According to the CDC, 13.2 percent of boys have been diagnosed with ADHD, while only 5.6 percent of girls have been diagnosed (cdc.gov, 2016), so do more boys than girls have ADHD? Experts are not sure, but they do know that the presentation of ADHD often differs between boys and girls. Boys are more likely to present with hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, while girls are more likely to present with inattentive symptoms. Therefore, boys’ behaviors are often noticed more than girls’. 

Experts also know that if a student is identified as having a disorder that causes him to struggle, that student is more likely to get help for the issue. Girls deserve early intervention as much as boys, so it is important for parents and professionals to know what the signs of ADHD in girls are.

Parents and teachers should look for the following signs and symptoms in girls:

  • Talking compulsively
  • Not being able to answer questions despite looking attentive
  • Avoiding class participation
  • Difficulty with following directions
  • Asking teachers or other students to repeat directions frequently
  • “Acting like a student”—that is, sitting quietly and appearing to work, but when checked on, has little work done
  • Having messy desks and lockers
  • Forgetting to turn in homework
  • Forgetting necessary supplies for class
  • Working slowly

It is also important to note that ADHD in girls can present as social difficulties, as well. A girl with hyperactive symptoms may be hyper-talkative, interrupt her peers often, and have difficulty compromising. Girls with inattentive symptoms may miss parts of conversations and have difficulty recalling what was said in earlier conversations. All of these behaviors may lead to social difficulties for girls with ADHD, and these girls often internalize the difficulties, leading to a higher risk of developing anxiety and/or depression, as compared to typical peers.

What should parents and teachers do? First, be aware that the presentation of ADHD differs between boys and girls. Be observant of children, even the quiet ones, to be sure they are progressing academically and socially at the same rate as their peers. Second, educate yourself so that you understand your student’s difficulties. Talk to her about her difficulties, what they mean to her, and how she can speak up for herself to get what she needs. Third, help girls find groups that are in line with their interests so they can find peers they can relate to (e.g. community art, drama, sports, etc.). Finally, accept these girls for who they are; let them know you are there to support them in any way. 

Girls with ADHD are often overlooked at a young age because the presentation of their symptoms is different from the stereotypical behaviors of ADHD. Parents and teachers need to be aware of these girls so that they can benefit from early intervention and an understanding of who they are.

Contact Springer at 513 871-6080 ext. 402 or center@springer-ld.org to learn more about consultation and referral services.

Blogger Stephanie Dunne, Ed.S., is the Center Director at Springer School and Center. Prior to coming to Springer, Stephanie practiced as a school psychologist in public and private schools for ten years. If you have questions, please contact Stephanie at sdunne@springer-ld.org.

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