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Season 3 | Episode 8 bonus content

One Thing Today: Working to be Neuro-Inclusive

What is one thing you can do today to encourage thinking differently at work?

March 28, 2023 | 5 minutes

Episode 8 bonus content: Amy Root

In this bonus episode, we talk with Amy Root about the value of neurodiversity in the workplace and how to create an inclusive work environment.

Callie Chamberlain: Welcome back to another bonus episode of Until It's Fixed, as we cover ways to make healthcare work better for everyone. These bonus episodes will draw connections between the topic we recently discussed and our daily lives. We'll talk about one thing that you and I can do today related to that topic, to take charge of our health and wellbeing.

Callie Chamberlain: Today's one thing is how you can [00:00:30] help create a neuro inclusive environment. Last week we spoke about Neurodivergence, and in that conversation we talked a little bit about support in the workplace through things like flexible work arrangements, mental health days, and other types of accommodations. So in today's episode, we're gonna talk more about how to be a better advocate for neuro divergence overall. To help us do that, I'm joined by Amy Root, the director of Neurodiversity Inclusion at United Health Group, and she's gonna share some tips with us on how to do exactly that. So, hi Amy. So glad [00:01:00] to have you back on the show and I'm curious what you have for us today.

Amy Root: Yes, thanks for having me back. Well, today, I think we can talk a little bit deeper about, regardless of your role, what can you do to contribute to a more neuro inclusive environment mm-hmm. <affirmative> in the workplace.

Callie Chamberlain: So, to ground us in today's conversation, can you help us understand what neurodiversity is and what it means to be neuro divergent?

Amy Root: Sure. So neurodiversity, if you break it down really simply, it just means brain differences. And so humans by [00:01:30] definition are neurodiverse. And we know that that's a reality within the human species, that there are different brains and wiring. And it really refers to the variety of ways that people think process information, learn and behave. But when you're talking about groups of individuals that have brains that would be considered different or divergent from the standard or typical, we use the terms neurodivergent neuro distinct, or a neuro minority.

Callie Chamberlain: That makes sense. And what would be a way for us to understand if [00:02:00] our colleagues are neurodivergent? Is there an appropriate way to have that conversation or ask?

Amy Root: Yeah. One of the best things that you can do is just talk about the different ways that you and your colleagues think and process information and how you communicate. It's hard to single out one individual, but one of the best things that you can do is recognize that we're all diverse in the ways that we think and process information. So being sure to share that with each other makes other people more comfortable about sharing how they might be different, and also the ways [00:02:30] that they can bring their unique strengths.

Callie Chamberlain: That makes sense. So it's less about identifying somebody who has neurodivergence and more about how do we create this environment to be inclusive for all of us by speaking broadly about what works, what doesn't work, how we can modify things to make sure the team feels supported. Is that right?

Amy Root: That's right. That's really what we encourage with neuro inclusion. And it's also a really good bet because also a lot of individuals might not know that they're neurodivergent.

Callie Chamberlain: Hmm. That makes sense. What are some of the most common [00:03:00] accommodations that you see in your role that might just help us get thinking about accommodations we could make for folks?

Amy Root: The most common accommodations are typically flexible work arrangements. So that would be different locations and times in which they can work. I also see a lot of requests for communication needs. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So for example, somebody writing down what the next steps are after a meeting, or providing meeting agendas in advance, or you know, offering written materials in advance for people [00:03:30] to process and absorb. And then when it comes to like the recruitment aspect, what we see is common adjustments would be, you know, offering different ways to engage throughout the process. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if your standard process is interviewing individuals over the phone or in person, could they offer written questions instead and then allow people to have a more thoughtful response and then a different timeframe in communication method, those are very helpful for people.

Callie Chamberlain: That's great. What are some of the success stories that you've seen in your role?

Amy Root: [00:04:00] I think one of the biggest successes that I've seen is that neurodivergent, people that have already been part of our organization are already starting to come out and say, because of the work that we're doing, because of the focus and the lens that we're having to include neurodivergence, they feel a lot safer. So I've had a lot of people disclose, I've had a lot of people come alongside and be excited and to share the vision and to help the work that we're doing. So that's been the most impactful thing that I've seen.

Callie Chamberlain: That's great. [00:04:30] So it sounds like just being open to educate ourselves around neurodiversity and also to have conversations with our colleagues about what's working and not working might be the one thing. Right.

Amy Root: The one thing. And participate in training. As much training as it you can get formal would be great. Educate yourself. So be curious, ask questions. Actively listen. Find out from neurodivergent employees what their experiences are like in the workplace, and where they might face, you know, some barriers or some stigma or [00:05:00] different things that they might need to better support their work experience.

Callie Chamberlain: I love it. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you everyone for listening. Join us next week as we talk about the increase in home and community care, what's working, and where there's room for change. Make sure to follow or subscribe wherever you listen so you get notified when a new episode is live. And we will talk to you next week. Thank you.