Although students and adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD) have career choices just as everyone else does, some jobs may be more suited to them than others. To make what could be a challenging relationship a fruitful and happy one, take time to select a career path that is most appropriate for any ADD-related challenges, and seek out accommodations at work that can help pave your way to success.
Career Considerations for People with ADD: Play to Your Strengths
Just like individuals without disabilities, people with ADD can succeed in many different types of jobs. Naturally, careers that match skills and personal interests will better hold the attention of those with ADD.
There is no prescriptive list of careers that are "best" for those with ADD. The decision about what job to take is highly personal, and based not only on your own interests and desires, but your own experience with ADD.
What are your biggest ADD challenges? Are those a hindrance in performing the job you seek? Could another job accommodate them, or even be conducive to them?
For example, you may find a job that requires you to be on your feet more suited to you than one that requires you to sit at a desk. Jobs that involve responsibilities that change every day may be more fitting than those that are predictable. Those with short-term goals and tasks may be more attractive than those that require long-term project management or planning.
In interviews, you should feel comfortable asking if the work environment fits this mold you're looking for.
Helpful Work Accommodations for People with ADD
That said, to compensate for difficulties common with ADD, including maintaining concentration, controlling hyperactivity and dealing with impulsivity, some employees may require job accommodations and assistive technology to help them to their best work.
Though you are not required to inform your employer of your diagnosis, you may find it helpful when having discussions about the following options:
- private work spaces to avoid distractibility
- flex time or telecommuting to avoid periods of distraction in workplace
- short-term tasks with frequent changes to different tasks
- more short-term deadlines instead of a few long-term due dates
- frequent breaks
- personal digital assistants
Attention Deficit Disorders Career Planning
Thinking about post-secondary education and careers cannot begin too early for children and teens with ADD. In fact, young people are more likely to reach their employment goals if they are based on their hopes and dreams.
To make these possibilities come true, early career exploration and planning throughout school and at home is necessary. Parents should keep in mind, though, that many individuals under 20 years of age lack the developmental skills to think very far into the future. Pushing some teens too far in planning for the future may cause overwhelming feelings of stress, anger and isolation.
If a student receives special education services, parents will want to make sure future employment goals are included in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Schools can help students begin preparing for careers by guiding them toward required courses in a particular field, preparing them for interviews, asking for job accommodations and providing work-based educational experiences. They can also help a child identify their strengths, if they’re not immediately obvious to them.
Schools cannot provide students with everything they need for attention deficit disorder career planning, however. Families and teens will need to help themselves as well, and the following specific strategies can lead to successful employment outcomes for individuals with ADD.
- Develop self-determination skills such as self-knowledge, decision making, goal setting, problem solving and self-advocacy. Parents can help teens build these skills by creating a supportive environment, letting them take risks, encouraging problem solving and practicing positive work habits and behaviors.
- Create a résumé and gain work experience even if children are too young or not ready for paid employment. With parents’ assistance, teens can identify and participate in volunteering, apprenticing, job shadowing or conducting informational interviews to demonstrate initiative in addition to vocational education experiences.
- Enroll in pre-college programs designed for high school students at a community college, university or technical school. If these courses support career goals, IEP team members may be able to arrange financial assistance.
- Widen personal networks. Family members, friends, co-workers and people who own or work at community businesses regularly patronized by a family may have job leads. Parents and teens should think outside of immediate friends and acquaintances.
By: Stephanie Torreno
Moses, Judy. Career Search: Start Charting a Path for Youth Now. Available at: www.ldonline.org/article/Career_Search%3A_Start_Charting_a_Path_for_Youth_Now. Accessed: June 16, 2011.
University of Missouri. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Available at: www.dps.missouri.edu/resources/Handbook/adhd.pdf. Accessed: June 16, 2011.