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Can someone with ADHD be disabled? Advice, advantages, and requirements


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    Yes, ADHD is considered a disability. Learn how to receive disability benefits and other accommodations.

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health condition that affects the way people think, behave, and navigate everyday life.

    According to federal law, it can also be considered a disability if it negatively impacts your ability to succeed at work or school.

    If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and experience challenges as a student or employee, you may be eligible to receive accommodations and support.

    Yes, ADHD is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).

    There are several types of disabilities, including but not limited to:

    • learning disability
    • cognitive disability
    • developmental disability

    ADHD is considered a disability from both legal and medical perspectives. In fact, it may be categorized as all the above.

    Ultimately, psychiatrist at Birmingham Maple Clinic Brooke Weingarden, DO, MPH says that ADHD is a disability that affects executive functioning (focusing, problem-solving, planning, organizing, etc).

    “However, if a person’s ADHD is controlled or minimally impactful on their major life activities, it may not be sufficient to receive ADA protection,” says Robert C. Bird, University of Connecticut professor of business law who teaches employment law, including laws related to disability.

    “A person with ADHD must show that the ADHD symptoms substantially limit one or more major life activities, such as thinking, working, seeing, breathing, [or] walking,” he adds.

    The level of accommodations or benefits a person with ADHD may receive ranges depending on the severity of a person’s ADHD.

    For instance, some individuals with ADHD may qualify for work or school accommodations. Others, with even more severe ADHD, may also be able to receive government-funded benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if they qualify as medically disabled.

    To determine what you or your child qualifies for, you may consider seeking a formal assessment and diagnosis from a:

    • physician
    • psychologist
    • neuropsychologist

    Weingarden notes that some of the more disruptive symptoms of ADHD include:

    • difficulty with task initiation
    • difficulty with task completion
    • difficulty with following through on assignments
    • challenges making decisions
    • trouble thinking clearly, focusing, concentrating, or organizing
    • getting distracted often
    • missing important information

    Here are other common ADHD symptoms that may negatively impact the way a person functions at work or school:

    • hyperactivity
    • impulsive behavior
    • challenges processing information
    • poor memory
    • poor time management

    Students with ADHD can receive accommodations at school. “Schools classify ADHD as a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), allowing students with disabilities extra services and support,” says Weingarden.

    She says this is true for children with ADHD through high school. But college students with ADHD can also access support with appropriate documentation from a physician.

    She notes that the following school accommodations may be available to students with ADHD of all ages:

    • preferential classroom seating
    • special note taking abilities
    • extra time on quizzes, exams, and assignments

    Employees with ADHD can receive assistance in many ways.

    First, Bird says that a person with ADHD who qualifies for ADA protection cannot be discriminated against at work because of their disability.

    “An employer must provide reasonable accommodation to that employee in order for them to perform the essential functions of the job,” he adds. “However, an employer does not have to provide an accommodation that would impose an undue burden on the organization.

    According to Weingarden, some helpful job accommodations for people with ADHD may include:

    • office settings with minimal distractions
    • assistance with organization (e.g., creating lists or managing deadlines)
    • working roles that best use multitasking or strict routine
    • adjusting positions to use their strengths to their benefit
    • opportunity to balance or bounce between multiple projects at once
    • positions with autonomy, leniency, self-employment, or all three

    Deadline flexibility, structured breaks, and modified schedules may help as well.

    Determining specific accommodations a person is eligible for may require a medical or mental health professional to conduct an in-depth assessment like a neuropsychological examination.

    This type of assessment is important because a medical or mental health professional can use the information it provides to help determine if attentional difficulties are due to ADHD or other conditions, like anxiety or depression.

    So how can someone with ADHD access support?

    “A person with ADHD can ask for help by requesting reasonable accommodation if they’re a qualifying person under the ADA,” says Bird. “The ADA is a federal law. [But] a person with ADHD should remember that there may also be state laws that provide legal protection in the workplace.”

    Support options may differ depending on each situation. But he notes that appropriate accommodations can usually be determined through an “interactive dialogue” between the employer and employee. “Both parties act in good faith in order to reach an accommodation that can satisfy legal requirements but not impose an undue burden on the employer.”

    At work, Weingarden says that there’s typically a person who works in human resources or a similar department who manages disability accommodations with whom you can talk.

    “Treating ADHD can help overall functioning and quality of life,” adds Weingarden. She says that taking ADHD medication or working with a therapist can help improve your ability to focus, organize, work, or learn.

    Does ADHD qualify for disability? Yes, it’s considered a formal disability under different acts and organizations. The accommodations you can receive may change depending on your condition and how it impacts your life.

    To qualify for disability benefits under the ADA, your ability to work or learn at school must be impaired from living with ADHD. You may also need to show proper documentation or proof of a diagnosis of ADHD from a psychiatrist or related mental health professional.

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