Close your eyes for just a minute and imagine a child who suffers from ADHD. What do you see? You are probably picturing a fidgeting boy who talks a lot, causing distractions in class. He likely struggles with finishing his homework and is an average or below-average student. While you would be correct, you are overlooking one important factor: the girl who has ADD.
Failure to Diagnose ADHD and ADD in Girls
While you might easily recognize the symptoms of ADHD and ADD in boys, they are much more difficult to spot in girls. That’s because symptoms in boys lean more toward hyperactivity while symptoms in girls lean more toward attention struggles. With boys, the disorder affects others. With girls, the disorder usually affects them personally. As a result, even medical professionals might not properly diagnose girls.
Girls with ADD often comply but daydream and can’t pay attention. Even so, they might do well in school as they develop the skills necessary to compensate for their deficits. If parents suspect that their child is struggling with ADD, they can look for the following signs:
- Difficulty studying
- Working late on homework
- Dreading going to school
The Effects of ADHD and ADD on Girls
Even though girls might not be properly diagnosed, the disorder still affects them in the following ways:
- Eating disorders
- Self-image issues
Diagnosing ADHD or ADD in Your Daughter
Talk to your child’s pediatrician and ask if you need a referral to a specialist who can provide an accurate diagnosis. He or she might speak with other adults about your daughter and her behavior, ask probing questions and look at school records for insight into comments from teachers. Your daughter might be able to focus on activities that interest her but struggle paying attention during school or with more challenging tasks.
Treatment Options for Girls
While treatment options for boys with ADHD abound, the options are limited for girls. However, you might consider the following:
- Medication — Stimulant medications can help girls focus, stabilize emotions and engage with peers.
- Behavior therapy — Similar to boys, girls can benefit from behavior management or a reward system. For example, she can earn stars on a chart for complete certain organizational tasks related to home and school and then “cash” those in for a bigger reward. Behavioral therapy can also help girls learn how to self-monitor.
- Opportunities to excel — A girl will need to find an activity that she does especially well in order to boost her self-confidence.
- Practice social skills — A girl might benefit from role playing and practicing social skills at home in order to cooperate with others.
- Working with the school — Discuss your daughter’s struggles with her teacher. If necessary, seek a referral from her doctor to set up an individualized education program, or an IEP for short. This will allow the school and teacher to make the necessary accommodations to help her succeed.