Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)/Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)/attention and concentration challenges
ADHD is a common disorder affecting 1-2 % of the population. Some symptoms continue into adulthood for some people.
Strengths people describe:
- Problem solver
- Can focus well on tasks where there is interest
This can be seen as:
- speaking and acting without always thinking of the consequences to afterwards
- interrupting others, as finding it difficult to waiting turn
- acting without thinking of the consequences to afterwards e.g. less aware of danger
- not always learning from prior experience and this can lead to feelings of frustration and disappointment for the person
- not always being aware of the context to amend the way the person behaves (e.g. needing to be quiet when others are being quiet)
Hyperactive (usually more obvious in childhood.)
This may be seen as:
- difficulty sitting still for any length of time
- being restless and fidgety such as tapping feet, pressing on pen, fiddling with jewelry/hair
- being over talkative
- difficulty queuing and waiting
This may be seen as:
- being easily distracted by background noise, or people/movements around them
- losing concentration after a short time especially if external movement or sounds
- becoming easily bored especially if tasks are repetitive
- difficulty organising self and belongings
- starting off a task but finding it harder to finish
- starting off a task but may miss steps in the instructions as keen to complete the task or not focused on all the instructions if lengthy.
Support in the workplace by the employer
- As an employer encourage awareness training of staff, especially line managers, in relationship to neurodiversity.
- Are there peers or ‘champions’ in the workplace that can offer some support and guidance?
- Ask the person what works for them and what makes things harder or easier for them.
- Discuss the need for an Access to Work assessment.
- Arrange regular short meetings to check on priorities and progress- this reduces anxiety levels for the employee that they can see they are on task and helps to gain confidence.
- Help to break down tasks into component parts – the person may be very capable but finds it harder to organise work into parts. A short conversation can sometimes make all the difference.
- Discuss what adjustments does the person think they may need or has helped them before.
- Discuss if they are in an open plan setting/office what they can use to decrease distraction for them e.g. noise canceling headphones; seating position away from the ‘flow of traffic”.
- Be flexible where the person works from, if possible, especially if they have a task they need to complete and don’t need interruptions. Some people may find a mix of home and office working for example useful to complete different tasks.
- Understand that the person may need to have regular short breaks to re-focus them on a task, or may find it harder to switch quickly from task to task.
- Set the person short term goals so they can see they can be achieved.
- Provide positive and constructive feedback to aid confidence.
Getting the best for yourself
Adults with the hyperactive presentation of ADHD often do better in jobs that allow a great deal of movement, such as sales or training, or where there is a mix of sitting and movement.
Adults with ADHD often are not ‘overtly’ and obviously hyperactive and may feel fidgety and show this by tapping feet or fiddling with a pen/doodling on paper.
- Take intermittent breaks when working on a task to help refocus such as getting up to make a coffee, or checking for mail.
- Take notes in meetings to prevent restlessness and to remain actively engaged. Doodling helps some people to concentrate while listening.
- Take some exercise at lunchtimes such as taking a walk, or running up and down the stairs.
Weaker ‘working’ memory
Working memory is a brain or cognitive process that is responsible for temporarily holding information available for processing.Forgetting information told to the person can result in tasks being forgotten or being misunderstood.
To help with your memory, try the tips below:
- Use your phone (with permission) in meetings.
- Ask for information to be given to you slowly e.g. such as telephone numbers broken into chunks. Ask for them to be repeated to check you have recorded them accurately.
- Ask for the meeting notes to check understanding.
- Write checklists for tasks with a series of parts.
- Use computer/phone reminder lists for announcements.
- Use ‘sticky notes’ to provide visible reminders of tasks to be done.
- Learn how to use a day planner to break tasks into parts and keep it with you to keep track of tasks and events.
Because of a strong need for stimulation, you may become more easily bored at work, especially with detailed paperwork and routine tasks. You may interrupt others when wanting to chat. To minimise boredom, try the following tips:
- Set a timer to stay on task.
- Break up long tasks into shorter ones so tasks can be ‘ticked off’ as completed.
- Take breaks between tasks, drink water, get up and walk around.
- Find a job with stimulating responsibilities. Some routines or a framework may be helpful.
- Avoid answering emails as they come in- switch off specific functions to minimize this.
- If you feel yourself drifting in a concentration or meeting and losing focus try to ask some questions or ask for a few minutes (use an excuse to use the toilet if necessary).
- Take notes during a meeting and think about questions to ask so you are actively listening to what is being said.
Time management difficulties
Managing time can be a big challenge for adults with ADHD. Here are some tips for improving time management skills:
- Create an Excel or Gantt chart and break large projects into smaller pieces, with step-by-step due dates. Ask for someone to show you how to do this if you are uncertain.
- Set yourself positive goals for reaching certain targets.
- Use watch devices with alarms and planners built in.
- Try computer planning software that synchronises to your phone and can be ‘backed up’ all in one place in case of loss or breakage.
- Build extra time in-between meetings to allow you ‘catch up’ time.
Putting things off not only prevents completion of tasks, but also creates problems for others on the team.
- If your head feels ‘full’ with everything that seems to need to be done and this is stopping you start, create a list. Once done break these into sub headings. You will often see that there are fewer tasks than you thought there were.
- Break tasks into smaller pieces.
- Reward yourself as you complete the task. (This can be taking a walk, listening to music you enjoy for 5 minutes).
- Someone acting as a coach can help to keep you on task and review with you progress and set new goals.
- Discuss priorities and deadlines for tasks with your line manager so you do the tasks that are most urgent and important.
- Work with peers who manage their time well and see the techniques they use to do so.
- If sitting beside others in an open office, ask them to prompt you, if you look like you are ‘drifting off’.
Focusing and completing tasks
- Break a project up into smaller parts. Ask for assistance if this is harder to do and to decide what is a priority.
- Start with tasks that can be completed in a brief time so you can see success.
- If you are in an open office, sitting in a booth or carelle may be easier to focus.
- Keep work in sight/paperwork at hand – so you refocus on it if you ‘drift off’.
- A lamp on a task may aid focus.
- Don’t ‘over criticize’ a job you are doing until it has been nearly completed as it may lead you to start to prevaricate.
- Become actively interested in the task at hand. Ask yourself why are you doing it, what you want to achieve, and what are the outcomes.
The inability to find important papers, turn in reports and time sheets, and maintain a filing system can create the impression of carelessness. If paperwork is a significant part of the job, try these tips:
- Try to sort paper work as it comes in. Set up a simple filing system to start with rather than keeping them in a single pile.
- Ask for help with creating a system to sort and catalogue paperwork.
- Keep only papers that are currently in use; purge the rest.
- Use colour coding folders to aid identification.
- Ask others close to you if you are impulsive and this impacts on relationships to gain insight.