The Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation

The Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation

Unemployment for neurodivergent adults runs at least as high as 30-40% which is three times the rate for people with disability, and eight times the rate for people without disability. Exact figures are unknown because there are few resources that track the specifics of unemployment among a wide range of neurodiversity, not just autism but also ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and many other neurological differences. Unfortunately, in many cases the research needed for developing these statistics does not exist yet. However, even at the most conservative of estimates, millions of neurodivergent adults are struggling to find meaningful employment that allows them to live independent, fulfilling lives.

UConn’s Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation seeks to lead. The center will develop and share the critical innovations necessary to improve employment outcomes for neurodivergent adults and the companies that employ them.

Defining Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity refers to the concept that differences in brain functioning within the human population are normal, and that brain functioning that is not “neurotypical” should not be stigmatized or excluded. People with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other neurological differences are collectively referred to as neurodivergent individuals.

The Employment Challenge

Neurodivergent adults who are eager to work professionally are often left out of the workforce or forced into lower skill jobs for a variety of reasons - non-inclusive hiring and retention practices, lack of employer education and training, absence of support ecosystems on the job, and skill differences or needs that often do not align with standard business operations all contribute to the problem.

Employers Tapping New Talent

Organizations have begun recognizing the value of hiring neurodivergent individuals. Their ability to approach problems differently and bring innovative solutions and ideas to the table creates real value. Moreover, increased levels of morale for all employees within an organization is often a result of greater levels of diversity and inclusivity. Lower turnover, higher productivity and better overall employee engagement create a compelling ROI story for companies pursuing a neurodiverse workforce.


Organization of the Center

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Prototype Lab

The Prototype Lab is where we will identify, further develop, and test different approaches for solving the employment challenge. This process will allow us to understand the impacts of the most promising approaches and begin to implement them across all levels of the problem.

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Knowledge Hub

The Knowledge Hub seeks to be the central location for what is already known and developed around the topic of neurodiversity and employment. Here information from the prototype lab activities will be collected, organized, and kept up to date so that it can be made available to all interested parties.

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Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund will focus on finding, funding, and amplifying new solutions created outside of the center. We will identify individuals, companies and organizations that are developing new ideas, and provide seed funding to help bring those ideas to market.

Cornerstone Programs

The Center is currently pursuing the development of programs that will help the neurodivergent college student population prepare for and secure post-graduation employment, as well as provide partner employers access to critical knowledge, support, and instruction in how to increase a neurodiverse workforce at their organization.

For more information about the Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation at UConn, contact:

Judy Reilly

Director, Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation
Judy.Reilly@uconn.edu