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Reimagining Talent with a Neurodiversity Lens

In this episode:

It’s been twenty years since Specialisterne, a Danish social enterprise, created the first Neurodiversity Hiring programs, and it’s been about a decade since the first multinational companies, for example, SAP and Microsoft, launched programs. Since then, many organizations have taken initiatives to increase neuro-inclusion at work.

In this episode, developed in partnership with the Neurodiversity Employment Research Project at Ivey Business School, we explore the barriers limiting the inclusion of neurodistinct individuals in the workforce and unpack misconceptions about the correlation between support needs and skill levels. Further, our panelists discuss how what we’re learning from neurodiversity employment may lead us to dismantle traditional notions about what “work” should look (and be) like and share insights for how leaders can reimagine job roles and structures to create more inclusive and productive organizations. 

For this Global Ivey Day 2024 session, we were joined by expert guests: Rob Austin, Professor of Innovation & Information Systems and Evolution of Work Chair, Ivey Business School; Denise Arnold, Founding Principal, Denise R. Arnold LLC and PhD Candidate, Disability Studies, University of Illinois Chicago; Thorkil Sonne, Founder, Square Foundation (formerly the Specialisterne Foundation); and Moish Tov, CEO, JoyDew. During this discussion hosted by Bryan Benjamin, Executive Director of the Ivey Academy, our panelists examine the successes and limitations of early neurodiversity employment programming and propose how leaders can intentionally forge the future of neuroinclusion at work. 


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Episode Transcript:

THORKIL SONNE: What I want to do is to make people aware that we all know someone who is neurodistinct. We may not just notice. I encourage people to slow down and be more curious.


SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Welcome to Leadership in Practice, your source for new research, insights, and practical advice on critical issues in business presented by the Ivey Academy. It's been 20 years since Specialisterne, a Danish social enterprise created the first neurodiversity hiring programs.

Since then, an increasing number of organizations have taken up initiatives that aim to increase neuro inclusion at work. However, there are still many barriers that limit the inclusion of neurodistinct individuals in the workforce.

In this installment of our neurodiversity at work series, co-presented with the Neurodiversity Employment Research Project at Ivey Business School. We're joined by Rob Austin, Professor of Innovation and Information Systems and Evolution of Work chair at Ivey; Dr. Denise Arnold, Founding Principal Denise R. Arnold, LLC and PhD Disability Studies from the University of Illinois Chicago; Thorkil Sonne, Founder, Specialisterne and the Square Foundation; and Moish Tov, CEO of JoyDew.

Together, our panelists examine the successes and limitations of early neurodiversity employment programs and propose how leaders can intentionally forge the future of neuro inclusion at work.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Hello, and thank you for joining us for this Global Ivey Day event. My name is Bryan Benjamin and I am the Executive Director here at the Ivey Academy. So, Rob, I want you to give us a little bit of a frame on why this topic is so important, more broadly, but also to you as an individual who's clearly passionate, given the research investments you put into this space. And then a little bit more about the neurodiversity research project. So welcome and thanks for joining us, Rob.

ROB AUSTIN: Thanks very much, Bryan. So I think you've said this and people know. Neurodiversity employment is broadly about connecting deserving people who have abilities with employment opportunities that they've been barred from historically for reasons that are not such good reasons. And so we're trying to overcome these barriers.

I'd say the importance of this is at least in three ways. And first of all, there are people out there who have talent who are very deserving. And it's important to those individuals that they have access to the opportunity that everyone else in our society enjoys.

The people who find it easier to interact with employment systems. But it's really broader than that. It helps the organizations who need talent. One of the things that we hear from organizations all the time is that they have profound talent shortages in many areas. And so it doesn't help that problem if they're not tapping broad enough talent pools.

So the companies, learning to tap broader talent pools is another part of this that also very important to our economies. I mean, in Canada, we're always talking about how the shortage of people limits our economy's growth and so forth.

And then I think more broadly, there's a broader societal thing and that we improve as a society when we do a better job of connecting deserving people With opportunity, but also in a very practical way.

If we move people, as I say, quite practically and literally from a situation in which they need public support into a situation in which say, they're working for a tech company and making a tech salary and paying taxes, that has a dramatic impact and a sort of per year, per person on government budgets and things like that.

We've been studying best practices at Ivey and neurodiversity employment, and our research goes back to about 2006 when I had the good fortune of meeting one of your panelists today, Thorkil Sonne. He is really the guy who got this entire movement rolling, and you'll hear much more about that.

It is related to one of our strategic critical issues at Ivey called the Evolution of Work. And so it's an important research area for us. I would like to note that there has been since Thorkil got the ball rolling in 2004, a lot of progress. There's a lot of practical methods that have been developed by organizations like the ones represented on your panel that have been moved into larger organizations and scaled.

And I would say, as a result, we have seen-- I know Thorkil may revise these numbers, but at least tens of thousands of people who have achieved employment, who in an earlier time might not have had access. To just cite another statistic, 475 companies now are affiliated with the neurodiversity at work roundtable, and many of them are names you would recognize.

Not all of them have programs, but they are all interested. There's still a lot more to do. There's a lot of people that remain to be helped. Our estimates on the project are that there are between 800 million and 1.2 billion people in the world who could reasonably identify as neurodistinct. So there are many, many more people deserving of opportunity than we've been able yet connect with opportunity.

One challenge that I think we're going to focus on today, it's representative of a lot of others is connecting people who are highly skilled, but, for example, non-speaking. And we've recently completed a case about JoyDew does interesting work in this area that will soon be widely available from Ivey Publishing.

And Denise has recently completed a dissertation in this area that I am convinced will have major impacts on the world. And of course, Specialisterne, Thorkil's company which is now called The Square Foundation, which square peg and round hole is the metaphor there. They got this entire ball rolling and they continue to do excellent work in this area.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: That was great. Thank you for framing and helping us pull together such a tremendous amount of expertise into our discussion here. So I'm actually going to build on some of Rob's comments. I'm going to go to you first, Thorkil.

THORKIL SONNE: I was invited in 2011 to speak at a conference in Bangalore, and one of the sponsors was SAP Labs. And as part of the program, I was expected to go and meet the leadership at SAB Labs in Bangalore and shared about our work with the specialist and how we had succeeded to create environments where autistic people could excel and compete at market terms with others in the market.

So that generated a lot of interest at SAP. And afterwards, the CEO, [? Firoz, ?] came to Denmark to see if it was real. [CHUCKLES] And when he came back he said, we should do something similar here. India is not Denmark, but there's autistic people all over. And it would make a lot of sense for us.

And then he introduced me to his colleague in SAP Labs in Dublin in Ireland, and we started a program for employment there. And then later on, he also organized that we would meet the two co-CEOs of SAP at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos.

They were interested in what we learned in India, and Denmark, and Ireland and said, well, make sense. SAP wants to help the world run better, and we always need innovation and new talent. So let's get some balls moving here. And then they decided that 1% of their workforce within a number of years should be having the same prevalence for autism as the society in general.

So that was a major, major commitment, and Specialisterne was the global partner. So I think the first time where social entrepreneurship was combined with big corporate firepower and we became very busy and-- [CHUCKLE] and within a year, we had started what was at that time Autism at Work programs in Palo Alto and Newtown Square.

There was a lot of interest from other companies a year after, we also helped the UN World Autism Awareness Day 2015, which had the theme The Autism Advantage. This is where Microsoft announced that they would also join the Autism at Work and a number of other companies.

Yeah, that just created huge interest, and we learned a lot from working with corporates, and I think they learned a lot of working with a social entrepreneur. And so it was shared mission. We really wanted the companies to open up so that it would not matter if you're neurotypical or neuro distinct, there would be opportunities in the companies.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thank you for sharing a little bit of the history. We'll learn over the course of our time here probably how far we've come and how far we still need to go. But it's always nice to hear a little bit of the Genesis of some of this really important work.

I'm coming over to you next, Denise. And again, big congratulations on your successful defense. Working at Ivey, not having gone through a PhD myself, but being around a lot of people that go through. I know how much time and effort you've dedicated to that.

I'm going to actually frame it here around, bringing us to where we're at right now around what are some of the significant challenges and barriers that you're seeing as we're advocating now for neuro inclusion in more mainstream settings if you will, given the work that you do in your organization does. I know you're very plugged into this right here, right now. So share a little bit about your perspectives on that.

DENISE R. ARNOLD: My work with the neurodiverse community really transitioned when I had my son Ben, who's now 21 years old. He's non-verbal. He talks by typing. And my goal is very selfish. I want him to have a good life, and I want my life to be more improved, to give myself more time, to develop my own interests, rather than being Ben's caregiver.

He comes first. So his needs and the barriers that he faces are traumatic, and he internalizes them as stigma, being ostracized and not welcome. And one thing that did not do him well was that public schools, the K through 12 system segregate into special education. And we've framed that in our own terms. We call that disability space.

He gets to act as disabled as he wants. But when he goes out in the real world, it's disabling space, and there's rules to disabling space. And society's put those rules in place, and he has to follow those rules.

And so things that he's allowed to do and disability comfort space, whether it's stimming or skipping or running or getting out of his chair or eating with his hands, those things that he just does that are perfectly fine. All of a sudden become frowned upon in society, in reality.

And so I think the goal of my PhD program was to tell Ben that I love you just the way you are. That you are perfectly wonderful being you. And this constant need to normalize him is disabling to him. And so we're butting up against this wall between society's rules and his natural inclinations and his identity and who he is and how he feels comfortable as a person.

And so there's this constant rub, and we're constantly negotiating that space, those barriers. And we haven't quite solved it yet. And I love the fact that this is a business school. And I thank Rob Austin so much for even putting me on a path to get a PhD.

Ben is enrolled in a business school program at DePaul University here in Chicago. And I'm going as his one-on-one aide to school. And I am learning. I am learning microeconomics and business 101 and accounting. And as an architect, this was really different territory for me.

And I'm just loving learning. And it's really important that knowledge is power. And you cannot make rational decisions in a business model if you don't have the information that you need. And by segregating Ben into special education or into sheltered workshops, he's not garnering knowledge.

This is something that we learned when COVID began, and I began being his high school aide and he took AP US history. And he got very upset one day because, hey, Napoleon, who is this guy? How come I've never heard of Napoleon or JFK was assassinated? Wait a minute here. How come everybody seems to know this and I don't know this?

And so, while I thought he was getting individualized education plans and a special needs school, he was not getting an education. He was not getting access to the knowledge that he needs to become a social entrepreneur.

I think it's really important that he is in the mainstream, that he has access to that knowledge, that he has social networks, that he's connected with his peers, that he learns how to use things that the rest of us take for granted, like public transportation. That those are not things that are he's excluded from so that he can get power through knowledge. And that's the goal right now, is to gain access to that knowledge and become his own self-advocate and the power that comes along with that.



BRYAN BENJAMIN: Moish, I'm going to bring your voice now into the conversation. What are some of the common assumptions that are made about people with support needs? Denise got us a little bit down the path in terms of some of the assumptions or missed assumptions. But maybe you could share your take on it given your great background and expertise.

MOISH TOV: I want to start with a personal note. I want to thank Thorkil for all the work that he'd done. I first met him in a small cafe in Berlin, I think it was around 2008 or '09. Knowing that as a parent, I'm not alone in this world trying to get the future-- this meeting was very significant for me and the work Thorkil has done.

I think that the significant for all of us. I want to continue to build on what Denise said. I think the three people on the panel over here are parents. And if I'm not mistaken, when Thorkil talked about the first work that he did in SAP. This sort of work was apparent within SAP.


One thing that I see across this journey is that the one leading the pack is parent. And I think that the one thing that is common across all of us is we presume competence. And that is the number one barrier that I met and other parents met through life, through the education system. That don't presume competence.

And there is the stigma about autism. That autism come with no competence, or in other words, intellectual disabilities. And you have to fight the stigma every day. The way that we start to look into it-- based on the experience that we saw from other one-- we found out that people on the spectrum-- and right now I'm talking about people with autism.

I think that the more diverse as different groups and I talk about the autism, we found that they have unique abilities. And unique ability that can be developed and be used in different areas. And that is-- can happen if you create the environment that they can be-- and again, exactly what Denise said, the number one is we have to accept their identity.

There is movement work about let's change their identity and make them something they are not. And the follow the presumed competence and follow the strengths. Come accept the identities. I don't want to spend too much time about the history of how we got into it.

I think that the stories that Denise and Thorkil told is pretty much compared to my journey into this type of world. What I wanted and what I want to create and what I'm creating is a whole life solution for people on the spectrum.

So there is a piece of employment, which is very important. But if you want to get into the employment, you have to take care of your life. And when we created JoyDew, and we call the members, they're part of our social enterprise.

The first question that I ask them, I said that you're going to have employment, and employment that we have is that they are a system of ideologies. They are looking to pattern recognition, et cetera. I asked them one question. I asked them, how do you want to be paid?

And I got very clear answer for all of them. We want to have friends and we want to have friends that accept us the way that we are. At that point, it came to me as, OK, what inclusion means. Is inclusion means we are changing someone's identity to put them in some other place? Or inclusion is we create an environment for different people and then they can be included in the society and communicate across.

We decide that the way that we're doing it, we are building different model. And the model is there is a space that they are working, learning, doing other activities, and this is a space for them. And from this space, we actually use a lot of technology to enable them to take the high-level skill that they have in different type of jobs. And the jobs being delivered to different clients virtually.

Now, we started before COVID. So before COVID virtual was something that some people knew, but it wasn't mainstream. COVID actually helped us in that case because it opened the world to be able to be working virtual. And that is like virtual inclusion.

And when they are in our environment, they feel comfortable, they feel good. They can do everything that they have and they do the work. And going back to what Rob said, this is a way-- the model that we built, that the untapped talent within the autism community can actually be leverage into the big corporation.

The model that was built by Thorkil, which is direct employment. Like people going to work in the environment of the corporation is a good solution, but it doesn't address most of people on the spectrum.

The numbers that we have in the US is only about 10% of people on spectrum are employed, that leave other 90% not employed. The other number that we have and we are fighting to get this awareness is that about 75% of people on the spectrum do have communication challenges and some of them don't speak and some of them partial speaking.

And this is the people that do develop other kind of skills. So we look at this and said, OK, we want to take the whole population-- speaking, non-speaking and leave this definition of high-functioning, low-functioning, high-support, non-support. And look at this, this is a human being that have skills and we give them the abilities to use the skills.



BRYAN BENJAMIN: All three of you have very personal lived experience and that creates clearly a real passion to make the world a better place for people, especially that you care very deeply about. How do we inspire action from those who are not coming from as close of a personal connection to this as the three of you?

THORKIL SONNE: Yeah, it's an exciting topic for me. Because what I want to do is to make people aware that we all know someone who is neurodistinct. We may not just notice. I encourage people to slow down and be more curious and reflect on people they meet who have they met, who have not been like themselves, have been peculiar in some way, and where maybe a communication did not work out well.

And I think every day-- if we're in a workplace, every day we meet someone. We just need to make people aware that this is actually just part of the paradigm that we're in. It's not a different world. It's the same world than the one we are in. I also want to make people aware that about 20% of everyone probably have a neurodistinct profile.

If that is true, then each one has two parents. They may have siblings, neighbors, uncles, and nephews. We are all related, somehow through a family or friend situation. And I want to open up people's eyes to that. Because when we can get combined, compassionate people with resourceful organizations-- I think you are seeing here today three examples, Moish, Denise, and myself.

As Moish pointed out that we are parents and we all have the ambition, not train our kids to fit into some system, but to make the systems all to be able to cope our kids without changing them to something that they are not.

And I've seen over and over again the power of when you all lit the flame in compassionate people. They are everywhere. They are social entrepreneurs and those who are in the companies, they can become social intrapreneurs.

And then it's a matter of combining the dots. Then we'll have a movement where we will make the world aware that there's a majority of people now who want to make a change. I think we are representing a new minority. This group of people have always been looked at as a minority, but now there's a majority who wants to change.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: That's a great reframe of this. And there are a couple of words that really struck with me is slow down. Something that I'm not terribly great at. In a very fast-moving world, I think a lot could take away from slowing down.

But the word curious-- to be curious, especially if something didn't go the way we thought it would go, trying to maybe understand why or how could I approach this differently next time. Denise, I'm going to bring your voice back into the conversation here around this idea of how do we create broader awareness amongst leaders and organizations and society at large.

DENISE R. ARNOLD: Yeah one word that I was picking up from Thorkil is the word systems. Because we have laws that structure accommodations. So the Americans with Disabilities Act has been used, in my opinion, as a cudgel to keep people with disabilities out of the mainstream.

It is there to protect the institutions from being sued when they do violate civil rights. It's not necessarily providing a platform for inclusion or accommodation. And I see that both from-- as an architect, from a designer point of view, a parent of a neurodiverse person. But also as someone who is going into a university system. And now the disability services offices is dictating how he can function.

They even have published a draft of who the aide can be and how the aide could function. And it was fascinating to me because Ben's communication technique involves a physical prompt for him to access his iPad device. And he also talks pro-tactilely, which is a method that the deafblind community uses a lot.

And our biggest problem is the acceptance of the communication that the communication technique that he uses is perfectly acceptable and should not be judged or questioned or used as a way to dictate his intelligence or question his intelligence. So that's that presume competence piece.

But the university's disability services offices sent me a list of what I'm allowed to do as his one-on-one aid in the classroom. And they even told me how he is going to communicate with my support on this piece of paper. So all through high school, he wasn't allowed to do what they were calling facilitated communication. No physical prompt. That's not what FC is.

And now the university is telling me I have to put my hand over his hand and direct him to the keyboard, which is insane because I would never do that with him. So it's down to those nitty gritties where the system itself is dictating how he is allowed to communicate in public space or in the classroom.

And I'm good at jumping up and down and screaming and saying, I'm calling my lawyer. And, oh, how about the press? Maybe I should just come in here with the press until they go, oh, oh, wait a minute, wait a minute. But it shouldn't be that way. They're using civil rights laws against the people who it's intended to benefit.

I don't know how to correct this. I really don't. And I'm not saying throw out the baby with the bathwater because the ADA is major legislation that changed how people with disabilities-- it was hard fought, hard won legislation that is a stepping stone. But I think we're at a spot now where we need to take off that stepping stone and say, what's the next step and how do we get there?

ROB AUSTIN: Now, thank you for that. And what's the next big step and how can we really leap this forward? I'm going to come back to you Moish. And I'd like to hear a little bit more about JoyDew and some of the specific programming that you have-- ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, giftedness has also come into the equation.

And so maybe when you share some of the work that JoyDew is doing, these are also very important considerations, especially in the context of setting up successful work environments where people can collaborate and bring their best selves to work and clearly get set up for success in that environment.

MOISH TOV: When Thorkil started with the movement, I think that this is what it is. It's a movement that is building. It was called Autism at Work. We work more with autism because this is a population that needed more effort from parents and families to get life.

So before I get into what we do-- answer the question about the other segment that falling under the neurodiversity. I think the models that we build can be built to any type of neuro-- I'll call it medical condition. I'm not sure that one. I don't like the word disability.

I think that they have different abilities. And there are different groups. So yes, there are groups with dyslexia, with ADD. And I think that the model that we build can work for them. And it's up to them if they want to keep their identities as is or they want to convert and say, OK, my identity is no diverge. And I see it as a choice.

People have to choose-- and we have to create the option. In the work that we are doing, the communication is a basic piece, and exactly as Denise said, we're using multiple techniques for communication. A lot of it is work called supportive communication, which is FC, RPM, and other type of method.

And there is-- for us, we just ignore the noise and we let in the environment that we build, anyone has communication. We're addressing the communication, what we call total communication. But it doesn't matter if you speak, you don't speak. You can choose any way that you want to communicate. And communication it's a major human right.

And going back to what Denise said about the system, the system has laws and there is basic law about human rights. And what we parents and now enjoy the fighting is anyone has to get the human right. And communication is one of this. Choose the identity of another one.

So we create the environment in where we said, OK, the system is outside, we are inside. And we now create a place that you can be whatever you are and you get all the different human rights. What other things that we learn, we learn, OK, employment is important, but it is not a standalone. Because they're coming to us, our adult.

They're coming from the school system. And exactly as Dennis said, most of the people that come going to the special education, they are not being educated. So in our environment, there is a piece that we call it academic enrichment because they have to catch up. They didn't learn.

And we have the piece of job training in where we are looking into the strengths and we develop a tool to find what the strengths of any person. And by the way, this tool can be used to any kind of disabilities, not just autism. It can be used in ADD, HD, or any other neurological. area.

And based on the strengths that they have, we create a job training. And the job training that we're doing is to do early detection of breast cancer. And when I talk about it, might sound like a bit of dreamy type of things, but we're doing it for about five years.

And we got to the point that the group that's working in our area and working with a medical center, which is in Florida, we are in New Jersey, they're in Florida and working on this virtually and working together with the radiologists. The numbers that we see is that each one of our employees find a woman that has early breast cancer, and we focused on the breast cancer.

We find one woman that we finding it in stage one, meaning that the cure chances going way up above 90%. For our employees, it's a great win because they said, OK, we're doing something that is significant not only for us but for someone else. And they get it as part of the recognition for their own work.

The radiologist looked at this and said, OK, now do a better job because it's something that I missed. And he didn't like to miss it. And then there was a woman that actually got early diagnosis and she been cured. So its a connection between three different humans that doesn't really know each other. But at the end is a win-win-win.

And we tried to create it and we try to get it not as, OK, we are doing a great job or look on what we bring to the world, which is fine. But as look on this and see how you can apply it in other ways, in other jobs, and expands the body of people with coming from different segment of the neurodiversity and given them the opportunities by creating jobs that they can do better as well as by creating the environment that they can work with.

Denise, you are an architect and I really appreciate this kind of thing because what we designing right now, we call it a smart autism environment which just creates environment [INAUDIBLE]. And it can be done to a smart dyslexia and smart ADD. It is just the same concept applied to someone else.

Out of the employees that I have today, start with a baseline. 100% of them got communication. And this is important to understand because we're getting people that never communicate in their life and they start to communicate at the age of 21, 25, 30. And there is one misconception across all this universe. And they said, OK, if someone doesn't speak, then is dumb. And I think that the English word in England for dumb actually reflecting that.

But they forget one thing. They don't speak, but they can listen and they're listening very well. And we building on that because we know that they listen, we know that we learn, and we know that the brain-- one major piece-- self-learning and we have to leverage it.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Yeah. There's something to be said about listening. What's that old expression-- two ears, one mouth? Slow down, listen, be curious. And don't underestimate the power potentially, of someone who isn't necessarily speaking or contributing in the moment-- can be contributing in very different ways.

I'm captivated by this conversation and just by the depth of experience that all three of you bring to this. I'm actually going to start us in around the room exercise to get some closing remarks out. And I'm going to ask you to comment on to two questions.

One is, are we making progress? And I say are we-- we as individuals, we as society, we as organizations. Thorkil, you shared some amazing work-- foundational work that was happening years and years and years ago. So in 2024, are we making progress?

And then the second part of it is I'd like each of your voice on one actionable takeaway that leaders can take from our conversation here today to make a difference in their organizations or more broadly in societies. Why don't we go-- Thorkil, Denise, and then Moish we'll come to you at the end.

THORKIL SONNE: We are absolutely making progress quite a lot. But the problem is growing faster than the solutions right now. And this is clear to what Denise has said about the systems. It's all over. And you can read the mental Health statistics if you don't believe me.

So we have to do things different. We have to work on the mindsets. We have to have neurodiversity in mindsets and then in systems. We cannot have them in systems before we have them in the mindsets.

One takeaway I'll say is as we are in a business school setting, I think it's the greatest leadership development potential that the world has seen. You can learn so much from managing your distinct people and every business school should run for it and say, this is the best opportunity we had for centuries. So go for it.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Oh my gosh, we heard it here first. I can't agree with you more in terms of the untapped potential and opportunity. Thank you. Denise.

DENISE R. ARNOLD: I don't know if we're making progress. I think that every day that Ben goes to school and he performs, he meets not only his expectations of what he wants to get out of it, but challenges the system and the University to be more accepting of him. That's progress. And that's hard on him. And that burden shouldn't be his. But that's what we're doing.

We get up and we go. And we're going to class and he's, you know, he's knocking it out of the park. I don't know where Ben's going to have employment. I don't know is he going to have his own company. Is he his own social entrepreneur? What will the future bring for him?

One thing that I've been trying to do as far as information and spreading information, I started a not-for-profit maybe five or six years ago. COVID set us back. It's called APLUS-- Autistic People Living in Urban Spaces. And the goal is to really talk about sensory integration disorder in the design of public space acoustics, lighting, facial, space planning arrangements.

I'm not in favor of hideaway rooms or rooms where-- detox rooms. I think that the entire space has to have opportunity for both oversensitive and undersensitive people with environmental noise and smells. And a big place to start is in the university setting, especially around cafeterias.

Also, smart wiring in the classrooms so that his iPad will be broadcast, his voice can be broadcast, and that people can hear his broadcast. And again, slow down. I mean, he talks by typing. He's pecking one letter at a time and he gets interrupted all the time or he gets accused of interrupting the teacher when he's still typing his thought.

And so if he was smart wire connected in the classroom, it would be both audible and visual. There's a lot of things going on with the technology that they're using that's a hindrance in textbooks. Textbooks can be redesigned instead of just having toggle tabs one, two, three, four so that he can type out what his answer is rather than typing out the entire answer.

There's a lot missing in textbook technology that can be addressed. I don't know if Kaust at Harvard with David Rose. I believe he retired, but they were doing a lot of work with Scholastic for the K through 12 population. But the higher education textbooks are not user-friendly. And could be a next challenge.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thank you. Progress is not a linear journey for sure. So some days we probably feel like there's progress. Other days we feel more like setbacks and a bit more zigging and zagging.

THORKIL SONNE: We're making progress, but people need to understand the brutal reality of us parents is that we are on the clock because we do have expiration date and we have to get a future action.

The neurodiversity roundtable and other groups like that need to partner with innovative startups, partner with the academia, like what we're doing today, and partner with technologies and really partner to take it to the next stage as a movement that can change the system.

And the action can start in July 17 where neurodiversity at work roundtable is meeting together with innovation and hopefully academia. And we can actually take actionable steps because I'm under the clock.

BRYAN BENJAMIN: Thorkil, Moish, Denise, thank you for joining. Thank you for being so open. Thank you for the important work that you're doing and being just so, so genuine and authentic.


DENISE R. ARNOLD: Thank you.

MOISH TOV: Thank you, Bryan.


SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Thank you for tuning in to Leadership in Practice. We'd like to thank our guests, Moish Tov, Denise Arnold, Thorkil Sonne, and Rob Austin. Leadership in Practice is produced by Joanna Shepherd, Rachel Jackson, and me, Sean Acklin Grant.

Editing and audio mix by Carol Eugene Park. If you like this episode, make sure to subscribe. You can also find more information by visiting or follow us on social media at Ivey Academy for more content, upcoming events, and programs. We hope you'll join us again soon.



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