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GlobalMinded Interview

10/26/22, 12:00 AM

Nurturing Her Neurodiverse Son Sparked Passion and Founding of Neurodiversity Works: Meet Nicole Corder

"In a world that too often views people through a lens of deficit or disability, choose to view people through a lens of ability. This way, there are opportunities for everyone."

This comment from Nicole Corder, who inspired us at GlobalMindED this past June, encompasses the way in which she navigates through the world. We are honored to share her story with you during National Disability Employment Awareness Month and invite you to join us in celebrating the ways in which people are differently abled with this compassionate mother and thoughtful leader.

What key moments in your life led you to where you are?

After giving birth to my son, Blake in 2011, life changed. He is the most incredible, funny, smart, determined, caring, and kind-hearted person I have ever known. However, being his mother has opened pandora's box about a world where discrimination against disability is fierce.

Blake has autism, a neurological condition that affects the way he thinks, processes information, and behaves. He also has co-occurring additional medical conditions that make him quite complex. Beginning soon after his birth, I met with medical professionals regarding his conditions, which became overwhelming. It wasn't so much the new medical jargon I was learning for the first time, the different specialties we were now integrated into, or the countless appointments and logistics of having a special needs child. No, it was the overarching negative narrative I was repeatedly told by medical "professionals" about my son’s disabilities and everything that he lacked. There was little concentration on his strengths.

I went back to college and attained a degree in Speech Language Hearing Sciences. It was my journey to dive deep into the world of disabilities and educate myself, both for my understanding and to be more knowledgeable to care for and support my son. Blake now talks, walks, learns, loves, and wants to be included in activities just like any other 11-year-old child would. I praise the community of like-minded special-need families that rally together, hold each other up, and believe in what our children can do, rather than what they can't. We give energy and attention to nurturing the strengths of our children. We do not see our children as disabled (without ability) but rather as differently abled with their special gifts.

Where does your passion to serve and support the neurodiverse community come from?

My passion to serve and support the neurodiverse community first came from my personal family connection to neurodiversity. I realized that this population is exceptionally talented, dedicated, and passionate. Some neurodiverse conditions include autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and mood conditions. You might be neurodiverse yourself or know someone with one or more of those conditions.

Nearly 20% (1 in 5) of the population is neurodiverse. Yet there is an 85% under/unemployment rate in the neurodiverse workforce.

When my life partner, Jason San Souci ∞ and I learned of this, we were shocked and decided to act. We founded Neurodiversity Works, a nonprofit that pairs my passion for the disability community and nonprofit work with his career expertise in UAS (unmanned aerial systems) and geospatial technologies. We prepare neurodiverse students for careers in the drone industry (pilots, analysts, management, etc). We develop targeted technical training programs, foster relationships between students and industry mentors, and work with employers to advocate for neurodiversity hiring programs.

Coming June 2023, we are launching Neurodiversity Drone Day Camp which is a collaborative three-day camp for neurodiverse students that covers everything you need to know to use drones for mapping and data collection. We are looking for sponsors, instructors, collaborators, and volunteers - and, of course, STUDENTS.

As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, how can communities join and better support neurodiverse talent in the workplace with celebration and respect?

People should be able to bring their best selves to work and feel supported and encouraged. Making accommodations or universal support available to everyone means no one needs to be singled out to ask for additional support. Neurodiversity must be considered in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) development, as only 1 in 10 organizations say they consider neurodiversity in their people management practices. This means employers are missing out on recruiting and retaining neurodiverse team members who think differently, benefiting creativity, innovation, and productivity.

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