Empowering Parents and Students: Workplace Adjustments for Neurodivergent Families

On March 12th, 2024, a thought-provoking article titled “Parents say LSE directives mean students with disabilities are being sent home” brought to light the challenges and hurdles encountered by neurodivergent children in Malta, as well as their working parents. It underscored a concerning deficiency in adequate funding, resources, and well-trained educators, notably Learning Support Educators (LSEs).

Students are losing crucial support due to job action

Consequently, neurodivergent children are being deprived of the essential support necessary for their academic and social development. The lack of resources and trained professionals has compelled many of these children to remain at home, thereby inhibiting their access to education and meaningful social interactions with peers. This recurring scenario perpetuates the marginalization of neurodivergent children, highlighting systemic challenges that persist within the educational landscape.

As a result, parents of neurodivergent children often find themselves compelled to take extended leaves from their employment to provide the necessary care for their children. This sudden disruption not only affects the family’s financial stability but also poses significant challenges to the parents’ career trajectories. With the recent surge in inflation rates, the financial strain on these families is further exacerbated, making it increasingly difficult to meet their financial obligations.

Despite job action by the Malta Union of Teachers (UPE) to address the issue, significant gaps persist in the availability of support services for neurodivergent children. While directives preventing Learning Support Educators (LSEs) from replacing their sick counterparts may serve as a temporary solution, the underlying problem remains unresolved. Currently, there is a backlog of 180 students awaiting support from LSEs, underscoring the urgent need for systemic reforms in education and healthcare policies. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate resources and government intervention continues to impose heavy burdens on both neurodivergent children and their working parents, perpetuating the cycle of exclusion and inequality.

Businesses lack strategies to support employees with neurodivergent children

Another aspect to consider is the responsibility and support of businesses, the employers of these working parents. Let’s examine some studies:

In parallel with the timeline of the aforementioned article, the UK’s City & Guilds Foundation unveiled its second Annual Global Index Report. Building upon the findings of the previous year’s report, this edition delves deeper into critical issues impacting education and workforce dynamics worldwide. Let’s delve into the insights presented in this report and discern any parallels with the observations outlined in the Times of Malta article:

City & Guilds Foundation Index Reports

πŸ“Š 2022 City & Guilds Foundation Index Report Findings:

30% of neurodivergent parents reported that navigating the education system impacted their employment, often leading to reduced hours or leaving their jobs. This is particularly impactful if the parent is also neurodivergent.

It’s crucial to highlight that upon reviewing the findings, the researchers of this study delved into existing research on the repercussions of raising neurodivergent children on parents’ employment but found no relevant studies. This revealed a significant gap in neurodivergent research, particularly concerning the effects on families and their careers. Consequently, the subsequent year’s study was partially aimed at addressing and bridging this gap.

πŸ“Š 2023 City & Guilds Foundation Index Report Findings:

39% of working parents have a neurodivergent child.
36% of working parents say their neurodivergent child impacts their work.
28% of businesses reported not having any accommodations for parents/caregivers of neurodivergent children.
33% of businesses say they have upcoming plans to implement such a strategy.

As evident from this year’s study, it further highlights the challenges faced by working parents of neurodivergent children, as well as the missed opportunities in addressing these issues. In contrast, the Times of Malta article emphasizes the call for government action, with no mention of the role that businesses could play in supporting their employees during the job action by UPE.

When businesses fail to support their employees during such challenging circumstances, it results in a lose-lose situation. Projects suffer delays, productivity declines, and there’s a risk of increased turnover as employers lack strategies that would benefit both them and their employees.

What can businesses do to better support families with neurodivergent children?

βœ… Offer flexible work arrangements to support and retain talent.
βœ… Create and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) focused on neurodiversity.
βœ… Include board members who are parents of neurodivergent children.
βœ… Provide training for line managers on better communication and people-centric management.
βœ… Establish internal workplace support programs, such as medical
insurance, employee assistance programs, and education funds.

Closing thoughts

It’s clear that neglecting to implement sufficient support programs for parents of neurodivergent children is not a wise business decision.

The underlying message conveyed by the data is that businesses are experiencing substantial losses in turnover and reputation because of their failure to support both neurodivergent employees and parents of neurodivergent children. It’s clear that neglecting to implement these programs is harmful to the organization, its workforce, and their families.

By adopting the proposed solutions, organizations stand to experience a multitude of benefits, positively impacting both their employees and their families. It’s high time for governments, unions, and businesses to prioritize investments in both the education system and the business environment to provide better support for neurodivergent individuals and their families.


Looking to make a change in diversity and inclusion for the neurodiverse in your company?Β  then click here for a consultations

Listen to this topic and others like it on my podcast Take A Leap & Transform: A Neurodiversity Journey

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