Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults

Br Med Bull. 2020 Oct 14;135(1):108-125. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldaa021.


Introduction: The term neurodiversity is defined and discussed from the perspectives of neuroscience, psychology and campaigners with lived experience, illustrating the development of aetiological theories for included neurodevelopmental disorders. The emerging discourse is discussed with relevance to adults, social inclusion, occupational performance and the legislative obligations of organizations.

Sources of data: Literature is reviewed from medicine, psychiatry, psychology, sociology and popular press. No new data are presented in this article.

Areas of agreement: There is consensus regarding some neurodevelopmental conditions being classed as neurominorities, with a 'spiky profile' of executive functions difficulties juxtaposed against neurocognitive strengths as a defining characteristic.

Areas of controversy: The developing nomenclature is debated and the application of disability status versus naturally occurring difference. Diagnosis and legal protections vary geographically, resulting in heretofore unclear guidance for practitioners and employers.

Growing points: The evolutionary critique of the medical model, recognizing and updating clinical approaches considering the emerging consensus and paradigmatic shift.

Areas timely for developing research: It is recommended that research addresses more functional, occupational concerns and includes the experiences of stakeholders in research development, moving away from diagnosis and deficit towards multi-disciplinary collaboration within a biopsychosocial model.

Keywords: ADHD; DCD; accommodations; autism; disability; dyslexia; neurodevelopmental disorders; neurodiversity; reasonable adjustments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Consensus
  • Humans
  • Models, Biopsychosocial*