Girls with ADHD often have quieter, less obvious symptoms than boys. How can you help your daughter succeed at school, form healthy relationships and get the proper ADHD treatment? Read on for expert parenting advice...
Everyone thinks running around, fidgeting and interrupting others are typical symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And they are – in boys.
But girls with ADHD often behave differently. They’re forgetful, easily distracted and may sit quietly in class but not listen to the teacher. They tend not to follow directions and may make careless mistakes.
Symptoms of hyperactivity in girls are often expressed through constant talking rather than running about, says Benedetto Vitiello, M.D., chief of the Treatment and Prevention Intervention Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md.
"Since they’re often less defiant and cause less trouble than boys, [girls are] more likely to be overlooked and not get the help they need,” says Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland in Silver Spring.
About half of girls with ADHD have the "predominantly inattentive” type, compared to 20% of boys, Dr. Vitiello says.
And students who struggle with attention problems are more likely than hyperactive kids to fail in school, says Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who has conducted long-term research on girls with ADHD.
What’s more, girls with some symptoms of hyperactivity – such as being verbally aggressive with peers and uncooperative with teachers – are more likely than boys to be ostracized by classmates, says Amori Mikami, Ph.D, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Among peers, aggressive behavior is more widely accepted in boys than girls, notes Mikami, whose 2011 study on the topic was published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. And girls who aren’t seen as polite and compliant tend to get rejected, she says.
The long-term toll on girls with ADHD is even more worrisome: They’re more likely than other girls to attempt suicide and inflict self-injuries by their late teens or early 20s, according to a 10-year study by Hinshaw, which was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in August 2012.
Despite the challenges, parents can make a huge difference in helping girls with ADHD achieve at school and thrive with friends, Dr. Vitiello says. Here are 18 expert tips for raising happy, successful daughters.
Help Her Succeed at School
The problem: When teachers complain that girls with ADHD don’t pay attention in class, chatter with schoolmates or blurt out comments, parents worry that their daughters aren’t making the grade.
Parenting advice #1: Enlist the school’s help. Find out if the school offers support services. Reading or math specialists, for example, can develop an individualized program for your daughter, advises Stephanie Livesay, a school psychologist for Howard County Public Schools in Maryland.