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ADHD Adults

Does accommodation for ADHD follow into the workplace?

I have been diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type since graduate school in 2006. I have since received my degree and practicing in the workplace with varying levels of success. In school, I needed and received accommodation when the tasks/subject matter was particularly intense or when a project was nearing completion. It seemed like all of the details and conclusions were sliding out of my brain.

The workplace is no different and often the stakes are much higher. I have watched with appreciation the parents and advocates for ADHD utilized the ADA acts to the advantage for scholastic purposes. I wonder though, what will that do for them when they are in their dream job? I am NOT suggesting that accommodations shouldn’t be used, but rather what is a realistic strategy for them and those of us that find ourselves struggling in the workplace?

There needs to be a greater focus on translating these educational plans into actionable workplace transitions. I have attempted to receive accommodation from my employer. It is a large company with many resources. The accommodation team lead was very helpful, but my supervisor and some of HR found ways to bypass the accommodation laws by focusing on my performance. Never-mind that ADHD effect IS performance. But there are whole websites dedicated to instructing companies on how to circumvent the ADA if they can prove that is is about production and that it effects the bottom line.

There is much more I could say about that experience but it is intended to make a point…

While I am incredibly grateful for my accommodation I received in my various school pursuits, and excited for those families that have an IEP with large support for graduation of these children/young adults, what happens when their employer is not invested?

I believe that this calls for a much greater and thorough conversation than can be held here, but it needs to start somewhere, preferably before more of our rising generation graduates and finds more difficulty than what they have encountered before.


My wife and I have been discussing the same thing. I’m now 59, diagnosed at 39. I’ve tried several meds and I’m hoping Adderal will do it for me.

But 2 years ago I was stepped up to a too-high dose of ritalin and separately put on Mirapex for severe restlessness at night. I have lost 2 jobs because of the combination and am looking for another one now - while trying to adjust to the med changes. Over several months I drifted into a mental fog, erratic memory loss, reduced relf-regulation and pronounced, increased impulsiveness - and my productivity suffered. It took losing the 2nd job and my wife’s insistance to make me revisit the meds.

1. Should my behavior due to bad meds have been accommodated? Obviously not.

2. Should there be workplace accommodations for ADD? It’s worth researching but here are the hurdles: my observations after 30 years in the business world.

  a. Pervailing perception in business is that something like ADD is completely the worker’s responsibility to handle, treat. If you have severe anxiety, depression, or mental health issues, never mind the stigma of letting your manager know about it, the response would be,“Get on the right meds or whatever you need to do, but shape up or ship out.”

  b. Pervailing perception in business is that ADD/HD is something that can be fully addressed with meds. We know it is a developmental problem with executive functioning. There is also a socio-cognitive-behavioral aspect (which is much more expensive to treat). Both treatment paths achieve widely varying levels of remediation. But personal acceptance, patience with one’s self - and hopefully from those who live and work with us - will always be needed. But can we demand that our employers be patient with us?

3. Will you detail how your university accommodated you? Our daughter, now 24, is a high-functioning deaf person, classified as hard of hearing because she functions fairly well with one cochlear implant. But she will always need to negotiate for accommodation (her university was stellar) and will always struggle with interpersonal communication, complicating relationships. So we know about IEPs, all that.

Let’s talk about your college’s specific accommodations and then think about if/how those - or other “reasonable” accommodations - can translate to the workplace.

I share your pain and frustration but the burden of defining “reasonable” is on us. Before we face getting employers’ backs up - or worse, try to force them to be “patient,” which I don’t think you’re advocating - we first need to try for a definition that They will consider reasonable - if possible.

Posted by ShuDan54 on Aug 08, 2014 at 8:08pm


You are soooo right that there needs to be a much greater conversation regarding this.

I could not have come across your post at a better time. I too have just finished school and am looking for a job & I am scared for several reasons. First do I tell possible employer I have ADHD or do I try to keep it under wraps. If I do not disclose I have no protection under the ADA; however, even if I do disclose I’m wondering if I really have protection as I live in an “at will” state. This basically means your employer can fire you for any reason. So they could find some trivial thing you did and give that as a reason when it is really the ADHD.

Senator Tom Harkin fought very hard to get the ADA signed into law and I am grateful to his and other lawmakers work to fight for this law. However, it is very frustrating when employers can circumnavigate the system and get around the law like you mentioned Dave. In my opinion the Federal Government needs to place strict penalties on companies who bypass accommodation laws. As far as the websites you mentioned Dave, shame on whoever created them, runs them, or has any involvement in them!!

ADHD and other mental illnesses often get the shaft when it comes to accommodations in the workplace compared to individuals with physical disabilities needing accommodations. For example someone with cancer will likely get more empathy, understanding, and a willingness by the employer to work with them.

Every disability whether it be physical, mental, emotional has it’s different challenges. I am just trying to point out that if reasonable accommodations are going to be made for Person X who has multiple sclerosis that accommodations will also need to be made for person Y who has depression & ADHD.

Unfortunately, the person with multiple sclerosis is probably not going to face near the stigma that someone with ADHD or other mental health conditions will face. I find it sad that still in the year 2014 there is a great deal of stigma regarding things such as ADHD and mental illness. 

I can’t imagine that anyone with ADHD had there hand raised saying “Please let me have ADHD.” Just as someone with multiple sclerosis or other physical disability would say “Please let me have MS”

People with ADHD are not “lazy”, unmotivated”, and “don’t try hard enough” It is a problem with our brain and the connections it does or doesn’t make. ADHD should not be used as an excuse not to do your job to the best of your ability. But there will be times that we ADHD’rs slip up, make careless but unintentional mistakes and that is where we need more employers to have more empathy and understanding with employees who have mental disabilities. It seems to me that we should demand that employers be more patient with us; however, from experience a person usually doesn’t get to far by demanding something of someone else. But there definitely needs to be a thorough conversation on how individuals with ADHD or other type of cognitive functioning issue, or mental health issues can have some job protection.

Posted by becca2322 on Aug 09, 2014 at 6:57am

ShuDan55 and Becca2322-
Thanks for the thoughts. Some of the best information I have found is from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). They had the best resources regarding accommodation and whether to disclose or not. See these links: General ADHD- , Adult ADHD-;=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=106057 , ADHD in the work place-;=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=106390 .

This last link has some of the most comprehensive summaries on the rights and possibilities regarding adults with ADHD.

This link was very interesting in the choice of employment if you have ADHD.

I will comment more later. Look at these resources and tell me what you think.

Posted by McDave on Aug 10, 2014 at 7:04am

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