Girls with ADHD
Closing the gender gap
It is typically said “Boys will be boys” is an excuse for accepting behaviors associated with ADHD. However, girls are inherently left out of this equation. They are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed when they have ADHD.
Boys with ADHD outnumber girls by 3 to 1. However, six times more boys than girls are seen in clinics. This is partly due to the fact that boys tend to be more hyperactive than girls. Therefore, they are more likely to be noticed and brought for evaluation. This means that many girls with ADHD are not noticed until later, if at all. Recent studies show that girls with ADHD behave differently from boys. Teachers, parents, and doctors need to be aware of these differences.
A recent study helps explain how boys and girls with ADHD are different. The researchers compared boys and girls with ADHD by watching them in the classroom. The boys with ADHD showed more problem behaviors including:
- Clowning around
- Getting out of their seat
- Interrupting the teacher
- Hitting other people
ADHD boys and ADHD girls were similar in some ways. They both had trouble with:
- Focusing on schoolwork
- Staying on task
- Fidgeting or moving in their seat
Both ADHD boys and girls were different from non-ADHD boys and girls in many areas. ADHD girls were like non-ADHD girls in that neither was observed to fight with peers or to be verbally aggressive to the teacher.
These results can be used to help make sure that girls with ADHD are spotted as soon as possible.
Difficulty with Diagnosis
Girls with ADHD often do not have the obvious behavior problems seen in boys with ADHD, such as hitting and getting out of their seats. Instead, they sit quietly, rocking or fidgeting. They can be seen not paying attention to the lesson or to their work. A busy teacher could easily miss noticing this type of behavior.
What can parents do?
Parents should be alert to the first signs of learning or behavior problems in their daughters. These types of problems do not typically result in phone calls from teachers. Parents should look for more subtle problems like:
- Poor school performance
- Difficulty completing homework
- Trouble remembering to do chores
- Not remembering what is said
If you notice such early signs for more than 6 months, make an appointment with your daughter’s teacher. When you meet, discuss how she behaves in class and how she is learning. If she is falling behind in class, an educational evaluation can help decide whether she has a learning problem. Then you can consult your health care provider or other professional to discuss whether your daughter needs an ADHD evaluation.
- Abikoff, H.B., Jensen, P.S., Arnold, L.E. et al. (2002). Observed classroom behavior of children with ADHD: Relationship to gender and comorbidity. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 349–359.