Sharing Goodwill: Nithin Jilla of Dreams for Schools

On this episode of Sharing Goodwill, Eric Smissen connects with Nithin Jilla, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Dreams for Schools. Listen now on Spotify! Nithin dives into the importance of STEAM and computer science education during students’ K-12 years and how his organization is leveling up education systems across the region.  As the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Dreams for Schools, Nithin and his organization aim to inspire, create, and educate students to be STEAM and computer science literate.  Nithin started Dreams for Schools during his undergrad at University of California, Irvine. During his college years, he saw a lack of practical computer science experiences for students and decided to take matters into his own hands. After collaborating with computer science clubs on campus to coordinate technology initiatives and after creating AppJam+, a program that teaches middle school students how to create mobile apps, the development of Dreams for Schools came to fruition.  Not only does Dreams for Schools educate students with fundamental STEAM and computer science knowledge, but it also aids individuals in their professional development. The organization works with teachers who are interested in computer science and allows them to build their CS knowledge and also trains them to be effective teachers in the field. The nonprofit also creates career growth opportunities for college students by teaching them effective leadership skills to teach and mentor others. As technology advances everyday, Dreams for Schools is bridging the gaps within STEAM and the K-12 education system and preparing the next generation’s top technology leaders and innovative thinkers by equipping them with essential tools, knowledge, and skills that will aid them in their future endeavors.  Tune in to this discussion on Spotify now! To learn more about Dreams for Schools, visit interviews Goodwill of Orange County About Changing Lives in the Community

Danielle Riberio from interviewed Goodwill Orange County as part of their ‘ Talks With…’ podcast. This series is an antidote to negative news stories that aims to shed light on organizations and experts whose work is making a positive impact on the world. Listen to the full podcast here!  

Helping People With New Employment Opportunities in Orange County

There are many reasons why people face employment barriers. Some include personal, military, mental health, or a myriad of others. Regardless, these people need our help to get their lives back on track.  We are a nonprofit organization and a leader in the health and human services sector. We have the highest level of accreditation from CARF and make it our mission to empower, serve, and change more lives than ever.  

Believing in the Power of Working Together

Our Orange County affiliate helps change lives in several ways. We achieve this through a series of programs, put into three categories which are disabilities services, workforce development, and veteran services. The dozens of programs in these categories help change lives for people of all backgrounds. Our goal is to provide purpose, pride, and dignity to those who face barriers when finding jobs and keeping them. We also have thrift stores where you can come in and shop or donate which helps fuel our organization. More than 93 cents of every dollar is used to power our life-changing programs and services. is an innovative charity project working to solve the climate crisis. They believe that climate change is the most pressing issue facing mankind today and ending it will take swift action and creative problem solving.’s founder, Erik Bergman, has a background in online casino marketing and started with the goal to move money from the New Jersey online casino industry to climate research.

Check out the podcast on Spotify!

Goodwill Fullerton Store Guide | Thrifting & Things To Do

Rich in history and culture, this 135 year old city has plenty to offer. Fullerton, CA is the city of fun&food and also fun food! Venture out into the city and discover unique scenes and Instagramable treats – after you visit our Goodwill Fullerton store, of course!  We rounded up our favorite local places to visit the next time you go thrifting at our Fullerton #OCGoodwill store! 📍GOODWILL FULLERTON STORE: 130 N. Raymond Avenue, Fullerton, CA 92831   No. 1 – Fullerton Arboretum Located on the northeast corner of the California State University, Fullerton campus, this 26‑acre botanical garden has a mind blowing collection of plants from around the world. This beautiful garden is sectioned into different biomes. One minute you’re walking through a desert, the next you’re walking through a bamboo forest. After a long day of thrifting for treasure, head over to the Fullerton Arboretum and chill out under a shady tree with a lovely view of the pond. 📍 1900 Associated Rd, Fullerton, CA 92831 No 2. – Veronese Café Check out this hidden gem! This café is actually disguised as a house with an art gallery and garden woven in, creating the ultimate artsy space for all you coffee-house bums. Serving Italian fare, ramen, crêpes & crafty drinks, Veronese will meet all your cravings and needs. This extraordinary café is a perfect spot to dine with family, drink fancy lattes with friends, or have a solo study session for those upcoming final exams. 📍 419 W Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, CA 92832 No 3. – Early Bird This little restaurant is a great place to go if you’re craving a classic breakfast. With a modern and friendly atmosphere, this cute spot serves market-fresh breakfasts and sandwiches alongside single-source coffee. Grab some grub here before you thrift with OC Goodwill – their pork belly benedict is everything you need in life. 📍 1000 E Bastanchury Rd., Fullerton, CA 92835 No 4. – Downtown Fullerton With a cluster of more than 70 historic buildings, beautiful shade trees, and decorative walkways, this rustic old town atmosphere provides folks a comfortable setting to gather with friends, vibe to some music, and catch up on the latest news. Enjoy a walk down the strip of diverse shops and eateries. If you’re feeling up for it, join the nightcrawlers of Downtown Fullerton for a night of fun and memories.  No 5. – Zombee Donuts Open since 2014, Zombee Donuts has been putting a spooky twist on your typical pastry shop. Known for their tasty flavors, fillings, and themed donuts, this family-owned, zombie‑themed bakery is bringing treats to life. They serve gourmet donuts, espresso drinks, and a whole lot of fun every day! Stop by for a sweet treat after scoring some sweet deals at our Goodwill Fullerton store.  📍 802 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831

No 6. – Dripp Coffee

Get a caffeine boost for your OC Goodwill thrift trip at Dripp coffee, a unique specialty coffee bar located at Downtown Fullerton. This coffee shop serves delicious handcrafted coffee beverages, freshly baked pastries, and a good time. With a modern, decorative interior and a charming courtyard, there’s plenty of space to lounge, hang, or study with a coffee at hand.  📍 500 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, CA 92832

No.7 – Polly’s Pies

After a successful thrift at Goodwill Fullerton store, walk right next-door and enjoy a satisfying all American style meal! What better way to end the day with a delicious freshly-baked pie?! Fun fact – this is actually the original location and it’s literally next store to our Fullerton store!  📍 136 Raymond Ave., Fullerton CA 92831

Goodwill Costa Mesa Store Guide | Thrifting & Things To Do

Costa Mesa, California has a vibrant collection of delicious stops and enticing entertainment. With the beach close by and countless shops and restaurants to explore, the fun is endless in this wondrous city.  We rounded up our favorite local places to visit the next time you go thrifting at our Costa Mesa #OCGoodwill store! 📍GOODWILL COSTA MESA STORE 620 W. 19th Street Costa Mesa, CA 92627 No. 1 – The LAB (Anti-Mall) The LAB, also known as the Anti-Mall, is the perfect place to hangout. This modern, open‑air destination features trendy retail shops, a wide range of restaurants and cafes, and aesthetically pleasing artworks all around. There are plenty of spots to lounge around or to snap artsy selfies for the GRAM.  📍 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626 aesthetically pleasing outer view of THE LAB No. 2 – Sidecar Donuts Meet the “World’s Freshest Doughnut”! It is doughnuts galore at Sidecar Donuts with their wide selection of unique, hand-crafted doughnuts. Doughnuts are made daily every hour, from scratch, using only the finest ingredients with no preservatives. Passion Fruit Pavlova, Blueberry Corncake, and Dulce de Leche Churro are just a few examples of their deliciously addicting doughnuts.  📍 270 E 17th St #18, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 Donut and iced coffee No. 3 – Trenta Pizza and Cucina Marco and Giorgio have brought the true taste of Italy to Orange County with their restaurant, Trenta Pizza and Cucina. Get ready for authentic Italian food made the way it’s supposed to be made, with Italian passion! Don’t skip dining on the bustling outdoor patio! 📍 1661 Superior Ave Ste. D, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 different types of Pizza and cheese board No. 4 – Neat Coffee Good people, good coffee, good vibes. Neat Coffee is a quaint and cute neighborhood coffee shop with immaculate cozy vibes. This coffee shop is a multi‑roaster shop carrying some of the world’s highest quality coffee from some of the best and sustainable roasters on the West Coast. With housemade seasonal syrups and locally made almond milk, they’ve got a perfect drink for everyone. 📍 1922 Pomona Ave, Costa Mesa, CA 92627 iced black coffee in a glass No. 5 – Taco Mesa Right across the street from our Costa Mesa Goodwill store is Taco Mesa, a healthy and authentic Mexican cuisine restaurant. For over twenty years, Taco Mesa is devoted to serving customers high quality food over the counter and at much lower price points. When you eat at Taco Mesa, not only are you eating amazing, authentic food but you are also supporting an establishment that is helping the environment. Taco Mesa is committed to recycling and composting along with using earth-friendly, biodegradable USA-made products. 📍 647 W. 19th St Costa Mesa 92627

Goodwill Cypress Store Guide | Thrifting & Things To Do

With dozens of family-owned businesses and tons of family-friendly activities, we can confirm that Cypress is a very family-oriented town. We rounded up our favorite local places to visit the next time you go thrifting at our Cypress #OCGoodwill store! 📍GOODWILL CYPRESS STORE 6006 Lincoln Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630 No. 1 – Classic Flowers and Confections Looking to send a special someone a personalized bouquet of flowers or a gourmet charcuterie board? Classic Flowers and Confections is a specialty neighborhood flower and gift shop, serving delectable food, afternoon tea, handmade pastries and drinks in a vintage style store. Customers can enjoy freshly baked pastries and food while shopping for customized flower arrangements or treasured trinkets. You can even host a small event or gathering with friends for a drink or a meal in a vintage inspired dining area surrounded with fresh flowers and lush plants. 📍 10069 Valley View St, Cypress, CA 90630 beautiful bouquet of flowers No. 2 – Cypress Farmers Market Support local Orange County small businesses and farms at the Cypress Farmers Market. Every Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm (rain or shine), get your fill of certified local organically grown fruits and veggies, as well as farm fresh eggs, fresh baked breads and baguettes, fresh hummus, honey, award‑winning tamales, and much more!  📍 Corner of Katella and Lexington in the Cottonwood Church parking lot. collage with text written Every Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm No. 3 – Egg N Bird Feed the flock with some top-tier, crispy chicken sandwiches at Egg n Bird. Inspired by street food, flavors from around the world, Egg N Bird has curated an authentic menu of essential eats all of an amazing value! The key ingredients to these delicious chicken sandwiches are antibiotic and hormone‑free chicken as well as cage‑free eggs.  📍 6940 Katella Ave Cypress, CA 90630 food table with chicken burger and side dishes No. 4 – Flat White Coffee Get your caffeine fix before you thrift at Flat White Coffee. This family‑owned, specialty coffee shop serves the best quality coffee drinks as well as daily baked goods and teas. Start your day off right with their signature flat white and pair it with a warm, delicate cheese danish.  📍 4941 Lincoln Ave, Cypress, CA 90630 coffee muffin and baked goods No. 5 – Sandwich House Sandwich House is a quaint mom‑and‑pop shop serving Vietnamese cuisine. The cozy atmosphere and friendly shop owners will make you feel right at home. It’s located right across from Cypress College, conveniently making it a favorite stop for hungry college students. Enjoy a classic Vietnamese banh-mi baked to perfection with a freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee.  📍 9187 Valley View St, Cypress, CA 90630 sandwich with many veggies

Goodwill Brea Store Guide | Thrifting & Things To Do

Brea, CA  is the destination for all your shopping, entertainment, and dining needs. There is so much to do and explore in this vibrant city. With trendy restaurants and cafes, a wide variety of shops and boutiques, spending a day in Brea will for sure leave you wanting more of this lively city. We rounded up our favorite local places to visit the next time you go thrifting at our Brea #OCGoodwill store! 📍GOODWILL BREA STORE 634 South Brea Blvd. Brea, CA 92821 No. 1 – Brea’s Best Burgers Over the last 40 years, this family owned business has worked long and hard to curate the best burgers in Brea. Established in 1980, Brea’s Best Burgers takes a classic American burger and adds a unique twist, creating elevated burgers at a great price. Don’t forget to pair your burger with their amazing onion rings or fried zucchini. The burgers at Brea’s Best Burgers certainly live up to its name, and are definitely worth stopping by on your next thrifting trip to our OC Goodwill store.  📍 707 S. Brea Blvd Brea 92821 burgers and french fries No. 2 – Downtown Brea Downtown Brea is a quaint area that is always decorated for the season and features popular shops, eateries, and entertainment venues. There is so much to do in just a miles radius! From watching a comedy show by top-notch comedians, to having a beautiful dinner outdoors, to even catching the latest popular movie, there is something for everyone to enjoy.  📍Birch Street and Brea Blvd eateries and entertainment venues at Birch Street and Brea Blvd No. 3 – Carbon Canyon Regional Park If you’re looking for your next favorite hiking spot in Orange County, we have the perfect hidden gem for you! Carbon Canyon Regional Park is a regional park in Brea, California that was created after the Carbon Canyon Creek was dammed. Stretching across 120 acres, the park also is home to a small forest of Redwood trees!  📍 4442 Carbon Canyon Rd, Brea, CA 92823 Redwood trees in Carbon Canyon Regional Park No. 4 – Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen Using only quality organic ingredients, Cha Cha’s Latin inspired menu adapts the culinary heritage of Mexico and Latin America to a fresh modern style. With their open kitchen, guests can watch savory dishes being prepared in the wood-fired oven and tacos being topped with house-made fire roasted salsas. You can’t have a true Cha Cha’ experience without tasting one of their hand-crafted, freshly-squeezed cocktails. Hands down, this restaurant holds the title of the best margaritas with their specialty margaritas that are garnished with fresh fruit.  📍110 W Birch St #7, Brea, CA 92821 cocktails and other delicious platter of tacos and salsas No. 5 – Brea Improv Need a good laugh? The Brea Improv Club is a comedy club where well-known comedians and up-and-corner performers have graced the stage. They also offer a full food and  drink menu so you can dine while watching a performance. Fun fact, Showtime and Comedy Central have both filmed television specials at the location. 📍 180 S Brea Blvd, Brea, CA 92821  Brick wall and lights inside Improv Club No. 6 – Toast Kitchen & Bar Brunch enthusiasts, your next brunch outing at Toast Kitchen & Bar awaits you. This chilled‑out eatery showcases California‑inspired brunch, New American plates and vegan options. Let’s not forget about their specialty mimosas of various fruity flavors. We recommend joining their online waiting list as everyone and their mothers are trying to brunch it up at Toast Kitchen and Bar on the weekends.  📍 190 S State College Blvd Brea, CA 92821 Healthy food table with drinks like orange and eggs and bread No. 7 – Protein Lab Calling all gym rats or anyone who enjoys a healthy smoothie bowl, we found the best protein shake juice bar in town for you. Protein Lab was inspired by love and passion for living well‑balanced lives through healthy eating and fitness. They offer a menu of unforgettably delicious shakes, smoothies, superfood bowls and grab and go bites. Each bowl contains a serving or two of protein and will be customized to your liking. After a long day of thrifting at the Brea Goodwill store (and yes, thrifting is an exercise), fuel up by grabbing a healthy, customizable, superfood bowl packed with protein goodness.  📍 2500 E Imperial Hwy STE 106, Brea, CA 92821 smoothie bowl with strawberry

Goodwill Anaheim Store Guide | Thrifting & Things To Do

Anaheim, California is the hotspot for all things fun in Southern California. Home to a wide range of delectable foods and lavish entertainment, Anaheim is also one of the best places to go thrifting as the city houses three Goodwill of Orange County stores.  We rounded up our favorite local places to visit the next time you go thrifting at one of our 3 Anaheim #OCGoodwill stores! 📍Goodwill at Town Square: 2090 E. Lincoln Ave. Anaheim, CA 92806 📍Goodwill on Euclid: 675 N. Euclid Street Anaheim, CA 92801 📍Rare by Goodwill: 411 W. Broadway C‑H Anaheim, CA 92805 No. 1 – Anaheim Packing District Calling upon all food lovers, the Anaheim Packing District is an amazing spot to hangout and explore a variety of different foods. From anti-gravity noodle bowls to cotton-candy covered lemonades, this upscale food court has over 30 different local vendors & bars  which are perfectly compacted in a renovated, historic 1919 citrus‑packing house. There’s even live music from local Orange County artists! On your next OC Goodwill thrifting adventure, be sure to stop by the Packing District for some intricate meals or vibrant desserts!  📍 440 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805 Anaheim Packing House front view No. 2 – Downtown Disney District The second “Happiest Place on Earth” would have to be Downtown Disney District, an outdoor shopping center located at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California — a component of the Disneyland Resort expansion project alongside the Disney California Adventure theme park and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. With a  wide selection of extravagant restaurants, quirky  dessert stands, eccentric bars, and seasonal festivities, Downtown Disney is a great place to hangout with friends or to take that special someone on a date as there is always something to do or something to see.  📍 1580 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802 Anaheim Downtown Disney District No. 3 – Joe’s Italian Ice If you haven’t been to Joe’s Italian Ice, can you really say you’ve been to Anaheim? What started as lemon ice, (known as Water Ice) has been perfected in over sixty flavors. This authentic, homemade, Philly Style Water Ice is enjoyed all year round, but definitely hits the spot on a beautiful summer day after some OC Goodwill thrifting or a trip to Disneyland.   📍 2201 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92802 A hand holding Joe’s Italian Ice cream infront of the Joe's shop No. 4 – Matiki Island BBQ Matiki is home to the best Hawaiian barbecue in Anaheim. This simple counter‑service kitchen dishes up hearty combo plates of Hawaiian‑style BBQ & sides. The portion sizes are huge and will leave you completely stuffed yet still wanting more. If you’re craving a nice cup of Dole-whip from Disneyland but don’t want to make the trip, Matiki has you covered with their delicious dupe Dole-whip soft serve that will satisfy your craving.  📍 3070 W Lincoln Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801 Hawaiian style BBQ and sides platter No. 5 – Okayama Kobo After a long day of thrifting at our Goodwill of Orange County’s RARE store, Okayama Kobo is the best place to stop for some snacks and refreshments. A place where cuteness meets bread, this awesome Japanese bakery and coffee shop has a wide array of delicate and delicious breads, buns, and croissants. We highly recommend the salt & butter rolls! 📍 155 W. Center Street Promenade Anaheim 92805 buns and croissants with stuffed strawberries

National Thrift Shop Day is August 17!

National Thrift Shop Day poster
National Thrift Shop Day is coming up on August 17, and you’re invited! This is a big day for us so we’ll be celebrating in a big way! Shopping bag printed with OC goodwill logo and text "Normalize thrift". THE SECRET IS OUT!  Join us on Wednesday, August 17 at any OC Goodwill store to enjoy: LIMITED EDITION TOTE BAGS Be one of the first customers at the store to receive an exclusive “Normalize Thrift” tote bag! Limited quantity – available while supplies last. HIDDEN GIFT CARDS It’s on us! We’ve hidden gift cards in select tote bags, ranging from small to big dollar amounts (up to $100) to use to shop in-store! FIVESTARS SPECIAL COUPON Join our Customer Rewards Program to unlock a special National Thrift Shop day coupon — good for one day only! Text GOODWILL to 578-277 to join now! And that’s not all… To further celebrate our loyal thrifting community, and to entice others to join in the movement of shopping secondhand, we’re also excited to announce a special “Normalize Thrift” giveaway! Share how you #NormalizeThrift by sharing your Goodwill of Orange County thrift finds with us on Instagram to enter for a chance to win a $100 OC Goodwill gift card!  How To Enter:
  • Share a photo of your @OCGoodwill finds on your Instagram account.
  • Public Accounts: Tag @OCGoodwill and use hashtag #NormalizeThriftOC
  • Private Accounts: Direct Message us a screenshot of your Instagram post using the hashtag #NormalizeThriftOC.
The giveaway closes on August 31st, 2022 at 11:59 PM PST. One winner will be chosen randomly and notified via Instagram Direct Message. By submitting your photo to enter the giveaway, you give @OCGoodwill permission to share your photo on its social media channels. The winner will be contacted from this account (the host) only and any other communication regarding the giveaway is not valid and should be reported. This giveaway is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Instagram. Past photos shared before August 1st or after August 31st, 2022 will not count.


"Impact in action" poster

See our impact in action. Goodwill of Orange County’s Employment WORKS team helps individuals every day on their personal pathway to employment, greater independence and purpose.

Cinthia   Mike   Angel   Richard Ryan Heather

Breaking Myths About Neurodiversity

People smiling and posing for a photo at work place

The benefits of cognitive diversity at work.

The term neurodiversity is a relatively new concept at work. Although challenging, establishing a neurodiverse workplace offers significant benefits. 

Neurodiversity is a relatively new expression that refers to variations in how a typical human brain responds to sociability, learning, mood, and other mental functions. It’s a viewpoint that sees brain differences as normal rather than defects. Neurodiversity is usually discussed in the context of children, but it’s relevant to adults and even more so in the modern workplace.

Neurodiversity is associated with people who experience dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia, ADHD, and other similar neurological conditions. They’re known as “spectrum” conditions that cover a wide range of characteristics but share similarities in how people with these conditions learn and process different kinds of information.

Many organizations fail to support neurodiverse employees. This is party because working with neurodiverse employees can be perceived as challenging.

In this guide, we’ll explore the benefits of a neurodiverse workplace. We’ll look at some of the competitive advantages of neurodiversity and the legislation surrounding it. Finally, we’ll end with advice on making neurodiversity a workplace strength by supporting neurodiverse employees.

Young beautiful woman sitting at desk late at night, laptop in front of her, writing something into notebook. What is neurodiversity in a workplace setting?

Neurodiversity has historically been met with a negative response in workplace settings. Research has shown that neurodiversity is ignored by seven in ten employers, and few will make reasonable adjustments to support neurodiverse job applicants. Despite this, there are many characteristics in neurodivergent people that benefit the workplace.

Challenges and benefits

Neurodiversity has long been seen as a negative in the hiring process. So much, around 81% of adults with autism are either unemployed or underemployed. Organizations tend to shy away from hiring people on the spectrum. This sentiment seems consistent across most industries and is typically seen when looking at job descriptions. These descriptions list many desirable traits – such as solid communication skills, emotional intelligence, and sociability – but these traits are not strong points in people who are on the spectrum. Even a traditional job interview can be a significant barrier for neurodiverse job seekers.

But there are many benefits to establishing a neurodiverse workplace. Here are just a few:

    • Neurodiverse individuals make up a large pool of talent that remains untapped because of the stigma attached to neurodiverse people. As such, there is an opportunity for businesses to fill in skill gaps by hiring from this large pool of potential talent.
    • People with dyslexia are often seen as having more creative problem-solving skills. This allows them to approach problems with unique and innovative solutions. While there is no reliable data to show this right now, researchers are studying the topic and are asking important questions about what factors and experiences determine someone’s creative thinking skills. 
    • Neurodiverse employees can bring unique experiences to your workplace. Individuals who may have been stigmatized in the past understand both the challenges and benefits of working with neurodiversity. As such, they can be excellent consultants to help establish business practices that are friendly towards the neurodiverse population.
    • The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity reports that people with dyslexia have high levels of creativity because it takes them more time to explore new learning methods. In a workplace, neurodivergent people are more likely to find more efficient and effective solutions and challenge pre-existing processes.
    • Some people on the spectrum may bring an enhanced sense of rule-based thinking. These logical approaches to problem-solving may be what a company needs to make breakthroughs in its products, services, and even technology.
    • Diversity is a strength regardless of the industry or workplace. It brings different creative minds to the same table, allowing for more innovation that can increase a business’s competitiveness. More diverse mindsets and backgrounds create unique perspectives and ideas that your brand can build on.
    • Neurodiversity has been proven as a strength in the workplace. It allows companies to outthink and outperform competitors due to their diverse ideas and talents. 
    • Lastly, diversity in a team setting is always positive. It allows employees to learn more about people from different backgrounds, share skills among themselves, and improve their personal growth thanks to the inclusive nature of a diverse team.
Business people brainstorming with creative ideas

A competitive advantage?

As of now, neurodiversity is still being explored for its competitive advantages. In fact, many companies are actively seeking out neurodiverse talent.

JP Morgan Chase, for example, has its own “Autism at Work” program that aims to find top tech talent that will help the company be more competitive. Between 2015 and 2018, the company hired more than 70 employees with autism.

The head of the program mentioned that people on the spectrum are far less likely to be distracted by social interactions. As such, they can achieve anywhere from 48% to 140% more work than their colleagues. This can be a massive competitive advantage for some companies, producing extremely capable and confident employees.

Similarly, the multinational software corporation SAP also has an Autism at Work program. The company focuses on creating a neurodiverse workplace and is proud of its 90% retention rate of hires on the autism spectrum.

The company boasts a “ground-breaking” program launched in 2013 to leverage the unique abilities and perspectives of people on the spectrum. Their goal was to foster innovation and tap into an underutilized source of talent.

These are just two examples of companies that use neurodiversity to their advantage. It’s clear that neurodiverse people bring unique skills and perspectives to the table, making them valuable assets that would otherwise be overlooked and underutilized.

Changing attitudes through legislation

Progress is being made to help neurodiverse people in the modern workplace, with some regions already establishing legislation whose aim is to support neurodiverse employees.

A great example is the U.K.’s Equality Act 2010. This new act came into force on the 1st of October, 2010. It pieces together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into a single act, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995  that makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in connection with employment. This now extends to people with hidden disabilities, including some types of neurodiversity.

In addition, these acts also require employers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that neurodiverse people are not discriminated against once hired. For example, they could offer multiple assistive technologies, offer extra in-house training and support, or even get funding to help adjust a company’s workflow and technology.

In comparison, the U.S. doesn’t offer protection for conditions such as autism. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with chronic medical conditions and mental health issues but doesn’t help people who are neurodiverse. In particular, the neurodiverse community has had little success lobbying Congress to help remove the negative stigma against those who are neurodiverse.

Much work needs to be done to support the neurodiverse community worldwide. While some countries have taken a step in the right direction, there is little legislation that protects the rights of those on the spectrum.

Street portrait of a young businessman holding a cup of coffee

Approaching neurodiverse hiring

When hiring, it’s important to make job descriptions as clear and concise as possible. Separating skills into “must-have” and “good-to-have” sections makes it very easy for the neurodiverse community to clearly understand what is expected of them in the role. The clearer your job descriptions are, the easier it will be for neurodiverse people to approach you about hiring them.

In addition, it’s a good idea to approach interviewing your applicant differently. Interviews have long been considered the final test before you decide to hire someone or not. However, for neurodiverse people, the interviewing process can be extremely intimidating. They may find it challenging even to attend an interview, let alone look their interviewer in the eye while answering their questions. This has historically put people on the spectrum at a disadvantage.

So, what can we do to change the interviewing process and support neurodiversity?

    • Don’t surprise your candidate with anything. Give them a very clear description of what the interview will entail, what is expected during the interview, and potentially any questions that you may ask.
    • If the candidate asks for a list of questions beforehand, don’t hesitate to offer it to them. This will give them some time to prepare and think about their answers instead of being pressured to come up with a response on the spot. Even if they haven’t explicitly asked for it, you may want to be accommodating and make the suggestion.
    • Don’t make your questions vague. Be as clear and concise as possible when asking questions, and don’t hesitate to reword things if you think they’re unclear. You may want to look over your questions before the interview date so that you can get more precise answers that tell you more about the candidate.
    • Don’t rush your candidate. Give them some time to think of a response, and don’t pressure them. Let them take the interview at their own pace and try to make them feel comfortable.
    • If they have notified you that they are on the spectrum, then you should make an effort to ask them about any specific accommodations that will make them more comfortable. Making your candidate feel at ease is a must if you want to unlock their potential.
    • While it can be time-consuming, you may want to consider different ways to interview and assess your candidate’s skills. For example, you may want to consider a remote interview over a video chat program. This will allow your candidate to be more comfortable at home. In assessing one’s skills, you may have success in developing different tests or simply asking for samples of their work instead of pressuring them into a timed examination at the interview location.
    • Lastly, avoid associating their performance in the interview with skills not necessary for the job. For example, if their position will mostly take place in a solo environment, eye contact and a lack of interest in small talk are not relevant to their success and should not be considered negatives. Similarly, if they are not expected to interact with customers, then an unusual tone of voice or stuttering speech should also not be seen as negative.

Whether your company decides to create a different hiring process for neurodiverse candidates or adjust existing practices to make the interview stage more accommodating, there are many ways to make your company more attractive to people on the spectrum. This can help you find these talented individuals and create an advantage over your competitors.

Supporting neurodiverse employees

There are several ways to support neurodiverse employees in the workplace.

Increasing awareness about neurodiversity

It’s recommended that you increase awareness about neurodiverse employees. Because there is usually a stigma against neurodiversity, you must educate your staff on respecting their neurodiverse peers and what kind of boundaries they should set.

If they treat your neurodiverse talent the same as their colleagues, it can create friction or problems that will lead to difficulties. By educating your staff with neurodiversity training, they will become more accepting of neurodiversity in the workplace and will better understand how to work in a team with colleagues on the spectrum.

Provide greater flexibility

Creating a workplace that supports and encourages neurodiverse employees can be challenging. However, one way to approach this is to be more accepting of flexible conditions. For example, if someone in your workplace finds interactions uncomfortable, it may be preferable to offer alternative forms of communication or find a mediator to help them.

Flexibility in working conditions can also help. For example, offering neurodiverse employees the opportunity to work remotely can help them be more productive. If they find that their working conditions are a little more comfortable at home or when they’re away from others, then you can use those conditions to your advantage by supporting flexible working arrangements.

By working with neurodiverse employees, you can develop more flexibility in your work processes which ultimately leads to more productivity and efficiency in the workplace while also taking advantage of the unique qualities of neurodiverse employees.

Supporting neurodiverse individuals

It’s also important to tailor support to individuals who are neurodiverse. Businesses may eventually develop their own strategies that incorporate neurodiverse talent, but here are a couple of suggestions to get you started:

      • Be patient with neurodiverse individuals. Building a group of talented neurodiverse employees can be difficult, and their individual challenges may require some time to overcome. Take it slowly.
      • Be as clear and concise as possible when communicating with neurodiverse individuals. Whenever you share with neurodiverse talent, it’s best to communicate without ambiguity, and it’s important to give plenty of notice when there are changes. This ensures that your neurodiverse employees are prepared for changes and have time to make adjustments.
      • Don’t leave anything up to assumption. This coincides with the previous point about being as clear and concise as possible.
      • Understand the benefits of having a neurodiverse workplace, but don’t expect them to work miracles. They may have qualities that help them excel in certain positions, but it’s important not to overestimate what they can do.
      • Identify challenges that a neurodiverse employee might face and work collaboratively to solve them. While communication may be difficult at times, it’s vital that you work together to solve any issues that arise.
      • Be willing to accommodate. Neurodiverse employees may ask for certain processes to change or for you to approach them differently.

It can be challenging for workplaces to make adjustments that support neurodiverse employees. However, with the right approach, any business can make changes to their workflow that ultimately supports the addition of a neurodiverse pool of talent.

Neurodiversity has always been around, but we’re only just starting to realize how we can support neurodiverse people and take advantage of their skills. While we shouldn’t necessarily hunt for neurodiverse talent and forget about other talented hires, we should certainly be open to the idea of building a neurodiverse workplace. There are some clear advantages to hiring neurodiverse workers, and depending on your workplace, there may be positions that are well-suited to them.

There are plenty of resources available to help us better understand neurodiversity in the workplace. Companies should be more open to neurodiversity and take advantage of the many unique benefits. It may take some time to adjust, but it’s not difficult to make your business more accommodating towards this growing pool of untapped talent.

Source: Outreach | Neurodiversity Modern Workplace (