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Accommodation and Compliance: Neurodiversity

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About Neurodiversity

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity describes the natural way that people think, learn, perceive the world, interact and process information differently and in unique ways. Although this term is often used to refer to people on the autism spectrum, it also includes a wide range of people with cognitive, intellectual, developmental, and neurological conditions that shape how people think and learn. For example, neurodivergent people include:

  • autistic people;
  • people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
  • those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions; and
  • people with learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

Neurodiversity and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Is neurodiversity a disability?

The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Neurodiversity

What are common workplace challenges faced by neurodivergent employees?

Workplace challenges for neurodivergent employees can vary greatly from person to person. Some common challenges reported by neurodivergent employees, family members, advocates, providers of work supports and services, and employers include:

  • Social skills
  • Organization
  • Concentration
  • Sensory issues
  • Time management
  • Performing work effectively
  • Stress management
  • Interaction with coworkers
  • Speaking and communicating

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Key Accommodations 

Some neurodivergent employees who meet the ADA definition of a disability, may need work accommodations to help them perform their work and maximize their talents and skills. Others may not. Accommodations should always be considered on a case-by-case basis, regardless of an employee’s disability or diagnosis. Below are some accommodation suggestions to explore when needed. 

Accommodation ideas during recruitment and hiring:

  • Fewer interviewers in a single setting
  • Detailed instructions or note cards 
  • Interview questions provided in advance 
  • A job coach or family member as a support person
  • Alternate assessments and/or demonstration of actual job skills and related talents
  • Informational phone interview held before traditional interview 

Accommodation ideas to help sustain employment:

  • Traditional and peer mentoring 
  • Frequent and ongoing manager feedback and positive reinforcement
  • Service or emotional support animal use 
  • Remote work with needed assistive technology 
  • Job task restructuring
  • Workplace policy modifications, including flexible breaks
  • Workplace modifications for sensitivities involving light, noise, and temperatures 
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) support
  • Skills training 

For accommodation ideas related to each individual diagnosis or disability, see our A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations


For more information on neurodiversity, see EARN's toolkit on Neurodiversity in the Workplace.

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.

Events Regarding Neurodiversity