Q | How does ADHD present differently in girls than in boys?
A | That’s a great question because there are notable differences in the presentation of ADHD in girls, and teachers and parents should be aware of this. Recognizing what ADHD looks like in girls is important because even though there is a much higher rate of diagnosis in boys, the actual rate of occurrence may not be that different. In fact, research shows that girls with ADHD symptoms are more likely to be overlooked or stigmatized.
Girls may be more likely to demonstrate symptoms of inattention. Their behavior can be misunderstood and they can be written off as spacey. Because they often don’t exhibit the behavioral issues many of us associate with ADHD, girls are less likely to get a diagnosis or receive needed support. Girls with ADHD who do have behavioral issues can be even more stigmatized than boys because their disruptive behavior is inconsistent with how we as a society think girls are supposed to act. Because of these differences, many girls who have ADHD don’t get the help they need, which results in lots of lost academic time for those students.
Another troubling issue is that research shows girls with ADHD are more prone to internalize the difficulties they face. This can later present in the form of depression, suicidal ideation, or self-harm.
Teachers should never overlook possible symptoms of ADHD. Together, teachers and treatment providers can work to reduce the stigma of ADHD, particularly in girls, and provide kids with the support they need.
Question for a child psychologist?
David Anderson, Ph.D., is senior director for the ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute (childmind.org). He is a clinical psychologist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders in children and adolescents.
Photo: Gregory Bull/AP Photo (student Miguel Ruvalcaba in district yoga program, Encinitas [CA] Union SD, 12/11/12)