Helping Girls with ADHD Succeed

by Andrea Wackerle

As an adventure-based program for youth with ADHD, we get this one a lot. ADHD is for girls too! And so is adventure! 1 in 3 children diagnosed with ADHD are female. This skewed statistic doesn’t mean that girls have less ADHD; it likely means that fewer girls are actually being diagnosed. This lack of diagnosis can have major effects on girls’ confidence, friendships, and academics.

The Signs

The symptoms associated with Girls with ADHD are presented quite differently than those of boys. Many boys have more noticeable symptoms such as blurting out answers, constantly fidgeting, or consistently walking around the classroom. These are noticed more because they are disruptive to others, leading teachers and parents to seek assistance. Girls, however tend to display symptoms such as staring out the window or being easily distracted, showing carelessness on tasks, misplacing items, reluctance to participate, or excessively talking to a classmate. Many times these symptoms will go unnoticed or are viewed as a girl being chatty instead of possibly having ADHD, leaving parents with lots of questions and little answers. Boys tend to express their emotions and frustrations outwardly, while girls with ADHD are more likely to internalize these feelings, leading to increased comorbidities such as depression, anxiety, self harm and eating disorders.

Daily Impact

Developing friendships is one area where a late or missed diagnosis can have a big impact. For instance, a couple of boys may meet on the playground, after digging in the sand together and finding a common interest they may develop a friendship. Girls on the other hand play a careful dance of reading visual and auditory communication. Personal space and tone are intricate parts of maintaining friends. When these interactions are unsuccessful, girls are more likely to blame themselves and simply quit trying in the future. But these friendships are so important! Each year at camp, we are able to see how girls thrive in an environment without judgement and that offers support in areas that just don’t come easy for some kids. Being able to be yourself and not worry what others are thinking, makes meeting a new friend and striking up a conversation so much easier.

Resources that Can Help

Understanding the different ways that ADHD can present itself allows teachers, families, and friends to intervene and be proactive in helping young girls manage their ADHD for a successful outcome. If you suspect your daughter may have ADHD, we encourage you to check out this three-part series from the Child Mind Institute to learn more about getting a diagnosis, telling your daughter, and how to help her.