embracing neurodiversity in the workplace.
October is National Employee Disability Awareness Month and at The Center for Pursuit we provide employment services and support to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), autism, and other similar conditions to achieve their goals in employment. We partner with organizations who understand that inclusion and diversity in the workplace is key to the success of their organization.
Please read the special interview below by our valued partner Rollin’ Vets.
Rollin’ Vets strives to be a workplace made up of employees from various backgrounds, with a range of characteristics and life experiences, who all feel respected, included, valued and comfortable at work.
However, one characteristic that is often overlooked by employers is neurodiversity. Rollin’ Vets sat down with Mike, our Warehouse Manager, to learn about his superpowers, along with The Center for Pursuit, to better understand how they support Houstonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), autism, and other similar conditions.
“I think being different SHOULD be the norm, in that we’re all individuals and shouldn’t all be exactly the same.”
1) What does a typical workday look like to you?
Mike: “For me, I start off by getting the towels in the washing machine, surgical equipment in the autoclave machine, and vans out of the warehouse door once they’re packed. Any items the techs take in and out of the vans are noted on a sheet, which I use to document inventory in the computer. I keep everything well-stocked, clean and organized by straightening up the warehouse throughout the day. I frequently get deliveries from other companies and spend some time making sure they’re items we need, and collapse the boxes and get them to the recycling bin. Everyday, the floor needs sweeping (and a good mopping on Mondays), so I do that while I wait for the towels to go through the washer and dryer, which I then organize for techs to pull from, or clean/restock the bathroom and/or warehouse shelves. Sometimes I’ll have to put together a structure like cabinets, but for the most part it’s a pretty straightforward, organizational job.”
2) How has achieving employment at Rollin’ Vets impacted your life?
Mike: “I have only ever been offered jobs without actually making it through an interview. I would be offered a position either out of convenience or through networking, or, during more dire times, just because they needed that position filled. But this time it was completely different: while The Center for Pursuit utilized their connections and got me in, I did the interview all on my own and was finally hired. So, in answer to the question, I have gained the confidence to say that I can achieve these employments on my own, and no language barrier that I or my autism have imposed on me can stand in the way now. Thanks very much to The Center for Pursuit for helping me achieve this and for bringing my self-confidence that farther up inside.”
3) Can you explain what being neurodivergent means?
Mike: “I’m afraid not, since I’ve never even heard that word before! *laughing* I’m kidding; after looking it up, the best I can say is: it means you have different ways of thinking, different ways of functioning, and different ways of doing things than those around you, mostly due to being on the spectrum. Let’s be real here; we’re all different, but society and the media see fit to make a “norm” out of life that they think people should live by, and whether autistic people conform to it or not, we’ll always be labeled different because of words like neurodiversity. I think being different SHOULD be the norm, in that we’re all individuals and shouldn’t all be exactly the same. There was a man who I really didn’t get along with, but I believe one of his favorite sayings comes into play here: ‘in a box of crayons, are you going to draw an intricate picture by just sticking to four crayons, or utilizing hundreds of them?’”
4) How does being neurodiverse help you accomplish your job? AKA what is your superpower?
Mike: “Technically my superpower is absolute pitch, but I doubt that would get the toilet any cleaner. *laughing* No no, I’d say my organization and focus on the task at hand enable me to plot out how I want to accomplish things; with that up front, I can make sure to focus on that task and the best method I can use to get it done (especially when factoring my skills and limitations). And if there is no good one, I know I have a good support base in my fellow co-workers, as they are always happy to help me figure that out.”
5) If you could be any animal, what would it be?
Mike: “Definitely a falcon. I love the idea of flying with my arms outstretched, being as free as the wind that that carries me and lets me see everything; flying everywhere without anything tying me down. In terms of pets though, I’d say a dog. I may be wary of some people, but am fiercely loyal to the friends/family I know and trust—it reminds me of a dog my parents used to own, who I miss very much. Rest in peace, Quincy; you were definitely a good boy.”
6) What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Mike: “One of my big hobbies has always been video games, and I’m slowly teaching my six-year old son how to do it, and he’s loving every step of the journey! *sniff* Makes a daddy proud. Other than that, I cherish the time I get to spend with my lovely wife and our two beautiful sons, who I couldn’t have gotten this far in life without. Whether it’s planning a special concert together, taking the boys to the museum/arboretum, spending quality time with my parents here in Houston or my mother-in-law in Victoria, or just singing ‘Mama’s Soup Surprise’ to our six-month old baby boy, time with those three (and Trixie, our cat who acts like a dog) makes me wish I could put time in a bottle.”
7) What is something you hope to implement at Rollin’ Vets?
Mike: “A Pac-Man console. *laughing* Okay, that was the last one. In all seriousness, I’m really not sure. There’s still so much I have to learn here, and so much about animals and people alike that’ll come into play. I think at this point I can say that I hope to implement my way of getting the job done into this company, because I know that’s one of the things I excel at.”
1) What is The Center for Pursuit?
TCFP: “The Center for Pursuit is a non-profit organization that empowers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), autism, and other similar conditions to realize their fullest potential while promoting choice, growth, and independence.”
2) What does neurodivergent mean to your organization?
TCFP: “Being neurodivergent means that an individual’s brain has developed or works in a different way. The Center feels that every neurodivergent individual is exceptional in their own way, and we support them in their struggles and celebrate in their success. We are able to provide the support they need throughout their lives, no matter if it is to help them with developing social skills, making friends or preparing for employment.”
3) Why is it so important for companies to actively hire neurodivergent candidates?
TCFP: “Employers do not always realize that neurodivergent individuals are among the most reliable employees. They tend to stick with a job longer than others, have a positive attitude and have a varied skill set that allows them to perform a variety of tasks.”
4) What benefits has employment brought to the individuals at The Center for Pursuit?
TCFP: “We have high expectations for the individuals we serve. Employment provides a sense of accomplishment and helps support their independence.”
5) Tell us about how you help people like Mike find the jobs that fit their journey?
TCFP: “The Center for Pursuit provides customized employment planning and assistance for transitioning youth and adults through our Employment Services program. Our primary goal is to help motivated individuals find success in competitive, integrated, and community-based employment in their areas of interest. We are focused on providing person-centered planning and support at every stage of their employment journey.”
At Rollin’ Vets, we uphold an inclusive environment for the neurodivergent workforce, with the hopes that it can have a spillover effect on the entire workforce. After all, organizations that make an extra effort to recruit, retain, and nurture neurodivergent workers can gain a competitive edge from increased diversity in skills, ways of thinking, and approaches to problem-solving.
Click here to learn more about Rollin’ Vets and their services.