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Executive dysfunction disorders and reasonable accommodation

Some people just seem to have it all together. They can easily plan a project at work from start to finish, are organized, efficient and self-directed.

People with executive dysfunction can only dream of doing the same. Executive functioning issues can occur on their own or as part of another condition. It's common among people who aren't neuro-typical, like those with autism, attention deficient disorder (ADD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. It is also associated with many physical disorders, including psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus. When someone has an executive function disorder they may have trouble:

  • Seeing the steps needed to accomplish even simple projects
  • Following multi-part instructions
  • Setting clear or obtainable goals
  • Juggling more than one task
  • Listening or paying attention
  • Staying focused and organized
  • Regulating their emotions or impulses
  • Getting started on a task and staying on track
  • Accessing their short-term memory

Executive functioning issues can be incredibly frustrating for a worker because they can't help their condition but are often treated as if they are inattentive or "slacking."

A few accommodations in the workplace can make a world of difference. People with executive dysfunction often benefit from things like:

  • Checklists and color-coded filing systems
  • Extra time to complete a task
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Anti-distraction tools, including headphones, cubical doors or shields, and white noise machines
  • Organizational software
  • Written instructions, with steps
  • Planners and calendars
  • Reminders and job coaching

The trick, for many, is getting their employer (and co-workers) to show a little understanding of their condition and specific needs. Many also experience push-back when they ask for accommodations because executive dysfunction is poorly understood. Employers may wrongly assume that it is something that the employee can control with just a little more effort.

If you're having trouble obtaining reasonable accommodations for your executive functioning disorder, you may need to find out more about your legal options.

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