Please forgive me.
For the purposes of this blog I am referring to typical ADHD boys and typical ADHD girls. Your child may not fit the exact criteria and it may appear a tad sexist – but I am talking in general terms as backed by evidence and statistics…
Girls have ADHD too.
Girls have the same Executive Functioning difficulties as boys.
However girls’ behaviour presents in very different ways.
ADHD in boys is obvious. They are more likely to be hyperactive and impulsive. They are fidgeting, interrupting, constantly on the move and fail to complete tasks. They may be struggling to keep up academically. Boys tend to outwardly show their ADHD through being the class joker, the mimic and the ‘Tigger’.
ADHD in girls can be hidden. Girls are more of the inattentive type. Girls will hide their ADHD and will mask their symptoms. Girls can be overly chatty and spontaneous yet more likely to be shy, dreamy and thoughtful. Whilst the teacher is talking about multiplication, our ADHD girls are wondering how the sparrow eggs got into the nest. Girls may be academically keeping up, but this requires a huge amount of effort which is why our girls then explode at home. Add to the mix the onset of puberty and the rise in oestrogen. We know that this mix will make ADHD symptoms worse. So our girls are more forgetful, more disorganised and particularly restless at the time of her period.
Our girls are internalising all her difficulties. Whereas boys are acting out, girls are becoming increasingly anxious and self deprecating. GPs, who are not trained to recognise Inattentive ADHD, will see the anxiety and will medicate accordingly. Teachers will tell you that there are no problems as our girls are quiet, will steadily make progress and keep out of the teachers’ radar. In a busy Secondary School, our girls can virtually disappear as focus is on children with behaviour difficulties or on pushing the high achievers to top universities.
This all may explain why more boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls.
But our girls are struggling:
She appears to be ignoring instructions – but actually she’s taking time to process or may be thinking of something else and just doesn’t hear. She then gets upset that she’s missed cues.
She is disorganised and has the wrong equipment with her at school- this leads to knots in the stomach and panic in the classroom.
She seems not to be focussed – she forgets if there are too many instructions and commands. So she ends up not doing any and feeling like she’s failed.
Her time keeping is poor – she arranges to meet at 1pm but her friends know for sure she’ll be late. This causes friendship issues and the constant feeling of letting people down.
Her self-esteem is on the floor – although she’s trying her very best to keep it all together, the constant need to try super hard is exhausting. She has little feeling of self-worth.
Her thoughts are completely jumbled – speak to a child or adult with inattentive ADHD and it’s hard to keep up with the thread of the conversation. Like a ping-pong game, the subjects can go back and forward and be confusing and exhausting to follow. This permeates through to our girls who know their conversations are meandering all over the place. So often she just keeps quiet.
What can you do about it? How can you help your daughter?
Help with organisation
Use post-it notes, lists, charts, planners, files, colour-coded boxes, timetables. Anything visual and concrete to aid memory. Try searching for apps on her phone; alarms, calendars. Change this frequently as she will become blind to it after a while. Know what’s best for your child. Does she respond to colour, audio or a huge planner on the wall. Are post-its best just by the front door? Have a conversation and work out a plan to organise her things to help her.
Help with time
Children with ADHD do not have a good sense of time. The time that matters is now. Future deadlines do not faze our children. That is why often work is done the night before an exam or the morning homework is due. However we can help our children by introducing a range of timers. Countdown clocks, apps, digitally timers, sand timers. Diaries, alarms and reminders. Use a planner with a clock time on.
Give one instruction at a time. Don’t overload. Give your child opportunity to process what you’ve asked. Heap tons of praise when just that one thing has been done.
USE VISUAL SUPPORTS
Getting started on a task is tricky. So help by giving visual prompts in terms of mind maps, writing frames, check-lists, post-its, timetables.
UNDERSTAND HOW SHE’S FEELING
She’ll get there. She just needs a little more time. Spend lovely quality time together and give opportunity to talk. She’ll be feeling anxious and worried, so talk through these feelings. Let her know that it’s okay to have butterflies in your tummy and that if she use the strategies, her life can feel better and she’ll feel happier.
I hope that helps
If you have any worries or concerns join me for live Q+A in our Facebook group every Wednesday 8.30pm to 9pm.