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My colleague has ADHD and has written a report. My job is to provide feedback using comments. I understand that the editing process can be tedious, especially for someone with ADHD. And I think they may feel overwhelmed.

We have discussed how this individual prefers feedback on reports, which I can summarize as:

  • Make edits rather than comments (when possible) to expedite revision
  • Do not use track changes to avoid visual noise
  • Make clear and succinct comments when edits are not possible, e.g., the intended meaning of the text is not clear to me, so I cannot edit it for clarity

Is there a way I can structure my feedback to make it easier for them?

The report has dozens of paragraphs, and each paragraph has a heading, like this:

The heading is a summary sentence.

The paragraph is 1–3 sentences.

  • Sometimes there are bullet points, too.

Most of my feedback falls into one of the following categories:

  1. Can you clarify what this means?
  2. I see a disconnect between the heading and the paragraph.
  3. Can you give more detail?

In some cases, I have more than one comment on a paragraph, but the comments are usually not related, as much as I can help it. So there might be 2 instances of unclear phrasing. I highlight each one and comment on it individually.

They have also asked me to rephrase as much as I can on my own. I am doing this. But there are several sections where I do not understand what they mean, and I do not want to risk misrepresenting their analysis, hence the comments.

Is there anything I can do to help my colleague with ADHD manage the editing/revision process? They have clear deadlines and specific tasks already, so I am mainly focused on the way I provide my feedback. Thanks for any insight!

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  • Just from my point of view as someone with ADHD, that example paragraph is perfect. But as the top answer suggests - just ask them. – dwjohnston May 24 at 5:54
  • Show that person Grammerly They will thank you. Best writing app ever. – beastwagon Jun 7 at 15:31
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So first of all, as someone with ADHD, thanks for asking the question. The answers provided are pretty solid, but I'm adding this answer mostly to provide some insight because I see parallels in your co-workers requests that mirror things for me.

There's a lot of little things associated with ADHD that the acronym does a very poor job reflecting. One of the more major things is executive decision making and it's super annoying because it affects a lot more than you might expect. For example, if a neurotypical person has to change the way information is presented, they might just make a change and move on; someone with ADHD might start weighing 6 different options and get bogged down in a bunch of details that don't actually matter. Because there's a difference between bold, italics, bolded italics, underline, and various other combos. Those different options are the hyperactivity (or more accurately hyper focus) element of ADHD.

Hyper focus can be super helpful if properly directed, but it can also be a huge waste of time. So a lot of folks with ADHD prefer to have structured systems and routines to handle things (I call it 'scaffolding') so they don't accidentally 'fall into a hole'.

So with that in mind, I just wanted to highlight a few of the requests and clarify the why:

The report has dozens of paragraphs, and each paragraph has a heading, like this:

Be aware, that this is often done for the sake of having a consistent means of presenting information without having to make new decisions on how it should be presented each time. If any of your comments are relating to formatting or changing said formatting, be cognizant that this could be a really big ask since you're messing with scaffolding. If you think any formatting needs to change, specify exactly what you're looking for so your coworker doesn't feel compelled to balance the pros and cons of italics across 37 fonts.

They have also asked me to rephrase as much as I can on my own. I am doing this.

If you aren't clear with what you want said and how, then your coworker has to guess. And they can come up with probably a few different ways to interpret what you're wanting. I think Levente's answer was spot on for focusing on specific things.

There are several sections where I do not understand what they mean, and I do not want to risk misrepresenting their analysis, hence the comments.

I defer to Philip Kendall's answer, which suggests that you ask them. It can be helpful, though, to send them the comments with those spots highlighted for a scheduled discussion later.

A lot of folks with ADHD have difficulty with memory. So from an ADHD perspective, it can be helpful if you give a heads up on the things that you're unclear on since if it's technical, I probably won't be able to give you a complete answer without taking the time to think through the process again. It's possible that I came to a conclusion which isn't intuitive but requires 30 separate precise sequential thoughts to reach; it's also possible I made an error, so thank you for catching that. Won't know until you ask and I think about it.

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Is there anything I can do to help my colleague with ADHD manage the editing/revision process?

Yes. You can go and talk to them (or the equivalent in these virus times). Ask them what kind of feedback works best for them and what they find more difficult to deal with. "ADHD" is not a simple thing where everybody who has had an diagnosis has exactly the same preferences, so treat them as an individual and find out what they want rather than asking the Internet.

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3

It sounds like you're already doing a good job with your plan for feedback. Being clear about the specific places where more detail or clarification is needed will mean your colleague isn't left wondering what, exactly, needs to be fixed.

As for some specifics:

  • Many neuroatypical folks struggle with focusing on large blocks of text. Keeping each comment short, with good punctuation and plenty of paragraph breaks, is a good way to make sure it isn't overwhelming.
  • Provide a checklist or style guide, if one hasn't already been provided. Make sure it's fairly detailed, specific, and granular.
  • Continue putting a new comment on each individual issue. It can seem overwhelming, but having these written down and documented means that your colleague doesn't have to try to remember where there was feedback or what still needs to be done; the comments can be removed as each issue is resolved.
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A note: from @PilipKendall's answer and its acceptance rate I take the hint that going as far as suggesting something tangible may be perceived as obtuse or potentially harmful in a sensitive context. Yet I risk doing it, because I think I have a constructive point that may be of value.

Additionally:

I recognize that you said your "sample sentences" are intended as abstracted representatives for categories of feedback.

Nevertheless, for the sake of delivering a point — that may be useful either to you, or any future reader of this thread — I will use them as starting points for suggested changes.


I suspect that with ADHD, one would find generic, to-whatever-degree abstract prompts for action frustrating, because these offer very little hints as to how to start resolving them.

As a reminder, here is how the specimens look like:

Can you clarify what this means?

I see a disconnect between the heading and the paragraph.

Can you give more detail?

Encountering such things — even without ADHD — one's first thought could be: "just what is the problem here?". Especially so when a suggestion ends up being truly ambiguous. This kind of situation always necessitates extra rounds of efforts, even before engaging in the suggested activity. ADHD may, I expect, make dealing with this part more effortful.

In principle, it would be great if feedback comments could be more specific.

Some samples:

abstract:

Can you clarify what this means?

specific:

Is this about trying to meet the deadline, or about trying to get an extension?

abstract:

I see a disconnect between the heading and the paragraph.

specific:

The paragraph deals with meeting the deadline, but the title is about extending. Pls. sync.

abstract:

Can you give more detail?

specific:

Would benefit from pointing out the consequences of missing the deadline.

Now I wrote "in principle", because there may be cases where it may be hard to pick out the best angle for the points you can make. In such case, don't get stuck; make your point as best as you can, and move on to the next.


It's worth pointing out here, that whenever quickly added generic / abstract comments are being used, the aforementioned extra cognitive effort — matching an exact intent to an abstract message — will always be present; regardless whether the person on the receiving end has ADHD or not. This is effort that, in such situations, always need to be expended.

In turn, one is safe to count on a more specific commentary's positive impacts — faster processing times and more accurate outcome — in any case: with any colleague, really.

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  • These examples are really helpful! – Crowder Jun 25 at 5:15
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Software development has a practice called pair programming, where two programmers sit on a single computer and write the code together.

Perhaps you could try "pair writing" the report together, if your colleague is OK with such an intense collaboration session.

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You are not qualified to help, talk to your manager

First of all, you must understand that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a serious condition, especially if it persist into adulthood. As such, it requires care from mental health professionals, defectologists etc... In other words, from people who were trained to do that, usually at the university.

You, on the other hand, are not one of these professionals. From your description, you are supposed to write a feedback on some kind of technical report. Only problem, you didn't get a report, you got some kind of unstructured gibberish. And frankly speaking, there is nothing you could do about that. This is simply the way your colleague thinks. He is unable to order his thoughts into structure with defined paragraphs and coherent sentences.

My advice to you: don't feel bad about yourself. Had your colleague made some technical error you would be able to help him to correct it. In this case he is simply unable to write report of any kind. What is even worse, he probably would not understand if you tell him to respect certain forms while writing technical papers (documentation). In his mind, what he wrote is perfectly clear.

What you need to do is have frank talk with your boss. If your primary job is not working with disabled people, then do not attempt to do it. You need to set certain firm limits what you would and what you would not do at your job. Otherwise, you may end up in a situation where you would do work of your colleague (like writing reports) beside doing your own tasks, which could end up badly for your health and well-being.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Kilisi May 31 at 14:04
  • Aside from the other problems, this answers falls into a recursive sinkhole: You could say the same thing to the OP's manager, and their manager, and their manager, etc. – Daniel R. Collins 18 hours ago

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