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Communications of the ACM


The Inclusive and Accessible Workplace

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As computer science (CS) learning opportunities expand across the U.S., related diversification efforts to make "CS for All" must include brain diversity. Neurologically different individuals, like those with attention and learning disorders, are often lost in conversations about broadening participation in computing. Yet their diverse experiences and perspectives are an asset to fields that require innovative thinking, like computing. Most CS learning and work settings have a long way to go to make the field more inclusive for people with these differences, and work practices accessible to them. If we are successful in growing CS educational opportunities to include diverse learners, the workplace must be ready to welcome and retain a neurodiverse talent pool. Employers need concrete management strategies that will maximize the performance of these current and future employees. Education research exploring ways to adjust teaching practices for CS students with varied attention and learning disorders can serve as a starting point. We refer to this diverse group of individuals as neurodiverse talent. Good teachers use inclusive classroom practices, adjust strategies as needed, and provide additional supports to help all students succeed. Managers looking to benefit from neurodiversity must similarly employ inclusive practices and adjust techniques to provide individual supports where needed.

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Neurodiversity Is Often Misunderstood

The term neurodiversity is used to describe a spectrum of neurological differences, which result from a normal, expected range of variation in the human genome. Individuals with an "atypical" neurological configuration, such as with ADHD or autism spectrum, are referred to as neurodivergent. People with a "typical" neurological configuration (that is, conforming to what some would interpret as "normal") are considered neurotypical. The term neurodiverse is used to describe a group of people with varied neurocognitive functioning. These terms are often confused.


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