Working with Neurodivergent Clients, Part 2: Navigating Conversations Around Disclosure and Accommodations

By Ashley Cross

This article expands upon the concepts and best practices covered in
Working with Neurodivergent Clients Part 1: How Career Practitioners Can Support the Job Search (Cross, 2023).

According to recent findings by TextHelp (n.d.), 61% of neurodivergent (ND) professionals reported experiencing stigma in the workplace, 56% encountered communication barriers at work, and 34% faced difficulty in the application and recruitment process. This data signifies the need for ND job seekers and employees to be their own advocates and experts, and the important role career practitioners can play in supporting them.

The Pros and Cons of Self-Disclosure

In most instances, whether in the recruitment process or post-hire, an ND client may choose to disclose their neurodivergence with an employer to request accommodations. ND clients may also share this information to:

  • Relate to and communicate better with their supervisor and colleagues (Jacobs, 2023)
  • Clarify a behavior during an interview, especially if it can be misinterpreted, such as lack of eye contact (Thoburn, 2019)
  • Relieve pressure from needing to “mask” their ND traits, to feel more authentic and productive at work (Jacobs, 2023)

Conversely, ND clients may assume that disclosing their neurodivergence to an employer can negatively impact their career. ND job seekers might worry that self-disclosure and/or requesting accommodations could lead to discrimination. ND employees might be concerned about being overlooked for promotional opportunities, receiving biased performance reviews, or being fired as a result of their disclosure (Praslova, 2021).

Supporting ND Clients Around Self-Advocacy and Disclosure

Dr. Megan Anna Neff, a psychologist diagnosed with Autism-ADHD later in life, created a Self-Disclosure Thermometer (Neff, n.d.) to help ND clients determine how much to disclose, and to whom. Using this tool, career practitioners can empower clients to identify the degree (pun intended) to which they feel comfortable disclosing in certain situations.

Additionally, Neff created a three-part formula to aid conversations involving requests: self-advocacy = self-disclosure + education + request. For example, instead of disclosing a diagnosis like ADHD, a client can share the following:

  1. Self-Disclosure: I have difficulty processing auditory information.
  2. Education: This means background noise is overly distracting for me.
  3. Request: Can we continue this conversation somewhere quieter?

Determining the Workplace Request: Accommodation or Adjustment?

For the purpose of this article, an accommodation is a modification that enables individuals with disabilities to perform their job duties, which is legally protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA; U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.).  Requesting accommodations often requires providing an employer with medical documentation and proof of disability (Thoburn, 2019). Clients might encounter frustration with the lengthy process and may perceive conversations with HR regarding requests as invasive and clinical in nature.

On the other hand, a workplace adjustment is a modification to a ND’s workplace to make it more sustainable. Although anyone can informally request a workplace adjustment from their manager, the employer is not obligated to respond unless it is written into an employee contract or handbook.

Workplace adjustments, or accommodations (if tied to a disability), might include:

  • A blue screen filter for a computer to reduce glare
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Closed captions, transcripts, or video off for virtual meetings
  • Assistive technology, including dictation, text-to-speech, or project management software
  • Use of fidget devices in meetings

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN)’s A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations (n.d.-a) offers additional accommodation  and adjustment suggestions.

Istock 534369813 Credit Sjale

Deciding to Self-Disclose and/or Request Accommodations

ND clients may look to the career practitioner for assistance in weighing the pros and cons of self-disclosure, as well as the timing and potential impact on future employment. This could take place at various stages:

  • In applying for roles: ND clients should apply for roles they can perform, with or without accommodations. Encourage clients to think of accommodations as “productivity enhancers” to achieve optimal work performance (Office of Disability Employment Policy, n.d.) upon applying for the role.
  • In the initial online application: ND clients might be unsure how to respond to the Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability Form found in online job applications. Clients have no obligation to disclose their disability status; this questionnaire is used for statistical purposes only (JAN, n.d.-b).
  • During the interview process: It may be appropriate to disclose before or during an interview, especially when requesting accommodations such as altering an interview format, requesting more time to complete tests, or asking for interview questions in advance (Thoburn, 2019).
  • At the offer stage: According to JAN, “the information revealed during post-offer cannot be used to rescind a job offer unless it can be shown that the individual would be unable to perform the essential functions of the job (with or without accommodation)” (n.d.-b, Disability Disclosure section).
  • In the workplace: A client may self-disclose or request adjustments/accommodations at any time. The ADA recommends disclosing a disability before it starts affecting work performance (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.).

This Disclosing Disability for Employment Handout (UNC Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, 2018) provides an overview of opportunities for a job candidate to self-disclose, as well as a list of questions the candidate should deliberate.

Coaching ND Clients through the Accommodation and Adjustment Process

Career practitioners can use the following steps as clients consider the process.

  1. Identify the client’s concerns and goals for making a request. Encourage the client to provide specific details about their work challenge(s).
    • What have they already tried to address this issue? What did or did not work?
    • What would work/life look like without this challenge?
    • What could the employer do/offer to improve the situation?
  2. Explore accommodations together, based on client’s role, through use of the JAN website (n.d.-c). Demonstrate how to navigate the website in-session to help the client locate key resources, such as language around requesting and negotiating accommodations.
  3. Gather resources and build a supportive network. Advise ND clients to investigate legal, organizational, and interpersonal resources to become their own advocate.
    • Help ND clients familiarize themselves with local and state laws, as well as the ADA.
    • Have clients research company policies, identify workplace allies, and seek support from affinity groups (Yao, 2023).
    • Inquire about the client's company's employee assistance program (EAP) for legal, financial, or mental health services.
    • If clients need specialists to address ND-specific challenges, career practitioners can help clients search for executive functioning coaching, vocational rehabilitation, speech therapy, or occupational therapy.

Career practitioners can make an impact on ND clients who are ambivalent about self-disclosing and requesting accommodations or adjustments. By providing resources and support, practitioners can help clients prepare for conversations, advocate for their needs, and identify alternative solutions for the job search and workplace.



Cross, A. (2023, December 1). Working with neurodivergent clients, part 1: How career practitioners can support the job search. Career Convergence. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/549094/_PARENT/CC_layout_details/false

Jacobs, E. (2023, February 26). The benefits of revealing neurodiversity in the workplace. The Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/3ce77408-34ab-4cbc-b12f-f8b2760c8552

Job Accommodation Network. (n.d.-a). A to z of disabilities and accommodations. https://askjan.org/a-to-z.cfm

Job Accommodation Network. (n.d.-b). Disability disclosure. https://askjan.org/topics/Disability-Disclosure.cfm

Job Accommodation Network. (n.d.-c). Information by role. https://askjan.org/info-by-role.cfm#for-individuals

Neff, M.A. (n.d.). Bachelor, self-disclosure and self-advocacy. Neurodivergent Insights. https://neurodivergentinsights.com/mentalhealthresources/lets-talk-the-bachelor

Office of Disability Employment Policy. (n.d.). Accommodations. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/program-areas/employers/accommodations

Praslova, L.N. (2021, December 13). Autism doesn’t hold people back at work. Discrimination does. Harvard Business Review: Ascend. https://hbr.org/2021/12/autism-doesnt-hold-people-back-at-work-discrimination-does

TextHelp. (n.d.). Neurodiversity: A look at real life experiences in the world of work. Retrieved April 2, 2024. https://mautic.texthelp.com/neurodiversity-inclusion?utm_campaign=Private-Sector%257CNA-WP-RW-Neurodiversity-POV-WP-ENG-2022-AUG&utm_medium=Gated&utm_source=Mautic&utm_content=Neurodiversity%2520POV%2520Whitepaper

Thoburn, T. (2019, April 1). Disclosing a hidden disability in the employment setting. Career Convergencehttps://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/223630/_self/CC_layout_details/true 

UNC Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. (2018). Disclosing disability for employment handout. https://www.cidd.unc.edu/docs/CommunityTalk/2018/DisclosingaDisabilityfor%20employment%20handout.pdf

U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Job accommodations. https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/disability/jobaccommodations#:~:text=A%20job%20accommodation%20is%20an,to%20work%20schedules%20or%20responsibilities

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Fact sheet: Disability discrimination. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/fact-sheet-disability-discrimination

Yao, V. (2023, May 29). Should I share my mental health diagnosis with my manager? Atypical Careers.com. https://www.atypicalcareers.com/blog/should-i-share-my-mental-health-diagnosis-with-my-manager/


Ashley CrossAshley Cross is a Global Career Development Facilitator with 10 years of career coaching experience. Ashley is nonbinary (they/she), neurodivergent, and an associate director of career services at Carnegie Mellon University, working with STEM graduate students. Ashley holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Rollins College and provides more insights on neurodivergence in her blog, found at https://www.acrosscareers.com/blog. They are an active member of the Pennsylvania Career Development Association, and NCDA. Ashley can be reached at acrosscareers@gmail.com


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