News & Story Ideas
It takes knowledge and understanding for neurotypical lawyers to work with neurodiverse colleagues, clients, and witnesses in a productive way. The communication style a legal professional may have depended on for years can create confusion when speaking with neurodivergent individuals. Haley Moss explains the essentials for communication with autistic and other neurodivergent individuals in legal settings such as client meetings, depositions, and trials.
There is a global labor shortage today, yet employers often overlook neurodiverse individuals out of prejudice, misunderstanding, misinformation, or even fear. According to a 2018 Autism Society briefing, there is an 85% unemployment rate among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With the proper accommodations and support, the labor gap could be met by qualified and talented neurodivergent individuals
Neurodiverse people are often turned away from jobs because they are different from neurotypical individuals. Their communication style might be perceived as unusual by employers, or they may be subject to prejudice when they disclose their disability. When neurodivergent people are hired, they often do not receive the support that they need to excel, and soon find themselves without a job. Haley explains how to create a neurodiverse workplace and retain that talent.
Language is powerful. Neurotypical people may stumble over their words when attempting to speak or write about the neurodiverse population. How do we refer to someone who is neurodivergent and why is one term preferred to another? What conditions are included under the umbrella of “neurodivergence”? What is ableism? Is an autistic person “disabled” or “differently abled”? Haley explains the language of neurodiversity from the perspective of an autistic person who is also a professional writer and lawyer, detailing the “dos” and “don’ts” of speaking and writing about disabilities.
There is stigma and prejudice to face when professionals reveal that they are neurodivergent. This misunderstanding hurts individuals, while stalling progress and innovation. Whether they have ADHD or autism, neurodivergent professionals are not mentally compromised or unfit for high-level roles — they just think differently. It is likely they have talents that will not be found elsewhere. Haley details how a neurodiverse workforce can lead to great innovation, and give companies a competitive edge.
Neurodivergent lawyers may not disclose their condition for fear of stigma. The legal profession is quick to judge and colleagues may view neurodivergent individuals as incompetent or unfit to practice law. However, the field of law is filled with neurodiverse individuals. Haley explains how the legal profession can become more inclusive, supporting those who are neurodivergent.
Compared with other professions, the public does not hold lawyers in as high regard as doctors and other professionals. However, the public trusts businesses and employers that hire people with disabilities, and views them favorably. Though hiring neurodiverse people may be viewed as a gimmick or shortcut to receiving positive press coverage, there is a legitimate underlying social justice reason to create a diverse workplace. The outcome is a win-win scenario for both the law firm and its neurodivergent employees.
Law schools offer the education and training for a new generation of lawyers. They play a pivotal role as a place and catalyst for change. However, law schools generally do not prioritize neurodiversity, and can present challenges for disabled students. Law school inaccessibility can be present physically, emotionally, and/or cognitively. This impedes neurodivergent individuals from realizing their potential as lawyers. Haley addresses what can and should change so that law schools are more inclusive and accommodating to neurodivergent students.
Neurodivergent individuals often feel they need to conceal their invisible disability in order to find work, earn their colleagues and employers’ trust, and stay employed. Despite protections offered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, it doesn’t prevent prejudice and stigma from seriously impacting professional lives. Many may feel the need to mask perceived deficits at their own expense, in order to try to put others at ease. So should neurodivergent individuals disclose their disabilities to employers?
Neurotypical people regularly misunderstand and misinterpret autistic people’s behavior. A person with autism spectrum disorder’s more direct communication style, along with their body language and stimming, may be confusing to those who have not interacted regularly with neurodivergent people. Accommodations that may be helpful to autistic employees include allowing them to wear earbuds to cancel out distracting noise. With training, empathy, and education, employers can create a welcoming workplace for autistic staff.