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5 things my agency did to accommodate my autism diagnosis


By Leila Bartlam, Chief Production Officer EMEA

October 30, 2023 | 7 min read

Leila Bartlam, chief production officer Accenture Song Production Studio, was recently diagnosed with autism. Her employer "went above and beyond" to meet her newly discovered needs. And your agency can too.


In July, I was diagnosed with autism. My diagnosis followed many years of anxiety and finding life harder than other people seemed to. It came about after I began reading up on autism to better support my stepson, and conversations with a close friend with an autistic daughter and an industry colleague who got her autism diagnosis seven years ago.

In many ways, it’s been a relief as it helps explain many things I have wondered about myself, including things from long ago. It’s brought a sense of release, too, as, like many neurodivergent people, I spent years interacting with the world from behind a neurotypical mask.

My colleague and friend Lisa Bowcott at MWG described the experience of learning to live in a neurotypical world as more like learning a second (verbal and body) language. Our first language is autistic, but we are fluent in neurotypical. And when we have sensory overwhelm, are tired or stressed, our second language slips.

This metaphor resonated with me profoundly and has been hugely helpful in continuing my education about autism and neurodiversity. As has an Einstein quote we use here – about how everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. This provides an important lever for each of us, neurodivergent and neurotypical alike, to understand our strengths rather than get hung up on our various personal challenges.

With the support of my workplace neurodiverse community and the therapy I am now receiving, I am figuring out how best to make neurodiversity work for me. As I make this journey, it strikes me that any organization can create a workplace that supports the needs of neurodivergent staff if it harnesses five things.

The power of champions

Having someone with authority within the business personally committed to creating a neurodivergent-friendly workplace and culture and taking responsibility to drive things through both accelerates the changes needed and magnifies positive effects.

And if that champion is neurodiverse, with an innate first-hand understanding of the challenges involved, the positive impacts that can be achieved are then all the better.

The strength of community

The community that Accenture’s neurodiverse workforce has built – known as Accent on Neurodiversity – is one of the most inclusive, psychologically safe and supportive environments that I have ever worked in.

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I wish for all our neurodiverse colleagues across the industry to have access to this kind of support. For there is power in numbers, and a community can push for the tools needed by its members, who can then spread them socially – first, among themselves, then to the wider workforce.

Such a community should be clearly signposted to those who need it by HR and line managers, at the very least, which leads me to my next point.

The need for training to be mandatory

Ensuring everyone within an organization – neurotypical as well as neurodivergent – understand, at the very least, the bare basics is essential.

Training to ensure a better understanding of neurodiversity and how organizations’ systems, structures and managers’ approaches can create an inclusive workplace in this respect should be made mandatory.

Whether or not a neurodivergent person’s manager understands and is informed should not be a matter of luck, as is often the case.

Access to tools

A wide and varied range of support is available – from accommodations such as mind mapping software, voice-to-text or noise-cancelling headphones to counseling services and therapies through healthcare and neurodiversity community meetings. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

Ensuring such support isn’t just appropriate but also clearly signposted and easily accessible by all is essential.

Flexibility is all

Flexible working policies such as around where someone works is an essential tool to alleviate sensory overwhelm, which is often a major issue for the neurodiverse – especially women. Also important is having clear instructions and KPIs. But remember, needs will, of course, differ for each individual.

I have met many ND colleagues through our community across the spectrum of the ND experience, and all their experiences are different, so listening and having a flexible approach is key.

Further, I think that some of these key areas that I have outlined could be used by non-ND colleagues to the benefit of individuals and a company's productivity and with the right support in place, both individual and business will benefit. But to achieve this, I must add one last thing. Formal policies are only as good as the people charged with actioning them. If colleagues are not educated and actioning the policy, then we can’t access the flexibility that we need then the policy might as well not exist.

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