Re: ADD/ADHD Problems and Tech Writing/Editing Careers

Subject: Re: ADD/ADHD Problems and Tech Writing/Editing Careers
From: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 17:53:59 -0700

ADD is under-diagnosed, not over-diagnosed. A safe estimate
coming out of the research/clinical community is that 2-3% of the
school-aged population is diagnosed, while 10% is probably ADD.

See embedded comments below.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Anne G. Davis" <writerstone -at- cox -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: Monday, June 14, 2004 2:29 PM
Subject: ADD/ADHD Problems and Tech Writing/Editing Careers

> Hi all,
> Well it's confession time. I mean, this is not something I
would normally post
> to the general public on a message board, but I'm earnestly
looking for
> solutions and to help myself (as well as others, once the
answers become
> clear), and sometimes it takes big risks to do so, so here
goes. I am
> struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and, looking
back on my
> career, it makes sense that I was diagnosed with this problem.
Even though I
> consider myself a decent reader and writer (many of my past
supervisors would
> agree, but some would disagree) and made it through school
> pulling teeth without anesthesia) with an average GPA and a
B.S. in English, I

I think you've got the bull by the horns right here. You can do
the work--ADD is not an intellectual impairment.

> continue to have a lot of trouble concentrating and focusing on
large or
> complex documents, following instructions (written and oral),
following through
> on writing tasks, getting jumbled up when handling forms and
> ineffective time management, trouble being on time, and
generally feeling/being
> lost in space most of the time.

Thom Hartmann's earlier books talked about ADD as the expression
of the hunter's gene. In contrast, the workplace is a farm. You
want variety and stimulation to keep you focused. Farmers just
hope to see the seasons arrive on time. (see --he's now a liberal talk show host
opposite the ditto guy).

Not to be flippant, but ADD is, in a sense, the thrill-seeking
gene. The confusion you're having is biochemical--the dopamine
in certain areas of your brain is getting scavenged from synapses
before it can complete it's transaction with the neurons.
Classic ADD behavior seeks stimulation that will give the goose
to the amygdala and excite higher neurotransmitter levels in the
brain, where they stimulate you to the level you want, for work.
Have a look at Keith Code, the unwitting guru of what might be
called "How to win with ADD". , and find
time to read "A Twist of the Wrist", by Keith Code, if you're

The gist is that you have a limited attention budget ($10 worth).
This is enough attention for even the most demanding things,
(like racing motorcycles at 180 MPH), but you must plan in
advance, by walking the racecourse, identifying the things that
need attention, and planning your path through them. If you do,
you're in position to run the race. If you don't, you'll be
nickle-and-dimed into inattention long before the race is over.

Business and writing gurus have not caught on to this yet.
Code's techniques are excellent advice for running the Grand Prix
du Dev and Documentation too. Code teaches analysis and
preparation for racing, but what he has to say is spot on for
tech writing, and for ADD too, IMHO.

> Apparently I am one of those people who fell
> through the medical cracks so-to-speak and was never diagnosed
as a child,
> aside from being told I was fidgety, not a good listener,
"couldn't sit still,"
> "why can't you just sit and read a book in a week like
everybody else" and "out
> in left field." But when I went to grade school in the
mid-70s, you were
> either hyperactive or normal, with not much in between.

Find a local adult ADD support group to attend regularly. You'll
be shocked and awed to hear how much abuse was, and continues to
be leveled at ADD kids by parents and schools. ADD people are
not lazy, fidgety, or LD (learning disabled), but the
stigmatizing labels are still commonly applied, to no good end,
where an ADD diagnosis and treatment could make a difference. See for listing of local support groups.

> In any case, my question is, where to go from here. Do I
continue to try to
> make my ADD brain fit a highly-focused, attention-to-detail
technical writing
> career, even though it's been a struggle for 10 years with no
promotions, 5
> layoffs (some were due to the economy, but not all), and
numerous difficulties
> on the job with frustrated coworkers and bosses, not to mention
the work
> itself--or search for a completely different career path. It
gets to be
> frustrating and even demoralizing when bosses tell you "I know
you can do
> this," only to find that "you missed so much" and "what's wrong
with you, why
> aren't you getting it?"

The following isn't given as legal advice. This is friendly

Comments like "What's wrong with you?" cause me concern. I
suggest you document these conversations. And then step back and
ask yourself if it is criticism designed to gently urge you
toward a clinical evaluation. Note that your having examples of
the sort of comment, or related problems on the job, can make the
diagnosis come easier.

I don't know many managers with grace enough to ask "Anne, have
you had an ADD evaluation?" but there are some who are
compassionate, know about ADD, and want to help you get the
diagnosis and treatment. They aren't necessarily qualified to
make a diagnosis, but recognize ADD through a diagnosis in their
own family, and maybe the subsequent examination of their own
history. It is genetic, and runs in families, and it seems to me
that lots of people now recognize it, and some will bring it up
directly or otherwise.

On the other hand, consider whether the boss who said these
things is a troll, pressuring you beyond the limits of
professionalism, making comments that are really ad hominem
personal criticism. Such a comment might be designed to make you

This is a complicated area for you. If you reveal your
diagnosis, then the goals and standards that your bosses set for
you should be adjusted to accomodate your ADD, as ADD is
protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a
part of this protection, you can work with your employer to
identfy problem areas in your work and the workplace, and they
are supposed to do everything they can to accomodate you. They
will expect you to do everything you can to live up to any new
understanding about your work.

ADA isn't much shelter for ADD, but is on the law books.
Employers with troll-like tendencies might not want that
responsibility, and this will give them incentives to disemploy
you. I suggest you read up on ADA, and consult with the Federal
Office of Civil Liberties and a disability lawyer before
discussing your diagnosis and accomodations with your employer.
Don't take it lightly, and especially don't imagine that you have
heavy artillery backing you up either--unlike the medical side of
ADD with diagnosis and a relationship with a care giver, the ADA
protections in the workplace seem to get proper attention only
when disability are physical and visible. ADD is not visible, at
least on the face of it, and accomodation is not a done deal just
because you ask for it. ADA is a platform that supports you if
you feel you need accomodations, but in a healthy workplace you
should not have to call down the law to get consideration for
special needs or to protect your dignity.

Please keep in mind that I'm not suggesting that you get you in
deeper with an employer over your rights under the ADA. I think
very few satisfactory outcomes in the workplace have been the
result of litigation of ADA rights for ADD people. I mention
these things as relevant, an orientation to some ADD workplace
issues. Please let me know if you have questions about what I've

> I'm still in the "oh my gosh, so that explains it"/shock/anger
("how could this
> happen to me and why wasn't I told earlier?!") phase. I'm
currently taking a
> low dose of medication specific for this problem that actually
seems to be
> helping me focus on what I read and follow people's
conversations and
> instructions much better.

Don't miss Dr Daniel Amen's books and web site for insights and
nutritional recommendations. He's a brilliant diagnostician and
sage practitioner of ADD medicine.

> Would be more than grateful to hear experiences from any other
> writing/editing ADD or ADHD sufferers.

Conventional wisdom says that ADD management is done primarily by
the ADD person and doctor, and increasingly popular is the ADD
coach, who can help you see and undo learned behaviors, like the
"negative self-talk" (aka Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTS ),
that people acquire through frustration. Your outlook can make a
big difference. While medications don't cure ADD, you might find
that being ADD under a doctor's care, talking to an ADD coach,
and having a job you like in tech writing, is pretty draned close
to "good enough."

> Many thanks,
> Anne

Hope this helps.

Ned Bedinger
Ed Wordsmith Technical Communications Co.
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com
tel: 360-434-7197
fax: 360-769-7059


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ADD/ADHD Problems and Tech Writing/Editing Careers: From: Anne G. Davis

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