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ADHD Adults

Workplace accommodations for lateness?

I’m a teacher. I’ve been teaching at my school for 12 years and have had a recurring problem with tardiness. (Yes, they make us sign in every morning, and if we’re late, they take away the normal sign-in sheet and we have to sign the late book.)

We have to be at school at 7:25 am, but our first class doesn’t start until 7:40. What’s worse, every other day, I have a planning period first thing in the morning, so I don’t have students until 9:15.

On days I have students, I’m typically 1-5 minutes late—that is, I arrive at the office between 7:26 and 7:30, which is plenty of time to make it up to my room before the first class starts at 7:40. Only once was I late for my first period class at 7:40, and I think I arrived in the room at 7:42. On days when I don’t have students, I occasionally run later, but call to be sure they know I’m on the way.

I am going to receive a disciplinary note in my file, but I realized today that I might qualify for accommodations under the ADA. The question is, what kind of accommodations should I ask for?

Obviously, there should be some consequence for being late—even though I stay later than is required most days, I realize I’m being paid to be there for seven hours.

I’m considering asking for something like the following:

1. I shouldn’t have planning first period. I need to have a reason for getting to school that’s more pressing than not having to sign the late book.

2. If I’m 1-10 minutes late, I have to sign in early to make up the time within a week. That way colleagues don’t feel like I’m being paid the same amount as them, but not working my full hours.

3. If I arrive after 7:35 and have a first period class, I immediately get docked 1/4 hour of my pay. I need some kind of scary consequence so that the ability to be a little late doesn’t turn into the ability to be a lot late.

Does anyone have any better ideas or any accommodations that have worked for them? The scary thing is that I could actually get fired for being late. Sure, you’d hope that they’d fire teachers who don’t teach, but that’s really hard to document. Being a decent teacher who’s late a lot is easy to document. (In my defense, I think I’m a more than decent teacher.) I’d be in less trouble if I were fifteen minutes early everyday, and just assigned worksheets and questions out of the book.


You really need to be there on time. School administrations don’t fool around. You know that.  A relative of mine had difficulty waking up (for a different health reason) and was going in late.  She ended up bribing a co-worker/friend to call her house every morning and make sure she was up.

Can you schedule breakfast dates with co-workers or friends who are up and alert at those crazy early hours?  If you are responsible for bringing the bagels to the break room every Wednesday in time to beat the incoming first bus will that motivate you?  Even if it’s something where they give you money and you go pick up something. Can you carpool with someone who is willing to call you before they leave the house?

Do you need to fix the going to bed end of your day?  Set an alarm to start the bedtime routine.

Maybe you can be assigned morning bus duty once a week and plan to bring a cookie for each driver so you get positive feedback???  (Hey, it’s stretching, but desperate times call for desperate measures - we all have our desperate times themes with ADHD).

Posted by Juggler on Mar 13, 2014 at 3:30am

Let me ask you a question.  Do your students face discipline if they are late getting to school or to class on time? 

The employer should not have to accommodate your tardiness.  They do not tolerate this from the stuents, so what makes you special?

I am not just being nasty with this.  You are an adult.  It is your example that these students are observing. 

Get a really loud alarm clock for the bedroom.  Place it across the room from your bed.  Get another one for the bathroom so that it sounds off when you are not done in the shower on time.  Add a second alarm clock up in the bedroom—even further from the bed so that you have to get up and shut them off. 

Get to bed at a decent time so that you can get up on time, get yourself ready, and arrive when you are due to be there.

I have been doing that for years and years—about 40 years.  It works!

Posted by Dianne in the Desert on Mar 13, 2014 at 7:31am

I can totally relate to your question.  I work in a high school.  The hardest part of my day is getting to school by the bell.  It’s always just that one more thing to do before I leave.  I do have alarms that wake me up at 6:30, one that dings at 7:00 that tells me I need to be out of the shower dressed and downstairs.  I let that one ring every 5 minutes to let me know time is passing while I make my breakfast and lunch.  I have a third alarm at 7:27 that means get out of the house.

I think I have to admit that Dianne is right.  It is just so very hard when time has no meaning!

Posted by whizinc on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:53am

I have had the same problem my entire life. It has cost me money, respect and more where I have worked at a company that has an issue.

You must get to work on time. They have a record. It is not just between you and your superior.

It is not unreasonable for a school to want to see all there teachers accounted for 15 minutes ahead of class.

I understand this difficulty entirely but to most people, it is lame and worse.

Sorry for this frankness, but the only solution that has worked for me is to be on time. I must plan to be early to make it on time.

Posted by Barbwired on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:25am

Thanks for being honest, but you all do realize that ADHD can be a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, right? Given that this is a persistent problem for me (and has been long since before I finally got diagnosed about 6 years ago), and that it’s a problem for everything—work, church, choir practice, therapist appointments, meetings with friends—I’m not sure I’m capable of being on time consistently. Maybe I should quit teaching and do something that pays better and isn’t so concerned about me being 5-10 minutes late. If other people with ADHD are this judgmental, I’m not sure the general public will ever understand the issue.

Posted by todd0813 on Mar 13, 2014 at 2:51pm

Hi todd0813!

Time is a huge stumbling block for individuals with ADHD. It’s often because you don’t have an adequate sense of time.

I think what those who posted before me are trying to say is that you have to find strategies that work to be on time, because that’s expected for your success with your employer (and most employers).

This article on offers some strategies to better manage time when you have ADHD: As well, Ari Tuckman did a phenomenal webinar on “Time Blindness” a while back. You can listen to the archive here: He offers several different kinds of strategies for all sorts of time issues with ADHD. You will definitely get some good advice there.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:17pm

Hi todd0813!

Time is a huge stumbling block for individuals with ADHD. It’s often because you don’t have an adequate sense of time.

I think what those who posted before me are trying to say is that you have to find strategies that work to be on time, because that’s expected for your success with your employer (and most employers).

This article on offers some strategies to better manage time when you have ADHD: As well, Ari Tuckman did a phenomenal webinar on “Time Blindness” a while back. You can listen to the archive here: He offers several different kinds of strategies for all sorts of time issues with ADHD. You will definitely get some good advice there.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:17pm

Hi Todd,

I’ve been a teacher and a principal so I know how this will go. the advice you are getting so far is pretty solid.

The trick is that you need a real motivation to get to work. Unfortunately you will have to create that. It will mean making a commitment to others who will then depend upon you for the meeting, the club, the tutorial or whatever.

So what can you commit to that is real and valuable which will mean you, for others, will get into work in plenty of time?

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Mar 14, 2014 at 12:46am

John Tucker,

The problem is that nothing really happens before school.  Most of the buses arrive between 7:20 and 7:35, most of the teachers arrive between 7:10 and 7:25, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of morning meetings we’ve had in the twelve years I’ve been at the school. It also doesn’t help that I live so close to school that it often takes me longer to get from the traffic light at the corner the school is on into the parking lot, find a space, and then walk into the office than it did to get from my house to that traffic light. If I’m running 3 minutes late, there is nowhere during the trip that I can make up that 3 minutes.

I spoke to my Asst. Principal today and he seemed to be open to the idea—now I just have to talk to Personnel/Human Resources. I can imagine them not wanting to set a precedent, but we have a fairly strong union, so they might not want to fight about something fairly minor. We’ll see how it goes.

Posted by todd0813 on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:36am

Good for you for taking charge of this. That’s the only way to carve a path which will work for you.
Even making a sincere attempt will change the views of those involved.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Mar 14, 2014 at 3:38am

I am not an educator but, I am a 55 year old student. It is very difficult to always be on time, especially around schools. For myself for the longest time

I was always late so I started to get things ready the night before for the next day.

For example:
1) Watch the forcast for bad weather. (if it was forcasted rain than I know what to prepare for clothes)

2) Prepare coffe and some lunch for the next day.

3) If clothes needed to be ironed for the next day get it ready for the next day.

4) Establish a proceedure that you can follow as a daily routine.

5) If needed set the alarm clock a little earlier.

6) At the end of the day, write down where the most time was wasted, example stopped 10 minute to refuel. Stop the night before and fuel up there is 10 min.

Remember jobs are not greatly available and you position is very important. My best freind was a teacher for over 30 years and never received a “Thank You” from anyone. I am sure a student really looks foward to see you and the help you provide for them.

Good luck

Posted by DanT on Mar 14, 2014 at 7:21pm

Dear Todd,
I have been where you are.  I am a high school teacher and also ran 1-4 minutes late at least 20 times throughout the year.  My principal gave me a U rating 3 years in a row which led to disciplinary action.  (I had to go before an arbitrator and was fined $2,000.)  I told my principal that I had a form of sleep apnea (which I do) and the response was a printout of department policy of disabilities that interfere with work. The only choice open would be to declare disability and stop working.  Clearly this was ridiculous!  I was afraid to tell them about my ADD, for you see how terrible they were with the sleep apnea.
During this time, I hid all of this from both my wife and therapist.  They knew I was often late but not about the “U”‘s or arbitration.
In the end 2 things helped:
1) I started using melatonin at night to fall asleep.  While I am still tired in the mornings, I have just enough alertness to jump up and get out in time.
2) Got a different therapist who is a true analyst.  I now try to beat this problem for no one but ME.  I have to learn to respect myself enough to spare myself this agony.  My daily/weekly/monthly goal is to have a whole month with no lateness marks.  This is private and just for me—no one else.  For me, that is what did it.  I still struggle, but have gotten much better.  It also eliminates the convoluted option you proposed to your supervisor.  You are fortunate to have such an understanding person in charge. Clearly, I didn’t.
Finally to those who rant about professional responsibility and say “just do it”:  Don’t you think Todd knows that?!?  If it were so easy for him (and myself) don’t you think the problem would be fixed already?!?
Todd, don’t expect anything from anyone.  Do it for yourself!  I hope this helps.

Posted by mend63 on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:29pm

mend63, thanks!

I spoke to the person at the board in charge of such things and I have to bring a letter from my psychiatrist and have a conference with the director of the department. We’ll see if they’re willing to work with me. Coincidentally—well probably not coincidentally—I also have sleep apnea along with my ADD.

My therapist suggested an alarm clock with a light that slowly brightens starting about 20 minutes before I’m supposed to wake up. I wasted $100 on one that lasted about a month (the company pulled it from the market—apparently they figured out it was a piece of junk), but I think I may give that a try.

Posted by todd0813 on Mar 19, 2014 at 5:03am

I completely empathize. When I was in the military, I was constantly late and fighting the system and myself. Back then, I didn’t know I had ADD and definitely didn’t know I had sleep apnea. I too had no reason to be at my desk at 7:30 - I would go out into the field and come back to write up my reports. I held no one up and no one was going to be calling me at 7:30, so I never understand the whole focus on being 1 - 5 minutes late.

I am now attempting to find the ideal work times, while I have the ability to play around with my work hours, but don’t know how long I’ll be able to do that.

Ultimately, I find the best way to get to work on time is to use public transportation. It keeps me on track (pun intended) and on time. If there’s a delay, I simply email my manager and at least, it’s not my fault I’m not on time!

Posted by firesheep67 on Mar 19, 2014 at 9:11am

I have been giving this some thought.  If you had to come in one day at 6:45 AM (let’s say for an important class trip) would you make it on time?  If they told you to come in at 7:45, do you honestly think you wouldn’t be the 1-5 minutes late?
For me, the answer is that I can get to work early for a one shot deal when it has priority.  I would also be late 1-5 minutes no matter what time was set.  I do attribute it to my ADD.
I liked what Mitzi wrote regarding an adrenaline (or some other chemical) rush.  I too have felt that.  Part of the answer is to set an artificial ” do or die” time in your head that’s about ten minutes earlier.  Remember, I believe that it’s not about the actual time!  By using this artificial deadline, I can still rush and panic but not at as such a high level as if I were late.  It satisfies the chemical need without causing harm.  But you must really resolve to keep to the artificial deadline.
What I noticed most about the other comments is that they all came down to prioritizing this responsibility within the daily routine.  Without that, the ADD takes over.  But to make it a priority, you have to love yourself.  For me, being late just affirmed and furthered my low self esteem.  Getting angry at the administration, the city transit system, and everyone else, was just away to obscure things.  When I finally resolved to take care of myself, I was able to prioritize.  I think that you know what to do (what strategies to put in place) to get to work on time.  If you can consistently be 2 minutes late, you can find a way to be 2 minutes early.  The real thing is motivation and prioritizing this task.

As to the sleep apnea—I have spent thousands of dollars on trying to resolve the issue.  I just can’t tolerate the CPAP machine and don’t think it helps anyway.  I have had nasal surgery to open my airways and remove polyps.  I have had multiple sleep studies which doesn’t show many true apnea periods but over 100 “arousals” per night. To me, that’s what I think is distorting my sleep.  My wife tells me that I toss and turn all night, but the doctors don’t seem to take that into account.  My doctor finally put me on a restless leg medication even though he says I dont have RLS.  The meds seem to help a little.  I believe that its the ADD that’s causing me toss and turn, as well as shaking my leg most of the night.  The doctors don’t seem to take that into account.  Even by day, I’ll often just start shaking my foot usually without conscious thought.  Does anyone else have such a problem?
Thank you for reading all this, and I wish you the best of luck.

Posted by mend63 on Mar 20, 2014 at 9:10pm

I think mend63 has an excellent point. My new boss recently noticed I was consistently late 15 minutes, so he changed my start time from 7:30 to 7:45. I didn’t ask him to do that and really wanted my start time to be 7:30 because any later makes me late for my kids at the end of the day, but he did it anyway. Now guess what time I get in ? Yup. 8:00. DANG! I think it doesn’t matter what time, just like mend63 said.

Posted by Juggler on Mar 22, 2014 at 6:01am

That’s the thing with ADD—you can do one-time stuff pretty easily; it’s the routine stuff that’s hard.

If I need to get to school by 6:30, because I know there’s a bus leaving to take students somewhere and that it will leave without me if I’m late, I’ll be there. If I had to do that everyday, I’d miss the bus about one day a week.

I think the key is flexibility. I am almost never late for things where my presence is absolutely essential at the time I’m supposed to be there. But I’m almost never on time for things where I have some wiggle room. The difference is the level of adrenaline in my system.

Posted by todd0813 on Mar 22, 2014 at 6:06am

An update for anyone who cares. I quit teaching and took a job as a Software Engineer for a large company in Silicon Valley. Now I can show up whenever I want, as long as I’m getting my work done. I love teaching, but I’m working fewer hours per week, have a lot less stress, am getting paid more, and being treated much more nicely. I guess it’s important to find a job where your ADD doesn’t constantly grate against the system.

Posted by todd0813 on Nov 14, 2014 at 4:07pm

That is a wonderful outcome.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Nov 15, 2014 at 9:03pm

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