Ten things we wish our bosses knew

Right now, I work for myself.  I’m a statistical consultant, and I’m trying to do some things with learning disabilities.  But I’ve had bosses, and so have other people with NLD.  This is a sort of pastiche.

1. Just because I’m disabled doesn’t mean I’m not abled.  There are things I can do badly, there are things I can do well and there are some things I can’t do at all.  The fact that some of the things I can’t do at all are easy for you, doesn’t mean that some of things I can do well aren’t hard for you.  If you let me do what I’m good at, I can do my job better, and that helps you do better too.

2.  I often need instructions in a different way; that doesn’t mean I can’t learn.  Some of us learn better by listening, some by reading, some by watching someone do something.  Don’t assume that I am not interested in learning just because your instructions didn’t seem to take; I might need them in a different format.  Once I’ve figured out the instructions, I can do my job better, and that helps you do better too.

3. You can ask me questions.  If you notice that I’m not doing what you think I should be doing, or not learning the way you think I should be learning, ask me about it.  I might have an answer!  I’ve been this way all my life, and I’ve come up with some ideas.  Or we might come up with something together.  Then I can do my job better, which will help you do better too.

4. Just because I’m not doing something doesn’t mean I’m being lazy.  I may have more trouble figuring out what needs doing, especially in unstructured work.  I may get overwhelmed when a lot of people are doing different things at once.  I might react by shutting down, or just sitting at my desk.  But if you ask me to do something, I will try to do it.  Or if there is a list of tasks to be done, with their priorities listed, I can look at that.  But if I am overwhelmed, I won’t be able to do my job, and that makes your job harder too.

5. If I seem confused, I probably am.  That doesn’t mean I’m stupid or incapable, it just means I haven’t understood something.  What’s clear to you may not be clear to me.  If we are both clear on what you’ve said, then we can both do our jobs better.

6.  Specificity often helps.  If you see me not performing properly, you might need to be more specific in what you want me to do.   Then I can do my job better, and you’ll look better too.

7.  I don’t read body language well.  Pretend I’m blind, if that helps.  Or pretend you are writing to me rather than speaking.  Would you give instructions differently?  Then you’ll be clearer to me, and we can both do our jobs better.

8.  On the other hand, labels on things do help.  Because I don’t remember where things are.  Expecting me to remember where everything is won’t work, but labels usually will.  Then you can spend less time telling me where things are, and more time doing your job.

9.  Everybody doesn’t know what you think everybody knows.  I (that’s me personally, this time) don’t know how to whistle, strike a match, make a bed or fold a bag.  But I can solve quadratic equations and do factor analysis.  Let me do what I do well, and I will do it well.  And then you can do what you do well, too.

10.  If I ask for some kind of accommodation, I probably need it.  If you can’t make that particular accommodation, then let’s discuss it so we can both do our jobs better.



  1. Excellent post, Peter. This is so helpful, not only for those who work with people who have NLD, but also for helping people with NLD communicate their needs. Well done. Thank you!

  2. Veronique Buenos says

    Great post Peter! I’d go into even more possible issues for NLDers and possible accommodations. What about rushing, getting there at a certain time (would flex time be possible for ex.) or the use of technology in the workplace to compensate. How about deadlines? Another biggie is the social part of the job. How can that be accommodated without being too burdensome? I can’t think of many jobs where people actually work totally alone. At best they’re part of a team (which could be remote) and at worse they’re in a team 24/7 which can take a toll on NLDers. Just some suggestions for your next iteration. I’m mom to an NLDer soon to graduate and struggling to picture him in a job that would suit him (that’s my issue though lol! Moms worry, that’s just what they do/)
    Again love your (very insightful) posts.

  3. The “easiest” tasks are actually the hardest. Odd jobs such as speed typing, cleaning shelves, and making coffee for the boss were among the hardest.

  4. Calvin Rittenhouse says

    Most of all, #6 through #9, inclusive. And I agree with Veronique Buenos above about the social part of the job. I was a temporary worker for many years because the longer one stays, the higher the expectations around socializing.

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