This Woman with Autism Shows Why Atypical Thinking Is a Strength
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When we think about diversity, we usually just think of ways we can include and represent people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. But diversity can be so much more than that — it can include neurodiversity, which focuses on people who think, communicate, and see the world in atypical ways. Alex Pearson, a person with autism, works to celebrate neurodiverse individuals’ strengths and abilities so they can ascend the ranks in the workplace.
Pearson is the director of neurodiversity programs at Potentia Workforce (Potentia), and the chief experience officer at the Neurodiversity Foundation. She has acquired a massive social media following on TikTok, and has created videos detailing her journey toward self-love, mental health and wellness, and her experiences being diagnosed with autism.
“I've never worked for an employer who saw my strengths and potential,” Pearson tells CircleAround. “In my most recent job, my 'divergent' ideas were either not considered or I had to fight considerably to get anyone to listen.”
To support individuals like herself, Pearson became involved in Potentia, which is dedicated to helping neurodiverse individuals get involved with workforce programs, outsourced technology projects, and innovative products for some of the world's largest corporations. Pearson also helps companies provide accommodations for individuals with visible and “invisible” disabilities.
I don't care how things have always been done.
“I don't care about how things have always been done," Pearson tells CircleAround. "I care about what solution is best based on a set of known truths, and I reason from the bottom up. This kind of thinking spurs innovation because it is the opposite of a common dilemma called ‘groupthink’ — where everyone agrees and conforms because the majority supports an idea or process.”
Given that neurodiverse individuals represent at least 20 percent of the adult population, Pearson feels we cannot talk fully about diversity, equity, and inclusion, without also talking about neurodiversity. Still, Pearson says it can be challenging to feel seen and heard. While her work with the Neurodiversity Foundation team helps dispel misconceptions about autism, there is still much work to be done.
“Because we think and feel differently from most, we always point the finger at ourselves as the center of every issue,” says Pearson. “It’s these differences, while presenting certain challenges, which actually contain often untapped strengths for the individual, for businesses, and for society overall.”
I am thrilled to dedicate my advocacy and work ethic to Potentia's mission of encouraging different ways of thinking and being at work.
“I am thrilled to dedicate my advocacy and work ethic to Potentia's mission of encouraging different ways of thinking and being at work," she says. "I am excited to remove barriers for people like me, so we can finally receive that opportunity we deserve... Encouraging employers to meet employees where they are, to accommodate needs, to hear their ideas, to lift them up, to invest in them — these kinds of behaviors produce wildly productive workplace cultures, with happy and healthy employees and increased team cohesion.”