ADHD: Diagnosis Doesn’t Always Mean Disability

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent mental disorders among American adults, with 50 percent of childhood cases persisting into adulthood.

While the condition is recognized as a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, few employers pay attention to ADHD in working adults. In a recent presentation, “When diagnosis does not always mean disability: The challenge of employees with ADHD,” researcher Eric Patton, Ph.D., outlined the impact of the disorder on the workplace.

“The prevalence of adults with ADHD, and the organizational outcomes linked to the condition such as turnover, absenteeism and performance problems, are strong reasons for human resource professionals and managers to work toward accommodating these workers,” explains Patton.

Despite the performance, legal and insurance cost implications, Patton says few employers demonstrate awareness of and familiarity with ADHD.

“The lack of knowledge and the misconceptions surrounding mental health disorders in our society is troubling,” notes Patton. “One of the greatest difficulties facing working adults with ADHD is human resource departments’ policies and managers/coworkers’ attitudes toward the condition.”

By training managers on signs, consequences and accommodation options for employees with ADHD, Patton says organizations can alleviate certain stigmas surrounding the disorder and generate discussion.

And while there is a great deal of negativity surrounding the disorder, Patton says workers with this condition are often talented, creative and can flourish in the right situation.

“For the benefit of those who suffer from ADHD, and the organizations who employ them, current policies need to be reviewed and more training is needed,” he concludes.

Patton, an assistant professor of management at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, recently presented " When diagnosis does not always mean disability: The challenge of employees with ADHD” at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Anaheim, Calif. He can be reached at, at 610-660-3178 or by calling University Communications at 610-660-1222.

Expand this section