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Our Stories: Tom & Heather

What would you like others to know about neurodiversity that they may not know?

Tom: First and foremost, I would like others to be aware of what the term “neurodiversity” actually means. I’ve heard it used interchangeably with the word “autism,” and this is limiting because it excludes other neurodivergent individuals or reasons behind why a person may think or learn differently.

In simple terms, neurodivergence is a way of thinking that is different from the way the majority of “neurotypical” individuals think. Autism is one condition that is considered “neurodivergent,” but there are many others, including (but not limited to) Dyslexia, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, and Dyscalculia. I think it’s important to be aware of this and recognize that neurodivergence is not low intelligence, only associated with a disability, or representative of a small portion of the population.

My nine-year-old son has a diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum and ADHD, and his unique way of interacting with the world allows him to see patterns and connections that aren’t immediately obvious to my wife and me. What I find most inspiring about my son is his gift to truly not be affected by the opinions of others – where many kids his age are hyper-focused on what their classmates are doing, wearing, etc., my son never worries about what his classmates think is cool. As a result, he pursues his own interests freely and has an impressively deep knowledge of all his favorite things – the top of which are sloths, sea turtles, and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Heather: I want to educate people on why EY created a Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence (NCOE). First, neurodiversity is part of everyday business operations at EY – it is not part of a corporate social responsibility or DE&I program. The members of the NCOE have the aptitude, acumen, and problem-solving skills associated with EY’s standards for excellence. It has been our experience that neurodivergent individuals bring a unique skillset to the table that leads to creative solutions for the problems our clients face. In some cases, our NCOE has been able to shed light on problems or inefficiencies before the clients themselves were aware.

By standing up the global NCOE model, EY has been able to provide meaningful employment to an underrepresented group of people while creating value that organizations can uniquely create towards innovation and transformation efforts for companies and communities. Some of our NCOE team members have joined us from entry-level and gone on to identify innovative solutions internally and for our clients. Investing in talent from any underrepresented community, including neurodivergent individuals, is a win-win for people and businesses.

What is one thought you’d like everyone to walk away with after reading this?

Tom: The real path to disruptive and transformative solutions is when we leverage the unique abilities of all individuals and embrace the power of divergent thinking.

Heather: I would like to challenge everyone to stray from the notion that you have to think like the majority to have a “great mind.” Consider the magic that can happen when we all don’t think alike!

To learn more about the power of building teams with neurodiverse abilities, take a few minutes to read What happens when great minds don’t think alike?


  • Tom Markley – Global Client Executive at EY

  • Heather Tartaglia – EY Global and Americas Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence Market Activation Leader

  • Hiren Shukla – EY Global and Americas Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence Leader

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