October is ADHD Awareness month, and we think it’s time to have a conversation about it!
ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is often misunderstood, and there are plenty of myths to be busted. The NHS explain the condition as one that affects people’s behaviour, causing them to seem restless, have trouble concentrating, and act on impulse. But there’s more to it than that, people may also experience additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.
It is a common thought from the general population that ADHD requires some form of hyper-activity. People often picture children bouncing from wall to wall, unable to sit still and pay attention for more than 5 minutes, or in adults someone who is disorganised and unable to reach deadlines. This is not the case. There are three different presentations of ADHD that can occur: Inattentive presentation, Hyperactive-Impulse presentation, and Combined presentation.
Let’s Look At The Stats…
The UK Nice Guidelines suggests a rate of ADHD in adults of between 3 and 4%, and it’s thought that approximately 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD retain their impairments into adulthood. The presentation and impact of ADHD differs with age, reflecting the growing maturity of the individual, and their changing circumstances
But the stats aren’t quite as straightforward as that. A UK research survey found that there is a clear gender split in ADHD diagnosis in children, roughly 4:1 boys:girls (Journal of Attention Disorders). This has led to an active discussion regarding whether ADHD in females is under-diagnosed, and the possible reasons for that. It is thought that Inattentive ADHD is more common in girls and women, which is possibly part of the problem. Female presentation of ADHD is often mistaken for mood disorders, or anxiety.
Recognising The Potential…
There are brilliant, smart, and talented men and women out there, suffering with masking their ADHD, beating themselves up, trying to squeeze into a box they don’t quite fit in because of their neurodivergence. This shouldn’t be the case. People with ADHD can excel at the things that capture their interest, the things that they’re passionate about. Neurodivergent thinking can bring new perspectives as they break from traditional paths, and show a willingness to take risks. Some other noted ADHD strengths include being spontaneous, flexible, being good in a crisis, having an eye for detail, and their relentless energy. With a spark, they can ‘hyperfocus’, and multi-task like a pro. It’s their own super-power!
As employers, the door should be open to discussions around ADHD and how you can support your employees. With support, understanding, and small changes to highlight their strengths and talents, employees with ADHD can be great assets to your team.
What Are Some Strategies We Can Implement?
Show Understanding. The best way to support your employees with ADHD is to learn about the condition and show them understanding and certain flexibility for related difficulties.
Modify The Environment. Try using visual charts, checklists, and post it notes for reminders and routines. Use physical prompts and reminders to reduce the stress on memory.
Management Practices. Offer your staff members increased supervision, or more frequent check ins and feedback. Practice breaking down tasks into more manageable, clear steps, and try to give written instructions rather then relying on verbal communication.
Movement. Allow your staff regular movement or stretch breaks. It’s suggested that pomodoro working increases productivity (25 mins work + 5 min break). Perhaps consider scheduling breaks in longer meetings too.
Fidget-to-focus. These strategies aim to increase neuro-stimulation by having something sensory in the background, allowing longer sustained focus. This could be doodling whilst listening to someone, listening to music whilst working at the computer, or playing with a fidget toy.
Useful Tech. There are a number of apps out there which aim to assist people with ADHD, but it’s important to work with the individual to find one that works for them. Maybe a scheduling app could help, or note taking apps, text to speech or speech to text software could help if reading and writing provide struggles. Ambient noise or white noise apps also prove useful to help eliminate distractions.
Remember, everyone with ADHD is different, and the condition will affect different people in different ways. Talking to employees and offering support to them needs to be more than a one-off conversation. Try to build a trusting relationship with them, where concerns can be discussed openly. Ultimately, it’s important to let people know it is okay to be different, and it is okay to ask for help and support when it’s needed.