Talking About ADHD

Making the World Safe for People with ADHD

Warning labels, built-in timers, no more fine print anywhere – our blogger imagines a world that accommodates people with ADHD as a matter of course.

Last week I battled the latest scourge of digital aliens on my Xbox. It seems the extraterrestrials went into hibernation until the mother ship arrived through an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. (Who says video games aren’t educational? Now I understand Einstein-Rosen Bridges.) Unfortunately, my time sensitivity turned hours into minutes and I played several hours more than I’d planned. After gaming, a question occurred to me: Why don’t products like video games have warnings for people with ADHD? In fact, why aren’t there more ADHD accommodations in general?

This seems random initially, but video game developers have broadened the scope of their accommodations the past several years. For example, new titles have a colorblind mode. Video games have included subtitles for the hearing impaired for years. This led me to my question about accommodating someone with ADHD.

I described how my ADHD symptom set changes my worldview in my last post. Imagine going into a large retail store as someone with ADHD with the symptoms I mentioned. As fellow customers shop, all the action distracts me. Add to that the bright lights and thousands of colorful products and I can easily end up doubling my shopping time. It’s hard to resist picking up different products and window shopping. (we are very tactile people; we love to feel different textures.) A watch doesn’t seem to help me recover time because I forget to check it.

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This left me asking myself an ethical question: If you know people with ADHD are visiting your business or restaurant, should you accommodate them? Retailers could do away with the fine print on shelf tags and use a standard-sized font to help us focus our attention. Restaurants could reserve a few tables away from the front entrance to help us enjoy our meal and our company. I enjoy the dining experience more when we sit away from the entrance. I’m not distracted by the movement and I can enjoy the conversation. On the other hand, how would restaurant hosts/hostesses know patrons have ADHD? We don’t carry an I.D. card!

The solution to an ADHD-friendly world is elusive. We live with a disability that is covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, and we’re accommodated in the classroom. Children and teens use these services more so than adults; however, adults could benefit from certain accommodations, too. It’s not that we need help “to save us from ourselves”; our disability isn’t fatal. I’d love 100% symptom relief but the truth is that symptoms don’t disappear with medication.

A complicating factor is that many adults living with ADHD don’t reveal this to others. I’ve had mixed results revealing my ADHD to friends, co-workers, and supervisors. My policy now is to wait until I’ve known the person a long time before I reveal to them. I need to make sure I know how they truly feel about people living with disabilities first.

For now, it seems it’s “buyer beware”. Next time I buy a new video game, I’ll try using the family timer on my Xbox 360. Ironically, technology seems like the best solution for me. Hopefully the alien annihilation will wait one more day.

[Free Guide: Changing How the World Sees ADHD]