How to Leverage Affinity Groups for Neurodiverse Employees

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ABA and other therapy-based organizations can support diversity as well as to encourage neurodiverse individuals to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Just one of the many ways that this can be accomplished is through affinity groups.

An affinity group can be beneficial for employees and for the company as a whole. Having an affinity group can boost employee morale. It can support the well-being of your employees and reduce staff turnover rates.

What is an affinity group?

An affinity group is a group of people who have a particular characteristic in common with one another. Typically, the characteristic that bonds the group members is something that is often seen as underrepresented in the workplace or in society. This characteristic is often something that is associated with less support, less opportunity, and more challenges when it comes to gaining and maintaining employment, fairness in the workplace and in society, and equitable privileges compared to the majority of the population or in comparison to other groups. An affinity group supports neurodiversity in the workplace.

Some examples of characteristics that might unite the individuals in an affinity group include gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical disability, mental health disorders, or neurological conditions. These are just some examples of the core theme of an affinity group that a workplace might develop to support a diverse workplace.

Benefits for Neurodiverse Employees

The affinity group will be supported by the organization in which it operates. The organization supports the ongoing development and operation of the affinity group and offers a safe space for group members to network, develop skills, and meet the needs of the group members. The group can offer an opportunity for professional development through specific training opportunities and/or mentorship opportunities. It can allow neurodiverse employees a structured environment in which to make relationships with coworkers which can typically be challenging for many neurodiverse people.

Being part of an affinity group at work can help neurodiverse employees to feel more confident in themselves. It can support group members to be comfortable and feel safe while promoting self-acceptance and acceptance of others. Neurodiverse employees who participate in affinity groups might also generalize this confidence into their interactions with others in the workplace as well as with the clients they serve and in their overall work performance. This feeling of safety, acceptance, and confidence not only has a positive impact on the organization’s functioning but also supports the well-being and quality of life of the individual employee.

Encouraging Adult Clients to Participate in Affinity Groups

ABA therapy providers who work with adults can help their clients to participate in affinity groups. Many older adolescents and adults who receive ABA therapy might work on employment-related skills in their treatment. A BCBA or ABA therapist might teach their clients how to identify their needs, how to advocate for themselves, how to access resources, and how to develop skills that would help obtain employment and for making that employment more suitable to the individuals’ needs, preferences, and functioning.

BCBAs (and ABA therapists) should consider whether it would be appropriate and helpful for their clients to encourage them and teach them how to participate in affinity groups in the workplace. To do this, the therapist might teach them what an affinity group is, how to find out whether a specific workplace offers an affinity group, and how to join the group if they do offer one or what to do if the workplace does not yet have an affinity group available.


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Implementing Affinity Groups in Your ABA Practice

ABA providers might also consider whether to implement affinity groups in their practice. Having an affinity group within your ABA organization can greatly benefit staff members, clients, and the company as a whole. As we mentioned, affinity groups support a diverse workplace. This resource helps neurodiverse people to have a better experience in the workplace which makes it more likely that they will be satisfied with their work and able to have the capacity to provide quality services. The affinity group will also support overall employee morale as the group can help build a sense of community and can create a support network for group members.

By offering affinity groups, you can attract new employees and can reduce staff turnover. By informing prospective employees that you care about diversity and creating an inclusive workplace, you will attract like-minded people. You’ll attract very talented people who might have been more difficult to recruit without having the affinity group.

Starting an Affinity Group in Your ABA Therapy Practice

There is not one specific method for starting and managing an affinity group, but there are a few things to consider when working toward the goal of incorporating an affinity group in your organization.

First, be sure to be specific about what your affinity group will be addressing. For instance, are you developing an affinity group to support people with autism spectrum disorder?

Next, promote the group within your organization to allow current employees to join the group community.

You will also need to ensure that you have identified what the exact function of the group will be as well as what group members will be doing in the group or for the group.

Defining roles in the group can also be helpful. For instance, will there be a president or a secretary? Will someone (or multiple people) be responsible for presentations to the group or to the community or to the rest of the organization?

Developing ABA Organizations

Affinity groups are one way you can support the growth of your ABA organization while also supporting current and future employees.

Another way to help your ABA organization grow and to support quality services is to utilize a highly respectable ABA practice management software like WebABA. Try out a free trial to see if WebABA is a good fit for your practice.

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