All types of workers come to Michele Novotni’s office for help with their job concerns: musicians, teachers, truck drivers, TV reporters, salespeople, and even an opera singer. They all have something in common: ADHD.
Novotni, a psychologist and coach who focuses on ADHD, advises them on how to manage their symptoms at work.
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and you're wondering how it will affect their career potential, the possibilities may be broader than you think.
Children with ADHD can grow up to succeed in a variety of careers, Novotni says. You can start them on that path now.
Their First Job
ADHD often includes impulsive behaviors, trouble focusing, and in some people, hyperactivity.
If those symptoms aren't managed well, they may lead to workplace problems even in a young person's first few jobs as a teen, says Frances Prevatt, PhD, coauthor of Succeeding With Adult ADHD.
For example, bosses tend to complain when teens can’t stay organized or finish tasks.
ADHD treatment, including therapy and medications, if needed, may help them focus.
It's important for kids to practice habits that help them succeed in school now, Prevatt says. Those habits include:
Focus on their strengths. Kids with ADHD often dwell on the things they have trouble doing, Novotni says. So encourage your child to spend time on things she does well: Perhaps she's good at art or math. Later, when she’s choosing a career path, the hobbies and activities she enjoys might point her toward a job or field that suits her.
Emphasize organization. From an early age, help your child find tools and habits that he can use later in the workplace, such as:
- Organizers and checklists
- Text messages and computer reminders, once he’s old enough to use a cell phone and computer
- Meditation to help him sit still in quiet surroundings
- Waiting for pauses in conversations instead of interrupting others
Seek help. Novotni encourages her clients to recruit help, like hiring an assistant for a few hours at a time to handle boring tasks. Make sure your child knows that finding help is a smart move, not a sign of weakness. This may include:
- Working with a tutor
- Going to the school’s writing center or using other resources
- Having sessions with an ADHD coach
Start good lifestyle habits. Healthy diet, sleep, and exercise routines are "really critical" in keeping brain chemicals balanced in kids with ADHD, Prevatt says. If your child sticks with these habits into adulthood, they may help him do better at work.
Involve them in handling their ADHD. Novotni says that children with ADHD should play an active role in managing their symptoms by:
- Asking questions and offering opinions at doctor visits
- Having a role in taking any medications on time
- Helping decide any special arrangements they need in the classroom
This practice helps them know what they need to do to take care of their ADHD, now and in the jobs they'll have in the future.