Attention Deficit Disorder in Girls

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Missing the Signs

For many people, the typical image of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is of a wildly hyperactive boy. This child is a problem at home and in the classroom. He is impossible to control in every setting. He’s the kid who bites the Easter Bunny and climbs over and under the pews at church. He’s loud. He’s easily angered. His parents have been on a first name basis with the school principal since Kindergarten.

While this image may be true for many children with ADHD, it is not the whole picture. The flaw in this description is two-fold. Not all boys with ADHD are hyperactive and not all children with ADHD are boys. Studies have shown that girls with ADHD are likely to go undiagnosed for up to five years longer than boys, placing many of them around age 12 before anyone begins to address the issues that have been present all along. To prevent this late diagnosis, it is important to understand and recognize the signs of attention deficit disorder girls.

While hyperactivity may be present in some attention deficit disorder girls during early childhood, these signs are often dismissed as immaturity which the girls will later outgrow. Since this assumption often proves true by Kindergarten, girls tend not to be diagnosed due to hyperactivity or disruptive classroom behavior.

Since hyperactivity is not always present, here are some more typical signs to look for in girls with ADHD:

1. Excessive talking – While girls with ADHD are usually not directly disobedient, they may be the children most likely to be called down for non-stop chatter with anyone sitting near them.

2. Social trouble - Some girls with ADHD have a difficult time making or keeping friends. This is often due to an immature understanding of social cues and expectations compounded by an eagerness to be involved in every activity. Peers may not know how to incorporate these girls into common play activities and conversations.

3. Inattentiveness - Many girls with ADHD go undiagnosed because the adults around them assume that their lack of attention is a behavioral issue and not a clinical problem. Girls with ADHD may hyperfocus on television shows or creative activities and have difficulties paying attention to instructions in class. This is often a direct result of increased distractibility.

  1. Inability to complete assignments on time - Due to distractibility, girls with ADHD often have extreme difficulty completing their work during designated class time. This situation may be the first time ADHD is considered by either teachers or parents, but it may have been an underlying cause for other difficulties for many years.

5. Immaturity - Like boys with ADHD, attention deficit disorder girls are typically two to three years behind their peers in terms of maturity. For girls this may be most obvious in social settings and in their play activities. Girls with ADHD may prefer toys longer than many of their peers.

5. Messiness and lack of organization - Girls with ADHD often have difficulty developing organizational skills. They forget homework assignments or neglect to write down what is required of them, even when presented with an organizational system.

Treatment for Girls with ADHD

Treatment options for girls with ADHD are similar to those for boys, with a slightly greater influence on social issues. To address the brain chemistry of ADHD, stimulant drugs such as Vyvanse, Adderall, Focalin, Concerta or Ritalin may be used to reduce or eliminate the problematic symptoms of ADHD. Some of these drugs come in both short-acting and extended-release forms. Due to the social pressures girls with ADHD may be experiencing, the extended-release forms may offer them more discretion and reduce unnecessary embarrassment or perceived embarrassment during the school day. Since many girls with ADHD are diagnosed during early adolescence, comorbid anxiety disorders may also be present. The non-stimulant medication Strattera has shown some evidence of success in children with ADHD and anxiety.

In addition to pharmaceutical interventions, girls with ADHD often benefit from behavioral management techniques to help them understand the social cues they are missing.


While these symptoms are common among most girls with ADHD, not every child presents exactly the same. Pediatricians and other medical professionals are best equipped to help parents diagnose ADHD in their children. Assessment forms are available for parents, teachers and other adults who have extensive contact with children.