonable adjustments, they come in all different forms. As mentioned in our previous blog, inclusions can be seemingly small, such as the need for regular 5 minute breaks to press the reset button. Or they can be a large overhaul of the office layout, so those uncomfortable in open spaces feel more settled in their working day. Examples discussed at our conference include stand up desks, noise cancelling headphones, even something as simple as the opportunity to have an open conversation with vulnerability and trust
But who decides what a reasonable adjustment is?
There are some standard RA’s that are affiliated with certain diversities. For example, many people with dyslexia are offered as standard 25% of extra time to complete things like exams at school but not in the work place. But why is this a reasonable adjustment in one setting, but not the other? It’s because in order for an adjustment to be reasonable, it has to take into account the needs of the job as well as the person.
So imagine you are studying nursing or medicine. You need to be measured in your understanding of anatomy before you are let loose on patients. If we test your understanding by asking you to write, or complete multiple choice quizzes, we’re testing your grammar, not your understanding of anatomy. So we give you extra time. But, if the exam was a physical role play – “show me how to do an abdominal examination in 10 mins” – a time adjustment wouldn’t be appropriate. This is because the job requires fast examinations. So we couldn’t pay some medics the same amount of money as their peers to see less patients, there has to be a reasonable amount of speed in order to do the job.
In her PhD research, Nancy Doyle found that there are 8 main categories of RAs. Four can be implemented company wide, with no need for confidential disclosure. We could just make it “the way things are done around here”. These are:
- Environmental flexibility
- Schedule flexibility
- Clear, behavioural feedback from supervisor and regular meetings
- Optional additional training
She also found four categories of ‘formal adjustment, that need to be ordered in, or take extra time:
- Assistive technology
- Assistive tools
- Executive Functions Coaching
- Literacy coaching
These last 4 come with caveats on effectiveness. Executive functions coaching needs to be delivered in a client-led, professional coaching style, with contributions from the supervisor.
But the major point is that none of these are a blanket fix. At our conference, it was discussed that we should be asking what is needed by each individual when it comes to RA’s. Neurodiversity is diverse in itself, and so there is no one universal aid. For RA’s to be successful in easing the challenges faced at work or in education, they must be tailored to the individual’s needs.
At Genius Within, we ask everyone:
“How can we support you to work at your best?”
And then we provide a list of things we’ve tried before, to (a) show that we mean it and (b) give a few ideas to start a discussion.
Reasonable adjustments can make places of education and work for neurodiverse individuals that little bit easier. Without them, the neurodiverse community could feel as if they were failing the expectation of the ‘norm’ just because they were born with different skills, different skills that we NEED as part of evolving and thriving work and education forces. RA’s can allow someone to study or do their job with minimised barriers and consequently have the power to increase productivity, ease emotional and physical stress and boost self-esteem, to name just a few positive outcomes from implementing RA’s.
But why can it feel so hard to ask for what you need to fulfil your role, when laws such as the Equality act exist? Even at a day to day operational level, why are our operating systems in the work place and education standardised in such a way, that those who are part of the neurodiverse community will almost always come up against unnecessary struggles?
Until recently though, neurodiverse conditions have nearly always been associated with negative connotations, which has consequently created the perception of a stubborn stigma around an individual asking for these RA’s. We should be proactive in supplying suitable RA’S, instead of reactive. In an ideal world, should they not offered as a standard at point of entry to a company or place of education, considering we are now starting to finally understand the genius that the neurodiverse community can bring to the table?
There should be no stigma attached to the asking of, or supply of reasonable adjustments. If we just had them as standard, rather than waiting for people to fail before we offer them, we could move towards systemic inclusion and aspire to the full potential our diverse species has to offer.
After all, RA’s are ultimately helping you to unlock your Genius Within.