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Employees with ADHD – Job Accommodations

Is ADHD affecting your work? Get help.

What is AD/HD?

Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects three to five percent of American children and adults. AD/HD is usually diagnosed in childhood, and the condition can continue into the adult years. Many individuals with AD/HD are undiagnosed until adulthood (NINDS, 2011).

The common characteristics of AD/HD are impulsivity, inattention, and/or over-activity (DSM-IV-TR, 2000). Failure to listen to instructions, inability to organize oneself and work tasks, fidgeting with hands and feet, talking too much, inability to stay on task, leaving projects, chores and work tasks unfinished, and having trouble paying attention to and responding to details are the primary symptoms of AD/HD. Although individuals may have both inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, many individuals predominantly display one symptom more than another. Therefore, the DSM-IV-TR identifies three subtypes that can be diagnosed:

  • AD/HD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type:  The major characteristics are fidgeting, talking excessively, interrupting others when talking, and impatience.
  • AD/HD predominantly inattentive type:  The major characteristics are distractibility, organization problems, failure to give close attention to details, difficulty processing information quickly and accurately, and difficulty following through with instructions.
  • AD/HD combined type:  The individual with combined type meets the criteria for both hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive type.

What causes AD/HD?
Scientists are not sure what causes ADHD, although many studies suggest that genes play a large role. Like many other illnesses, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors, and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and the social environment might contribute to ADHD (NIMH, 2011).
How is AD/HD treated?
Currently available treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning. Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments. Much like children with the disorder, adults with ADHD are treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of treatments (NIMH, 2009).

AD/HD and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Is AD/HD a disability under the ADA?
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet (EEOC Regulations . . ., 2011). Therefore, some people with AD/HD will have a disability under the ADA and some will not.

A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment (EEOC Regulations . . . , 2011). For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, visit http://AskJAN.org/corner/vol05iss04.htm.

Accommodating Employees with AD/HD

Note: People with AD/HD may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with AD/HD will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations does the employee with AD/HD experience?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine accommodations?
  5. Can the employee provide information on possible accommodation solutions?
  6. Once accommodations are in place, can meetings take place to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations? Can meetings take place to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  7. Would human resources or personnel departments, supervisors, or coworkers benefit from education, training or disability awareness regarding learning disabilities? Can it be provided?

Accommodation Ideas

Time Management: Individuals with AD/HD may experience difficulty managing time, which can affect their ability to mark time as it passes incrementally by minutes and hours. It can also affect their ability to gauge the proper amount of time to set aside for certain tasks. It may be difficult to prepare for, or to remember, work activities that occur later in the week, month, or year.

  • Divide large assignments into several small tasks
  • Set a timer to make an alarm after assigning ample time to complete a task
  • Provide a checklist of assignments
  • Supply an electronic or handheld organizer, and train on how to use effectively
  • Use wall calendar to emphasize due dates
    • Develop a color-coded system (each color represents a task, or event, or level of importance)
    • Allow co-worker or supervisor to add entries on the calendar, or to double-check entries added by the employee with AD/HD

Memory: Individuals with AD/HD may experience memory deficits, which can affect their ability to complete tasks, remember job duties, or recall daily actions or activities.

  • Provide written instructions
  • Allow additional training time for new tasks
  • Offer training refreshers
  • Use a flowchart to indicate steps in a task
  • Provide verbal or pictorial cues
  • Use post-it notes as reminders of important dates or tasks

Concentration:  Individuals with AD/HD may experience decreased concentration, which can be attributed to auditory distractions (that can be heard) and/or visual distractions (that can be seen). People with AD/HD report distractions such as office traffic and employee chatter, opening and closing of elevator doors, and common office noises such as fax tones and photocopying.

  • To reduce auditory distractions:
    • Purchase a noise canceling headset
    • Hang sound absorption panels
    • Provide a white noise machine
    • Relocate employee’s office space away from audible distractions
    • Redesign employee’s office space to minimize audible distractions
  • To reduce visual distractions:
    • Install space enclosures (cubicle walls)
    • Reduce clutter in the employee’s work environment
    • Redesign employee’s office space to minimize visual distractions
    • Relocate employee’s office space away from visual distractions

Organization and Prioritization: Individuals with AD/HD may have difficulty getting or staying organized, or have difficulty prioritizing tasks at work.

  • Develop color-code system for files, projects, or activities
  • Use weekly chart to identify daily work activities
  • Use the services of a professional organizer
  • Use a job coach to teach/reinforce organization skills
  • Assign a mentor to help employee
  • Allow supervisor to assign prioritization of tasks
  • Assign new project only when a previous project is complete, when possible
  • Provide a “cheat sheet” of high-priority activities, projects, people, etc.

Social Skills:  Individuals with AD/HD may have limitations in adaptive skills, such as communicating with others, or exhibiting appropriate social skills. This might manifest itself as interrupting others when working or talking, demonstrating poor listening skills, not making eye contact when communicating, or inability to correctly read body language or understand innuendo.

  • Provide a job coach to help understand different social cues
  • Identify areas of improvement for employee in a fair and consistent manner
  • Make attendance at social activities optional
  • Use training videos to demonstrate appropriate behavior in workplace
  • Encourage employees to minimize personal conversation or move personal conversation away from work areas
  • Provide sensitivity training (disability awareness) to all employees
  • Encourage all employees to model appropriate social skills
  • Adjust the supervisory method to better fit the employee’s needs
  • Allow the employee to work from home
  • Adjust method of communication to best suit the employee’s needs
  • Use role-play scenarios to demonstrate appropriate behavior in workplace

 

Hyperactivity/Impulsivity:  Individuals with AD/HD Hyperactivity-Impulsive type may exhibit over-activity or impulsive behavior. This could be disruptive to the work environment or could inhibit efficient and effective work performance.

  • Provide structured breaks to create an outlet for physical activity
  • Utilize a job coach to teach/reinforce techniques to control impulsivity
  • Allow the employee to work from home
  • Review conduct policy with employee
  • Adjust method of supervision to better prepare employee for feedback, disciplinary action, and other communication about job performance
  • Use services of EAP
  • Provide private workspace where employee will not disturb others by tapping, humming, or fidgeting

Multi-tasking: Individuals with AD/HD may experience difficulty performing many tasks at one time. This difficulty could occur regardless of the similarity of tasks or the frequency of performing the tasks.

  • Separate tasks so that each can be completed one at a time
  • Create a flowchart of tasks that must be performed at the same time, carefully labeling or color-coding each task in sequential or preferential order
  • Provide individualized/specialized training to help employee learn techniques for multi-tasking (e.g., typing on computer while talking on phone)
  • Identify tasks that must be performed simultaneously and tasks that can be performed individually
  • Provide specific feedback to help employee target areas of improvement
  • Remove or reduce distractions from work area
  • Supply ergonomic equipment to facilitate multi-tasking
  • Clearly represent performance standards such as completion time or accuracy rates

Paperwork: Individuals with AD/HD may experience difficulty completing paperwork efficiently and effectively. This is due in part to workplace distractions and difficulty with time management, disorganization, or prioritization.

  • When possible, automate paperwork by creating electronic files
  • Use speech recognition software to enter text or data into electronic files
  • Save time filling out paper forms by completing information in advance, using pre-filled forms, or adhering pre-printed stickers
  • Use checklists in place of writing text
  • Supply large quantities of regularly-used forms
  • Color-code forms for easy identification
  • Re-design commonly used forms
    • Use large font
    • Double space or triple space
    • Provide adequate space for hand-written response

You’ll find more appropriate accommodations in JAN’s article on Executive Function Deficits. http://askjan.org/media/execfunc.html

Attendance: Individuals may have difficulty getting to work promptly because of the varied activities, processes, and interruptions they may experience while preparing to leave their home and/or during their commute.

  • Allow flexible work environment:
    • Flexible scheduling
    • Modified break schedule
    • Work from home/Flexi-place

Getting to Work on Time: Employers can have time and attendance standards for all employees. Because getting to work on time is the responsibility of the employee, the following ideas are for employees who are having trouble getting to work on time because of executive function deficits:

  • Have a routine of putting and keeping things in their place (keys, phone, glasses)
  • Prepare for the next day’s work the night before
  • Create a checklist for yourself and others
  • Place sticky notes on the door, dashboard, or wherever you will see them
  • Turn off distractions – including cell phones
  • Set a timer or a programmable watch to pace yourself

 

 

Situations and Solutions:

A journalist with AD/HD experienced sensitivity to visual and auditory distractions. The employer provided the individual with a private, high-wall cubicle workspace in a low-traffic area. The employer added an environmental sound machine to mask office noise.

A social worker with AD/HD had difficulty completing handwritten paperwork in a neat and timely fashion. The employer created electronic forms for the employee, which allowed him to type responses. The employer arranged computer files labeled by month to help the employee prioritize open cases. The employer also sent email reminders of deadlines.

An office worker with AD/HD experienced impulsivity and often interrupted co-workers by entering offices without knocking. The employer helped identify appropriate techniques for approaching co-workers, such as keeping a daily list of tasks to discuss with others, then emailing or calling to set aside time to talk about work-related projects.

A retail employee with AD/HD often forgot the closing and cash-out procedures, which resulted in missed printouts of daily sale reports. The employer created a numbered checklist that identified each step for proper closing procedures and identified which reports to run from cash registers. This accommodation benefited all employees.

A delivery person with AD/HD had difficulty with time management. She spent excessive time making deliveries and would forget to return to the warehouse between daily runs. The employer provided a personal organizer watch that could be programmed to beep and display a written message many times throughout the day. This auditory and written prompt helped the employee move quicker from task to task, and helped remind her to return to the warehouse to gather her next load.

A teacher with AD/HD experienced disorganization in her classroom due to clutter from many years of teaching. The employer provided a job coach to help the teacher learn organization techniques, to help separate and store items, and to dispose of previous student work and projects from yesteryear.

 

Information about JAN

Source – Job Accommodation Network – Accommodation and Compliance Series: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,  Retrieved December, 6, 2105 from https://askjan.org/media/adhd.html

The Job Accommodation Network is a service of U.S. DOL’s Office of Disability Employment. Article may be reprinted without copyright infringement.


JAN provides free, confidential technical assistance about job accommodations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

(800)526-7234 (Voice) 
(877)781-9403 (TTY)
Live Help
Email

JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance Series is designed to help employers determine effective accommodations and comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This information provides a starting point in the accommodation process and may not address every situation. Accommodations should be made on a case by case basis, considering each employee’s individual limitations and accommodation needs.

References

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

EEOC Regulations To Implement the Equal Employment Provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as Amended, 29 C.F.R. § 1630 (2011).

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2009). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Retrieved November 17, 2011, fromhttp://www.nimh.nih.gov

National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) (2006). NINDS attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder information page. Retrieved November 17, 2011,from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/adhd/adhd.htm

Updated 03/01/13

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How to Take Action when You’re Not Interested

Have a few strategies ready to help you take action.

By Marla Cummins

As an adult with ADHD, you know that it is much easier to follow through on tasks that interest you. So, of course, the more of these you can have on your plate the better.

But the reality is we all have tasks we don’t want to do, and for one reason or another they still need to be on our plate. We can’t delegate, barter, drop or defer these tasks. We need to do them. Now!

Obviously, these are also the tasks that we are most likely to procrastinate on starting, never mind completing.

And, while we are dragging our feet on these tasks, they still take up a great deal of our mental time and energy. Consider the following statements as they relate to a task you are putting off.

  • While I really don’t want to do                      (fill in the blank), I am thinking about it a lot, even worrying about it.
  • And thoughts of it will pop into my head at random times, distracting me from tending to my task(s) at hand.
  • I will likely be behind the eight ball when I eventually get around to it, and will need to put aside everything else to get it done.
  • Another day. Another fire drill!

So, how do we follow through on those tasks that having us screaming, “I don’t wanna!!!”

What About The Task Turns You Off?

First, figure out what about the task turns you off. Here are some possibilities:

  • It bores me. Simple as that.
  • It takes too much time and energy because it is hard for me.
  • It is not important to me.
  • I have too many other tasks on my list… “Take a number and fall to the back of the line” is what comes to mind when I think of this task.
  • My other reasons are…

Once you’ve figured out why you don’t want to do a task, the next step is to figure out what you can do to follow through on those tasks that must fall on your plate.

Because often it is the not deciding and not doing that can contribute significantly to your feelings of overwhelm.

Activating the Reward System

Then, take into consideration the other challenges that may be getting in your way. An understanding of the process that happens in the brain’s Reward System is a good place to start.

In simplified terms:

We make choices and prioritize goals when a sensory stimulus is sent and processed in the brain indicating a reward is on the way.

When a reward is anticipated, dopamine is released to various parts of the brain, which activates our motor functionsattention and memory pathway. (When the memory of this stimulus and associated reward is in place, we will be more likely to tackle the task next time.)

When the reward is concrete, it is easy to do something because we are motivated by the obvious anticipated reward. But here is what may happen when you think about doing the report you dread that is due in two days:

♦ As you look at the bathroom, you think, “I should clean the bathroom. Then I’ll do the report.”

♦ Then when you sit down at the computer, a notification from Facebook comes in. “Facebook, take me away from all of this…. I need a break before I start the report.”

♦ “Wow. Look at all those emails. I really need to answer those before doing the report!”

When deciding to clean the bathroom, look at FB or plow through your emails the stimulus is right in front of you and the reward is immediate. Because the reward for doing the report is not so obvious or immediate, it is harder to make the connection at the moment.

In this simplified version, you can see that your motivation to do a task is related to the immediacy of the reward when all is working as it should be in the Reward System of the brain.

Remembering Your “Why”

True enough. It is important for everyone to make the connection between doing a task that may not be intrinsically interesting and the potential rewards.

Here are some possible starting points:

  • I want to be successful at my job and doing reports is just part of the gig.
  • These reports are important to have the data we need to make good business decisions.
  • The reports actually aren’t that important to me, but I want to be a dependable team player. And Bob really needs these reports…

But you need to have a visceral connection to the payoffnot just an intellectual connection. That is, you want to be able to really feel and see the reward in all colors of the rainbow. To do this you will need to go one step further.

For example, you might want to think about having a visual cue (pictures, quotes totems, etc.) to help you remember what it will feel like when you are successful; you can look at this item in those moments when you think, “I don’t wanna!”

Check out this list of 20 Tools to Enhance your Memory for more examples of ways to address the challenge of a weak working memory.

Not Enough Dopamine

Now you are thinking, “Ok, got it, Marla. I have to make the connection between the task and the reward. But I don’t think that is going to be enough…”

You are right!

Along with a weak working memory, it is believed that there is not enough dopamine in the ADHD Brain to carry out the processes in the Reward System, particularly motor functions and attending.

So, even when you can really feel the reward of a task that does not interest you may still:

  • feel like you are standing in cement.
  • avoid it – not do it or think about it.

Not to despair, though. You’ll just have to incorporate a few more workarounds in order to get going.

Knowing Why Is Not Enough

Yes, it is important to acknowledge that there are going to be times you are bored. It happens. And remember that your particular brain chemistry makes it harder than for neurotypical people

Be that as it may, you can still be proactive in meeting the challenge of doing these type of tasks by having a few strategies ready to employ when you feel resistance to doing a task you need to do. Here are a few options:

  • making a game out of a task, such as “beat the clock.”
  • setting a timer for the amount of time you think you can tolerate working on a particular task.
  • timing when you do a boring task to when you take your stimulant medication.
  • taking a break and doing something else. Then coming back to the task when you have more energy
  • taking notes during meetings to keep your attention.
  • using a fidget toy help keep you on task.

What other strategies have you used?

ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line

Getting started and following through on tasks that are not immediately interesting for you is harder for Adults with ADHD.

But taking the above steps, and getting the support you need, can make it easier!

 

By Marla Cummins. Please visit Marla’s website at www.marlacummins.com for additional articles and resources on Adult ADHD. Original article posted at: http://marlacummins.com/adhd-finding-your-motivation-when-youre-not-interested/

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Managing Overwhelm at Work

Connect your work with your deepest goals and values.

Connect your work with your deepest goals and values.

By Kari Miller

If poor concentration, inconsistent follow-through and a feeling of being overwhelmed get in your way, you’ll want to improve your workplace productivity. Make changes that guarantee you complete priority tasks to increase your income and give you more free time for yourself and your family.

 

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

 

  • You easily get sidetracked, jumping from task to task or thought to thought.
  • When you think about a big project it feels overwhelming and you can’t figure out how to get started, so you just put it off.
  • You schedule more things in a day than you can get done and consistently underestimate how long it will take to accomplish things – which means you’re always running behind.
  • You spend time looking for things that seem to be misplaced only to find them right in front of you.
  • Despite feeling constantly “busy,” you never seem to be “productive.”
  • You feel more clear-headed, alert and focused when you drink coffee or soda, or smoke cigarettes.

 

Tips to managing overwhelm at work

 

If you are dealing with these signs of workplace overload, you’ll want to put the following workplace productivity tips into action.

 

Remove the “clutter” from your surroundings 

 

One key to better concentration is to limit the distractions around you.  Start by choosing one important thing you are going to work on NOW.  Make a commitment to do this one task to the best of your ability.  Write the name of the task on a post it note and stick the note up on your computer or desk, right in front of you so you can’t miss it.  Clear all unnecessary things from your desk.  Close unneeded computer programs.  Put the task “in the spotlight” so it grabs your attention!

 

Remove the “clutter” from your mind

 

There’s an old saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” In this case it means that productivity is the result of mental clarity.  There are many things you can do   Evaluate your patterns in the following areas and look for ways to improve your basic health and to sharpen your mental acuity.

 

Exercise

If you are not exercising every day your body is not adequately eliminating toxins, and these toxins are clouding your mind.

 

Diet

If your diet does not contain adequate nutrients, your mind is paying the price in terms of concentration and memory.

 

Water

The brain is 75% water and functions by conducting electrical impulses. Your mind will function more quickly and smoothly if your body is properly hydrated.

 

Sleep

If sleep is a problem for you, it may help to relax your nervous system for at least an hour every night before turning off the light.

 

Here are a few of my favorite ways to calm your body so your mind can rest:

  • take a warm shower or bath
  • use soothing smells such as lavender either as a lotion or potpourri
  • put on soothing music or a favorite DVD, lie down, close your eyes and just listen
  • learn reiki or chakra meditation techniques to take control of your body’s energy system

 

If you are not giving your body the things it needs to run smoothly, your workplace productivity will suffer.  Commit to making changes that will support your body’s ability to do its job smoothly and efficiently or you’ll suffer from “garbage out”!!!

 

Make changes in your physical environment

 

There are several ways you can plan your environment to improve your concentration, follow through and productivity.  Figure out how you work best in terms of the arrangement of furniture, the kind of chair you use, the lighting and the temperature.

 

Include movement as a natural element to your work routine. Great ways to do this include alternating sitting with standing or walking.  Get an extension for your telephone and attach a headset so you can get up and move around while you talk on the phone.  Stand on a balance board while working. This stimulates the attention control center of the brain.

 

Create “flexible workstations.” Set up two locations outfitted for work and alternate between them every hour or so. This will stimulate your mind and improve concentration. One of your stations can be a high table where you stand while working.  You can stand on the balance board at this station, stimulating your nervous system for better attention and concentration.

 

Shine a spotlight on your values and goals

 

The most powerful productivity strategy is to connect your work with your deepest goals and values. Find a way to connect what you are doing now to your most cherished beliefs. Find the deep and profound “why” of every task.

 

For example, if paperwork is boring to you but people really matter to you, find creative ways to remember that you do the paperwork in order to benefit people. This is even stronger if you connect the benefits of doing paperwork to one specific person who you truly care about. Try it, it really helps!

 

It takes some practice to remember to think of the deep connection and value you bring by completing boring tasks, but with practice, you’ll find you are less resistant to boring tasks and take more pride in accomplishing them!

 

Display reminders of your values and goals in your environment. Set out pictures of your loved ones to remind yourself how much your work supports their lives.  Post inspirational pictures and quotes, much like a vision board to keep you on track to achieving what matters most to you! Keep the items that connect you to your goals in plain sight so they motivate and inspire you to concentrate and get more done!

 

 

If workplace overwhelm is not the whole story

 

If your thoughts race from topic to topic and you constantly feel overwhelmed, even in situations other than work, you may be facing more wide-ranging issues that affect other aspects of your life.  If getting things done at work is only one of the struggles you are facing, you may be one of the millions of women living with undiagnosed ADHD.

 

There are more myths and misinformation about ADHD than most other conditions.  ADHD is a biochemical condition affecting the chemical makeup of the brain.  It is not a choice and it is not a character flaw.  ADHD can’t be caused by poor diet, working too hard or having a stressful life.

 

If you have ADHD and are not actively managing it, your entire life is affected.  There are many strategies that can help women who are living with ADHD.  The first step is to get more information about the signs of ADHD in women.  Begin right now to take charge.

 

Take one these screening tests for ADHD to see if you have symptoms associated with ADHD. If you are concerned, get educated and seek diagnosis to get effective treatment. For more news on the issues facing women with ADHD, see ADDvance.com with Katleen Nadeau, Ph.D. and Patricia Quinn, M.D.

 

 

Originally published as: “Productivity in the Workplace: Tips for Concentrating and Getting More Done” by Kari Miller – As an ADHD coach and board certified educational therapist, Dr. Kari helps women conquer their biggest ADHD challenges. She assists women in getting focused, organized, and motivated so they get unstuck, finish what they start, and accomplish more every day! Dr. Miller capitalizes on her expertise as a learning specialist to help women find unique and exciting strategies for managing their ADHD challenges.  Through her group and individual coaching programs and online supportive community, she encourages and inspires women to set their sights high and make big changes in their lives! www.ADHDclearandfocused.com  Kari.Miller.coach@gmail.com

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Be the Best Version of Yourself: Explore your Strengths

Be the Best Version of YourselfBy Marla Cummins

What do you think of when trying to manage your ADHD? When starting down the path of managing their ADHD many adults, at least in the beginning, may assume they are broken.

If this is the case for you, you may focus your time and energy on trying to fix yourself. Because that is what you do when something is broken. You fix it, right?

But what if you decided you were not broken? What if instead you were able to adopt the perspective that you just operated differently? What if you decided to rely more on your strengths?

Your approach to managing your ADHD could look quite different.

Talents That Come Naturally To You

The key to managing your ADHD is to  identify, build on and work in domains that utilize your strengths as much as possible, while still managing around your weaknesses when necessary.

For now let’s focus on your strengths.

One definition of strength is:

“…an innate or learned characteristic that you possess, or behavior you exhibit, that when applied consistently allows you the greatest chance of successfully reaching your goals.”

You could also say that strengths are talents that come naturally and easily to you – you do not have to work so hard to express them.

You may even possess strengths that you utilize in one area of your life that you do not yet realize can be applied to help you in other areas. It is also possible that there are things that come easy to you that you do not even realize are your strengths!

The trick, of course, is to identify these assets and examine how you can use them to help you accomplish your current goal(s).

Identifying Your Strengths

You are probably intimately familiar with your weaknesses. If you are like many other adults with ADHD, you may focus an inordinate amount of time and energy on patching up your weaknesses.

Try putting away your “sewing kit” for a bit and pick up your “weights.” I hope you will take the time now to focus on ways to identify your strengths. The ideas below can help get you started.

Reflection

Before looking outside yourself try this exercise. You may be surprised by what you find.

You can answer these questions in one sitting, or you may take a couple of weeks as you observe yourself in action. No doubt, reflection takes longer than answering questions on an assessment. However, taking more time may uncover hidden strengths that a quick assessment may not reveal.

  1. To start with the most obvious, what are your strengths? This is not the time to be modest!

 

  1. What activities capture your attention and keep you consistently engaged? Often the activities that we get excited about participating in are those that use our strengths. What are the strengths related to these activities?

 

  1. What types of tasks do you learn and understand quickly, and which are challenges you approach with a sense of joy? If you are a “natural” at something, there may be a strength related to the skills required by the activity. What are your strengths related to these tasks?

 

  1. What are you passionate about? How are your strengths related to your passions?

 

  1. Under what conditions and in what environment do you work best? When these conditions are present and you are in this environment, what strengths do you notice?

 

  1. What are the strengths you can use most directly related to achieving your goals?

 

  1. If you are not able to complete this exercise on your own, ask one of your “fans,” such as a friend or family member, to help you. Who would you ask? If you have someone in mind, ask him or her to help.

After reflecting on your strengths, you may be curious enough to go beyond these questions in order to learn more about your strengths.

ADHD Strengths

It is also important to remember that your ADHD symptoms can be strengths. Whether your ADHD symptoms are strengths or weaknesses depends on the context. To identify how your symptoms are strengths think about how they help you in various domains.

For example, my willingness to take risks, persistence, creativity, energy and sense of humor have been instrumental in my business success. But that same energy and humor, if not managed well, can be a distraction in some settings, like in “very serious meetings.”

What strengths do you have that come from your ADHD? In what context(s) can they serve you?

Check out Lara Honos-Webb book, The Gift Of Adult ADHD, to explore more about the gifts of ADHD.

Assessments

There are many assessments you can use to learn more about your strengths in the various domains of your life. If you’re interested, I encourage you to continue this exploration.

VIA Survey

If you are interested in exploring your character strengths, the VIA Survey of Characteris a great place to start.

Kolbe A Index

The Kolbe A Index measures your instinctive way of doing things, your strengths. You can use this information in both your personal and professional life. ($49)

DiSC

DiSC is another assessment that gives you insight into your behavior and personality, designed primarily to help you understand yourself and colleagues in the workplace. ($29)

MBTI

By finding out your personality preference as measured by the MBTI you can make decisions about your current environment and future goals. ($50) More information on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

StengthsFinder 2.0

The StrengthsFinder 2.0 is also a popular assessment to uncover your strengths. You can find a free strength assessment along with a 20-minute video by Marcus Buckingham, co-author of Now Discover Your Strengths, here. ($12 to $16 for the book – Includes code to take the online test. Use the book for reference and further study into how to use your strengths.)

Imagine The Possibilities!

Theoretically, I think you could do many things you want, given the right amount of persistence, dedication, and time.

However, I am just as interested in your journey as I am in you reaching your end goal(s). And, if you also think the quality of your journey is just as important as reaching the finish line, then using your strengths along the way is critical.

Because when you are operating from your strengths you are more in flow and life is just easier. As Dr. Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Movement notes, using your highest strengths leads to…

  • more positive emotions
  • more engagement in life
  • better relationships
  • more meaning
  • and more accomplishments

Wouldn’t that be nice?!

Once you know your strengths you can make choices that will work best for you in creating the life you want.

What Is Next?

Ok, so you know that knowing and utilizing your strengths is helpful. Great. But now you may be wondering, “After I figure out my strengths what do I do?” Here are a few options to ponder.

Choose What You Do

Put yourself in situations where you can apply and use your strengths.

If you have some freedom in what tasks you do at work, think about choosing those that will draw on your strengths. Likewise, if you are considering a career / job transition, incorporate what you know about your strengths into your decision.

Another example is volunteering outside of work. You may be afraid of getting stuck with some administrative task, if you offer to help. So, if being outgoing is one of your strengths, offer to greet new members at the meetings. And when asked to take minutes say, “no!” Well, maybe say, “No, thank you, but I can do…”

Where else can you put yourself in the “right situations” that rely on your strengths?

Negotiate, Delegate, Barter, Decline…

There are things that need to get done both at work and at home. Ideally, everyone would just get to do those things that play to their strengths. That will likely not happen for you, right?

But once you know your strengths you can be more strategic. And start to think about how you could spend more time and energy doing tasks that draw on your strengths.

Could you…

  • ask to “trade” tasks with someone for one that better suits your talents?
  • delegate a task so you have more time for others that suit you better?
  • barter for a task that will use your strengths?
  • just say, “no,” so you have more time to operate in domains that use your gifts?

Just because you have been doing things a certain way up until now doesn’t mean you have to continue that way.

What could you change up?

Become More Skilled

We know that strengths are not fixed. They can both grow stronger or atrophy. It is up to you.

As you discover your strengths you could choose to focus your attention on a particular strength to make it stronger, if you think it would serve you. Because strengths can be learned, practiced and cultivated.

What is one strength you have that you would like to improve?

ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line

When you are using your strengths you will be fueled by the motivation that comes with performing tasks that come easier to you.

And be the best version of yourself!

Oh, and the journey will just be more enjoyable…

 

By Marla Cummins. Please visit Marla’s website at www.marlacummins.com for additional articles and resources on Adult ADHD. Original article can be found at: http://marlacummins.com/adult-adhd-your-gifts/

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How to Ask for Accommodations at Work without Coming Out about ADHD

A formula to ask for “accommodations” without outing yourself.By Linda Walker

The workplace has become a very challenging place, even for neurotypicals. Maybe it’s always been this way, but with the speed that things happen today, increased expectations from bosses and clients and worldwide competition for your job, it certainly seems more stressful than ever. If you have adult ADHD, you add a big bunch of extra challenges to the mix:

• Inattentiveness and lack of focus can lead to missed details, and make it challenging to accomplish work that requires concentration at the best of times,
• Forgetfulness has very likely already led to more than one missed commitment and the resulting loss of credibility,
• Disorganization has you feeling overwhelmed, distracted and jumping from one task to another,
• Procrastination leads to last-minute, gun-to-the-head, high-stress production to meet deadlines, causing you great stress,
• Or you play the hero, pitching in to put out other people’s fires while your own work goes undone,
• and more.

These extra challenges make the workplace a veritable minefield of reprimands and disappointments, but what can you do about it?

The obvious answer, and the one most experts provide, is that “You should ask for accommodations at work.” That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Accommodations have been proven to help, and it’s likely they would help you, but there’s a little problem. How can you ask for and get accommodations unless you disclose your ADHD at work? And as we know, there are risks associated with that.
So what can you do? There are ways of asking for accommodations without disclosing your ADHD.

If you don’t feel it’s safe to disclose your ADHD at work, or if you’d just rather not, you’ll be happy to hear there’s a “formula” that will help you to ask for “accommodations” without outing yourself. Use this model “script” to write down what you’d like to say, adapted to your specific circumstances, practice and use again and again with success:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle and the circumstances surrounding it.
Step 2. Describe a possible solution you’ve thought of.
Step 3. Describe the benefits your boss, your co-workers and you will get from implementing this solution. WIIFY & M (What’s in it for you and me.)

For example, if there’s too much noise in your cubicle farm and you feel you’d be able do a better job preparing a particularly challenging report that you need to do regularly if you had a quiet place to do your work, you would apply the three steps as follows:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle: Say something like, “I really struggle to stay focused on the XYZ reports because of all the noise in office.”
Step 2. Describe a possible solution: “I’ve thought of one possible solution: when I work on these reports, would it be possible for me to use a closed office, conference room, or to work from home?”
Step 3. Describe the benefits: “This will help me get it done much faster, so Joe can get started on his part sooner, and I’ll complete it with fewer or no mistakes so it’ll reduce the time you spend double-checking everything.”
You’ve done a good job of selling the solution by pointing out the benefits to all, it doesn’t sound like you’re whining… and no one mentioned ADHD!
So the formula is:

Specific struggle / Circumstances + Solution (aka Accommodation) + What’s in it for all?

“Job accommodation means modifying a job, job site, or the way in which a job is done so that the person with a disability can have equal access to all aspects of work.” (1)
Job accommodations may also include the use of tools such as headsets, assistive technology, training, job restructuring, job reassignments or even an administrative assistant.
One of my clients, an administrative assistant, had to review all of her supervisors’ direct reports’ expense reports once a week. This was tedious work that required a lot of focus and some quiet uninterrupted time. The challenge she faced was that she was expected to answer the phone at the same time, which led to numerous mistakes. Here’s the script she used:

Step 1. “I’m really struggling with reviewing your direct reports’ expenses. The challenge is that each time I answer the phone, I lose track of where I was before the call. This leads to missing details or making mistakes.”
Step 2. “I know that I need two or three hours of uninterrupted time when I am most focused to ensure I don’t make these mistakes. I’ve found a possible solution: Could Carol take my phone calls on Tuesday mornings so that I can do the work uninterrupted?”
Step 3. “With this solution in place, I’ll be able to dramatically reduce mistakes and make sure all the receipts are there and accounted for. This will prevent you from getting calls from the Accounting Department or the company paying out more than allowed by receipts. With fewer interruptions, I may even be able to get it done faster.”
Her supervisor thought it was an excellent idea and allowed the phone call transfers so my client was able to complete this work without mistakes. And they all lived happily ever after!

(1) Source from http://www.workwithoutlimits.org/

“By Linda Walker. Linda Walker, PCC, B. Admin., is a certified ADHD Coach who helps adults with ADHD overcome the special challenges of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) they encounter at home and in the workplace. She is the creator of The Maximum Productivity Makeover for Creative Geniuses, a training program for adults with ADHD and the author of With Time to Spare. http://www.CoachLindaWalker.com.”

How to Ask for Accommodations at Work Without Coming Out about ADHD

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Avoiding ADHD Blowups at Work

ADHD may make you lose control - even at work. By Linda Walker

One of the top reasons adults with ADHD are reprimanded at work or lose their jobs is for what is perceived as bad behavior. Adults with ADHD are very familiar with their issues with productivity, but ADHDers often struggle to control their emotions. You may ruminate more than most people, become defensive and overreact in the face of real or imagined criticism, become easily frustrated and blurt out your feelings (once again asking yourself, “Oops! Did I say that out loud?”)

ADHD Makes Me Lose Control

ADHD affects your brain’s executive functions, one of which is to control frustration and other emotions. You may also enjoy the stimulation of an extreme emotion. Many ADHDers I know seek or create situations where emotions run high because it keeps their mind focused on what’s going on. My husband often says that while it’s not listed as an ADHD symptom, it should be! ADHDers are “drama addicts”! Finally, you may have scars from numerous reprimands and put downs that make you more vulnerable to negative thoughts.

Controlling Your Emotions Starts With Taking Care of Your Physical Needs

You may remember the recent candy bar commercial where the late, great Robin Williams played a football coach (with his typical manic impersonations of numerous characters) before transforming into the actual football coach once he’d eaten this candy bar. The message that “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry,” applies very well to ADHDers. I quickly notice how much more emotionally charged conversations are in our house when one of the ADHDers I live with is hungry or has not slept well the night before. Exercise also helps you manage stress better, so skipping your regular workout makes you more susceptible to feeling frustrated.

Become Familiar with Your Internal Workings

You can help gain control over your emotions by learning how they work. And I’m not referring to “theoretical” knowledge you’d get from a book; I mean you need to take the time after an emotional outburst to think through what happened. What triggered the event, what was your reaction, and why were the results negative? You can then plan ahead by considering how you could have responded that would have had a different result so that you can better manage it the next time. This is a huge challenge for many ADHDers who, once the emotion has quieted down, don’t pay attention to it, other than to wonder how they can make amends for saying or doing what they just did.

However, if you can practice analyzing your emotional outbursts, you may need to apologize far less often. I know many ADHDers find rehearsed “scripts” that may or may not involve speaking very useful. One of the most common such scripts that everyone has been taught at some point is, “If I feel I’m going to say something I might regret, I’ll count to 10.” The problem is always how to know an outburst is coming before it’s too late (more on that in a minute.)
Techniques such as mindfulness can also be helpful. Mindfulness is not about contemplating your navel; rather, it’s about being present in the moment, engaging all your senses and feeling what’s going on now. What you want to review are:

1) What event triggered your emotional blow-up?
2) What sensation did you feel in your body shortly before the emotional outburst occurred?
Was there tension in your shoulders? Did you feel something in the pit of your stomach? Did your breathing or heart rate change? Paying attention to these signs can be very helpful for managing your emotions in the future. The next time you start feeling those sensations, you’ll be better able to predict and possibly prevent an imminent blow-up.
3) What emotion did you feel?
Was it fear? Anger? Jealousy? Outrage? Sadness? At first blush, they all appear as, “I was just mad.” However, you want to hone in on the true source of the emotion you perceived as “mad.” This will shed light on the thoughts the event triggered.
4) What were you thinking?
Events trigger thoughts, which trigger emotions. What belief is at the root of the thought? For example, your boss may look at you one day with a strange look on her face. You might think to yourself, “I’ve done something wrong, she’s going to fire me” and begin to feel anxious. This feeling will cause a lot of tension in your shoulders and a lump in the pit of your stomach, thinking that you’ll probably be raked over the coals. You start telling yourself things like “I’m always making mistakes or saying the wrong thing.”

How you can control the outburst at work: Crafting a Game Plan

It’s always better to craft a game plan for those emotional outbursts that happen often while you’re not emotionally volatile. The best way to control your emotions is to be aware of triggers and clues that you’re losing your cool and to have a plan of  how you’ll deal with these triggers when the clues show up. Most of us have a few options when events make us emotional.

1) You can react: This is, of course, what you’ve been doing and you might want to change it since it is exactly what’s gotten you into trouble.
2) You can remove yourself from the situation: You can create a “script” to explain why you need to remove yourself; prepare it in advance.
3) You can let it go: As you become better at controlling your emotions, this will become an option that’s open to you.
4) You can prepare a response ahead of time: This requires forethought. Take some time to analyze past experiences for clues. Once you have identified a few clues to help you predict an imminent emotional outburst, you can craft a game plan for managing your emotions BEFORE they occur. Become sensitive to the clues that something is about to happen and decide how you’ll handle things the next time these clues appear. The nice part is that you can even ask for help in preparing your game plan from someone who has more experience and more success dealing with people. You may want to practice your response in front of the mirror or with the person helping you, as long as they are someone who has your back and is willing to help you.

Your game plan may look like this:

• When I notice myself feeling overwhelmed, I’ll take two deep breaths. As soon as I feel the tension dropping, I’ll make a list of what needs to get done and if needed, I’ll talk to my boss to determine priorities.
• When I notice that I’m clenching my jaw and my fists and I know I’m close to losing my cool, I’ll tell people “I need a bit of time to think about this; I’ll get back to you later.” or you can simply use an excuse to walk away so that you can “regroup.”

 

Linda Walker

By Linda Walker. Linda Walker, PCC, B. Admin., is a certified ADHD Coach who helps adults with ADHD overcome the special challenges of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) they encounter at home and in the workplace. She is the creator of The Maximum Productivity Makeover for Creative Geniuses, a training program for adults with ADHD and the author of With Time to Spare. http://www.CoachLindaWalker.com

Avoiding ADHD Blowups at Work

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