Provision of Adjustments for Neurominorities and Hidden Disability during the COVID-19 Crisis
Dr Nancy Doyle C. Psychol. AFBPsS Credentials:
- CEO Genius Within CIC
- Research Fellow, Birkeck, University of London
- Vice-Chair, Employability Related Services Association
- Committee for Testing Standards, British Psychological Society
- Neurodiversity and employment group Founder, British Psychological Society
- Previous Board Member, SpLD Assessment Standards Committee
- Member, Academy of Royal Medical Colleges SpLD Assessment Working Group
I have reviewed the position of how we are currently assessing for the implementation of workplace needs adjustments.
Not all industries will be able to take time off in the period, though many may work from home. Those who remain present – health and medics, social care, emergency services, military and finance for example – may wish to withdraw contact from non-emergency visitors. As such, for both remote workers and essential staff contingency is required. Below I are share my expertise in how to work remotely to achieve the best outcome.
From a psychological point of view, deferment of needed adjustments during a crisis may exacerbate stress and productivity difficulties. Wherever possible, we should aim to make some provision for adjustments, even if they are not the full package that might be available following a face-to-face and environmental ergonomic assessment.
In addition, remote working has been known to increase anxiety, and so proceeding with human contact and a chance to de-brief is helpful mitigation at this time.
Below, I outline what I consider to be temporary best practice at this time for the clients and conditions with whom we have expertise: ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia (DCD), Tourette syndrome, anxiety, depression, multiple sclerosis, acquired brain injury and similar conditions that affect thinking or emotional regulation.
I recommend the following course of action:
1. Use of the free Genius Within strategy profiler
This profiler can be conducted online, by clients on their own, or with a remote assessor asking them the questions and filling in the answers for them. The questions in the profiler all relate to the types of problems experienced by the people with hidden/invisible disability. The questions are based on 10 years of research into functional, day to day issues, using data from face-to-face workplace needs assessments and coaching topics. The profiler produces a report with the most common adjustments for each issue and a reminder of workplace strengths.
2. Interactive debrief of report and history taking
The report can be studied and reflected on with the client and their manager where appropriate, added to. I would recommend that the report is part of an online discussion where detailed history is taken, rather than used as a substitute for the whole thing. The profiler doesn’t take a history, and it is important to let the assessor know if there are any additional risks or undiagnosed problems that might require additional intervention or pose risk.
3. Enquire as to available technology support
Technology use, such as speech conversion software or mindmapping, for example, must also be discussed separately, since technology is not comprehensively recommended in the strategy profiler. Remember that uptake and effectiveness of technology is dependent on IT skill and training, so it is important to make sure these are in place.
Additional needs that are not met via the strategies and technology can still be recommended for coaching, this too can be conducted remotely also and augmented with coaching apps that tracks strategies, wellbeing and progress. Please remember to recommend co-coaching if there is significant conflict between employee and supervisor, this can also be started remotely but with caution, and deferred until social distancing if over if needs be.
The report and strategies should be considered interim measures, and following return to normal business service should be reviewed for effectiveness. It is my professional opinion, based on research evidence and twenty years professional experience as a Chartered Psychologist Assessor, that many disability related issues can be addressed in this way.
Our research has shown than around 50% of clients will not need a follow up from the above process, which we use extensively in healthcare, defence and commercial settings.
Those that will need a follow up will find that the initial process makes some difference, enabling them to improve productivity at a critical time, and that follow up will complete the process.
Those who require diagnostic assessment remotely may be able to access some testing via technology, and should contact us to see if this is possible. It is likely again that we can give a ‘best estimate’, and it is not clear whether this will suffice for exam boards at this stage. It is possible exam board may accommodate flexible standards or delay exams. We will, however, be able to assess eligibility for Equality Act protection.
I hope that our partners are able to use this process wisely during the current crisis. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further information or clarification.
Dr Nancy Doyle, C. Psychol. AFBPsS