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Careers for smart people with Executive Function Disorder

missypiemissypie Posts: 16,770Registered User Senior Member
edited January 2011 in Parents Forum
My son is very bright but has executive function disorder. Here's one definition:
The term executive function describes a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations. The ability to form concepts and think abstractly are often considered components of executive function.

People with EF issues don't really sense the passage of time...can't get things started, don't feel the pressure of deadlines, etc. Most careers that involve any degree of responsiblity require the ability to work independently, meet deadlines, etc. My son works part time as a cashier and that type of work is perfect for him...he stands there and checks people out...he doesn't have to figure out how long a task will take, when he should start it...he just shows up and does the work that is there. It's also mind-numbingly dull for a bright person and of course, pays minimum wage.

Are there any careers that have parallels to the cashier position....the employee shows up to do the work assigned, without having to plan or organize things himself?
Post edited by missypie on
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Replies to: Careers for smart people with Executive Function Disorder

  • Classof2015Classof2015 Posts: 3,428Registered User Senior Member
    This won't answer your question, but since he is very bright, isn't there some kind of therapy he could get that would help him learn the responses that don't come automatically to him? My son has a learning disability, and the analogy I use for him is that school comes easily for some people, like sports comes easily for him. When he's up at bat, he knows instinctively when to turn, when to shift his weight, when to swing. I'm not good at sports. I would have to break it down into: the ball left the pitcher's hand. Count to two. Turn my shoulder. Start moving the bat. I would never be a great hitter but I could improve from where I am.

    If he's bright, maybe he could learn some of the functions?
  • BrooklynborndadBrooklynborndad Posts: 2,263Registered User Senior Member
    I unfortunately can't say I know a professional level job thats completely like that. But I know there are PARTS of many professional jobs that are like that. I struggle with planning large projects, but when I am in a meeting, and need to respond to questions on the fly, I can get "in my zone". I try to look for opportunities like that, presentations, brain storming sessions, responses to emergency requests, etc that play on my strengths.

    Hmm - emergency room doc? (assuming you can make it throug med school). Anything really "in the moment". Or alternatively, a job where you can get lots of support in organization (it used to be mid level managers had secrectaries who helped, but thats pretty rare below much higher levels these days). Alternatively something where you can hyper focus (my DD is heading for Arch, and is hoping that she can use her hyper focusing ability there). Or something where the planning is pretty standard and not "large projects with multiple deadlines" Dentistry?
  • missypiemissypie Posts: 16,770Registered User Senior Member
    I do think medical or dental would be perfect if the person could get into and through med or dental school. My son is more of a verbal guy and just getting him through college will be a huge achievement.

    He's working with a new therapist. I'm sure a person with EF issues can learn some things, but how can the presure of feeling a deadline be taught?

    As Brooklynborndad mentioned, the good flip side is the ability to hyperfocus, but how many jobs really encourage that?
  • stradmomstradmom Posts: 3,456Registered User Senior Member
    What's his passion? My immediate thought is some sort of entrepreneurial business, where he can hire a really good assistant to handle things like deadlines for him while he focuses (hyperfocuses?) on whatever the task is.

    I agree, though, it sounds like deadlines in college and beyond could become a real challenge.
  • Classof2015Classof2015 Posts: 3,428Registered User Senior Member
    "how can the presure of feeling a deadline be taught?"

    By linking it to something he cares about. For most people, it's money. I was never good with deadlines, but I really found my niche when I got a commission based sales job. You had to say the right thing, follow up, get the sale, then move on. And you'd get rewards in real terms -- commissions. Maybe he'd like a sales type of job. The task is usually pretty finite and it's defined in very concrete terms. You're not asked to analyze anything, or write a paper, and there's very little subjectivity -- your results are right out there. You do your thing, book the deal, and then do it again. And at many places, they put your results "up on the board" -- so you and everyone else can keep track of how you're doing. So in theory, he'd have a deadline -- "book 3 trips to Hawaii by Friday and get a bonus" and he'd be able to meet that deadline because it's linked to increased pay.

    Just a thought.
  • missypiemissypie Posts: 16,770Registered User Senior Member
    My immediate thought is some sort of entrepreneurial business, where he can hire a really good assistant to handle things like deadlines for him while he focuses (hyperfocuses?) on whatever the task is.

    I am a real estate attorney and know plenty of real estate guys like that...sometimes they hire a fleet of people to follow around (and clean up after) the visionary boss. Sometimes they make a fortune and sometimes they go bankrupt.

    My son loves books and films. Hard for anyone to make a living these days with those passions.
  • missypiemissypie Posts: 16,770Registered User Senior Member
    I was never good with deadlines, but I really found my niche when I got a commission based sales job. You had to say the right thing, follow up, get the sale, then move on. And you'd get rewards in real terms -- commissions. Maybe he'd like a sales type of job.

    I guess that before this goes too far I should disclose that he has Asperger's Syndrome...I think that a commissioned sales person with Asperger's would probably starve...."say the right thing." Unfortunately, highly unlikely.
  • BrooklynborndadBrooklynborndad Posts: 2,263Registered User Senior Member
    while a lot of gifted adhd kids are NOT motivated by money, sales could still be a good thing, again because a lot of it is in the moment, and not large projects or written products. Though be aware not all kinds of sales are equal in that regard.

    Construction management? Real Estate? something outdoors, visual, in the moment?


    k-12 education? - sure theres lots of planning and grading, but the larger amount of time is in the moment.

    Counseling/therapy, as a career. Again, theres stuff be written up, but the most important stuff is in the moment.
  • nysmilenysmile Posts: 5,850Registered User Senior Member
    What about a job in a library? Library assistant?

    My friend's son has Asperger's. He's finishing up a 3-year program at New York Tech which is specifically directed towards young adults with similar LD's and Asperger's. Part of the program includes interning at various types of employment in order to figure out what best suits the student. He's interned in retail (he hated it). He's interned at an assisted living facility (found out that he's wonderful with the elderly. He's very compassionate and understanding and the patients loved him. He liked it, but felt that the job would be too sad if he had to do it for years.) He's worked at a college library (loved it).

    He's currently interning in a business setting at a fairly large company doing a variety of jobs (filing, delivering things between departments, xeroxing, etc.). This seems to be the best fit for him in terms of ability to succeed and make a decent wage (enough to support himself) with employment benefits. Before he graduates from his program in the Spring, a decision will be made as to whether he should phased into the job as a full time employee.
  • BrooklynborndadBrooklynborndad Posts: 2,263Registered User Senior Member
    "I guess that before this goes too far I should disclose that he has Asperger's Syndrome...I think that a commissioned sales person with Asperger's would probably starve"

    thats harder.

    Something not so people oriented, but in the moment. Something construction managementy? I am thinking on site. Something in emergency services that doesnt require med school? Physician assistant - is there something BA/BS oriented in emergency medicine, between an EMT and a doc?

    Some kind of customer service type position - putting out a business' fires?
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Posts: 4,266Registered User Senior Member
    is there something BA/BS oriented in emergency medicine, between an EMT and a doc?
    Gee, you mean like a NURSE? What century is this? I would not think someone with Aspergers would want to be in a high-pressure ER environment. Maybe a nurse in a doctor's office.
    Something construction managementy?
    Not good, cm jobs require a great deal of planning, scheduling, and deadlines.

    missypie - being a member of a film crew or a set crew would provide S with a team of people who would be able to break the work down in ways that allowed each to work to their best strengths. Theatre major?
  • BrooklynborndadBrooklynborndad Posts: 2,263Registered User Senior Member
    "Gee, you mean like a NURSE? What century is this? I would not think someone with Aspergers would want to be in a high-pressure ER environment. Maybe a nurse in a doctor's office. "


    Pardon, I am much more familiar with and focused on ADHD and EF disorder, than on Aspergers. Please forgive me. I am also brainstorming, trying to toss out ideas. Something us ADHD folks tend to do.

    Also, if ER was appropriate, I am not sure there is an ER specialty in nursing. Also my vague impression is that nursing is detail and records focused in a way being say a physicians assistant is not.

    For construction, I was assuming there are jobs on site that implement others plans, and are not as planning and scheduling focused themselves. I really dont know, but I assume the OPs RE contacts could give her better info.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Posts: 11,239Registered User Senior Member
    Auto mechanic....requires in the moment focus and zero people skills (service writer does that). Electricians, plumbers, trades that come in, do what needs to be done and get out generally alone or with only a partner.

    Some IT/IS positions would fall this way also. Get an assignment, execute alone, get another assignment. Typically I'm guessing positions where the individual receives an assignment and they execute, then receive another assignment and they execute etc. would fit someone who was not a good planner and time manager.

    I'm guessing there are many other service and business functional areas and positions that would fit the bill...but if the OPs son has his heart set on college perhaps it's best to figure it out after the major etc. is figured out and after college success.
  • teachandmomteachandmom Posts: 1,220Registered User Senior Member
    I googled "careers for people with Asperger's syndrome" and found a lot of good sites with suggestions and lists. I suggest you do that.
  • missypiemissypie Posts: 16,770Registered User Senior Member
    I probably know too much to encourage construction managment. I have a client that I had to help avoid financial ruin because they started construction just a little bit late....It's sort of all about staying on schedule.

    But many thanks for all the ideas!

    The thing about film crews is that they seem to work some crazy long days....at least so I read. He has a point where he just has to be done with people. He can get through a regular school day or work shift, but at some point in a 14 hour work day, I fear he would shut down.
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