Author John Elder Robison Speaks on the Importance of Neurodiversity

Bridgewater is committed to creating a space that is welcoming and inclusive of all aspects of what makes a person who they are, including not only traditional measures of diversity but also gained experiences and ways of thinking and processing. John Elder Robison — Scholar in Residence and Co-Chair of the Neurodiversity Working Group at the College of William & Mary — spoke about neurological diversity and living as an autistic adult in a world that doesn’t always support his way of processing or thinking.

During the talk, Robison described struggling with social interactions as a child, often feeling like a “second-rate person” — and how his diagnosis at age 40 finally gave him an explanation for why he is the way he is. This newfound knowledge fueled his ability to make sense of his world, account for his differences, and implement practical steps to increase his sense of belonging, such as learning social cues and how to handle challenging interactions.

Robison used his life’s story to demonstrate how neurological differences can seem like a barrier when not understood but can create a competitive advantage when placed in an inclusive and supportive environment. He explained that the term neurodiversity includes “the mix of exceptionality and disability that we live with. But it is mostly a function of what we can do and who we are.” The presentation included practical strategies for making the workplace more welcoming for neurodiverse people and served as one example of how we can consider diversity and inclusion broadly.

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