by Kathy Kuhl
When someone says “attention deficit disorder,” you probably think of that boy who cannot sit still. But girls can have attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity. (In the current official abbreviation, AD/HD, the slash reflects the idea that it can be with or without the “H,” the hyperactivity.)
Kids with attention problems can appear distracted or scatterbrained or impulsive, or hyperactive—or some or all the above. That’s called “combined type.”
The stereotypical ditzy or dreamy girl may suffer from an attention problem just as much as the obviously impulsive or hyperactive one. Girls with AD/HD may be more likely to be inattentive, so they are less disruptive. Girls often are more eager to please and some can get along well with their (mainly female) homeschooling parents and classroom teachers. They may just let us underestimate their intelligence because they reason, “If I can’t focus and everyone else can, I must be stupid.”
And they probably won’t be diagnosed as quickly, even if they are hyperactive. Why not? As Maureen Connolly reports in ADDitude Magazine:
One of the key reasons girls are so often overlooked is that they exhibit hyperactivity differently than boys, according to Patricia Quinn, M.D., director of the National Center for Gender Issues and ADHD in Washington, D.C. “In a classroom setting, a boy might continually blurt out answers or repeatedly tap his foot, whereas a girl might demonstrate hyperactivity by talking incessantly,” she says. A girl who talks all the time is often viewed by the teacher as chatty, not hyper or problematic — and thus is less likely to be recommended for an evaluation.
Girls and boys may not outgrow their attention problems, despite what we were told years ago. That’s why many of the resources below also address ADHD in women. Often adults are diagnosed after their children are.
Where to learn more about attention deficit disorder and girls? For information on attention deficit, I like Attitude Magazine, which has a large section on raising children with AD/HD, and their ADHD Expert podcasts and webinars.
You can download the podcasts and listen anywhere, or watch the webinars anytime on your computer. Some of my favorite authors and speakers on AD/HD give these podcasts and webinars:
- Dr. Patricia Quinn is a developmental pediatrician. She has has ADHD herself. She’s the author of Putting on the Brakes: Understanding and Taking Control of Your ADD or ADHD. You can replay one of her webinars, How ADHD Girls and Women Can Win, here.
- Dr. Quinn and Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, another good speaker, have resources at their website ADDvance.
- Dr. Michelle Novotni, a psychologist, AD/HD expert, coach, author and parent, presents a webinar on “Understanding ADHD in Women and Girls.” She is the author of What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don’t? Social Skills Help for Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity. Dr. Novotni’s website is www.michelenovotni.com
Note: most of these resources assume medication is part of treatment of attention deficit disorder. I realize parents differ on using medication, and I also know that for some families it is not an option. However, even if you disagree with these authors on medication or you have a child who cannot take medication for AD/HD, they have other helpful advice.
Homeschooling can help distracted girls, as well as boys. Why and how? Stay tuned.
Have a girl with attention deficit disorder? What resources have helped her and you most? Enter your thoughts in the comments section below.