From Deficit to Difference: A Cross-Cultural Communication Approach to Neurodiversity in the Workplace

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From Deficit to Difference: A Cross-Cultural Communication Approach to Neurodiversity in the Workplace

18 April, 2023 @ 1:00 pm 2:30 pm CDT

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in organizations are slowly beginning to turn their attention to the issue of neurodiversity, or neurological differences, in their hiring and retention efforts (Bernick, 2022). Universities also have increased awareness and services for students on the Autism Spectrum (Clouder et al., 2020). However, the current paradigm frames individuals who are neurologically different than the dominant norm, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) conditions, as having a disorder. They are described as having deficits in social interaction because they have difficulty interpreting non-verbal, contextual, and emotional cues. This label and description are based upon neuronormative assumptions about communication that stigmatize those who are neurologically different from the dominant norm. To help construct more inclusive and equitable workplace environments, this presentation offers a cross-cultural approach that recognizes ASD communication as a difference in communication styles rather than a deficit and provides a cross-cultural communication framework for understanding how these differences might be bridged.


After completing this program, social workers, program administrators, and other participants will be able to:

  1. Discuss neurodiversity as an economic issue, a workplace inclusion issue, and a workplace justice issue
  2. Review emancipatory and inclusive vocabulary related to neurodiversity
  3. Describe issues faced by neurodivergent individuals in the workplace
  4. Explore the harm caused by and the injustice of a deficit-based lens on neurodivergent employees
  5. Review a cross-cultural communication framework for bridging differences between neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals
  6. Describe promising strategies for more inclusive recruitment and retention of neurodivergent employees


Dr. Marlo Goldstein Hode currently serves as the Senior Manager of Strategic Diversity Initiatives for the University of Missouri St. Louis’ Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Staff Ombuds. In addition to professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, she leads UMSL’s Equity Advisor initiative to support the recruitment and retention of faculty from diverse backgrounds. She holds a courtesy faculty position in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She is the co-author of DEI 2.0 – A Toolkit for Building Your Own Online Diversity Course. As a scholar, she has several publications in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters on various topics including sexual harassment, neurodiversity, racial issues on campus, and the effectiveness of online professional development courses. She also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

Marlo received her BA in Communication from North Carolina State University, an MA in Intercultural Communication from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, an LLM in Dispute Resolution from the University of Missouri School of Law, and a PhD in Organizational Communication with a minor in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri.