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Quiet Riot: Girls with ADHD Sit in Silence

By Karen Barrow

The image of a boy running chaotically around a playground is what most parents expect to see with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But that quiet girl daydreaming her way through class may also have the same problem, and the subtlety may cause it to go undiagnosed for years longer than her male counterpart.

The difference in how girls and boys with ADHD act causes a lot of confusion for parents trying to help their child achieve their best. So what should moms and dads be looking for if they suspect their little girl has ADHD?

Dr. Martin T. Stein, professor of pediatrics and director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, describes how girls with ADHD typically act and the best ways teachers and parents can help them succeed.

Is ADHD more common in boys than girls?
By the criteria we use for the diagnosis of ADHD, for every girl with the diagnosis, at least three or four boys are also diagnosed. So, it's about a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of boys to girls.

However, if you look at the ratio in those who are referred to a doctor by an outside group, like from a school or a church, the ratio is as high as 9:1 boy to girl. This difference is because the only children who are diagnosed in these environments have associated problems, such as conduct disorder, severe depression, anxiety or oppositional behavior. And, as you will see, boys with ADHD tend to have more of these associated problems.

Why do boys with ADHD tend to be noticed more often?
There are three subtypes of ADHD. One type is primarily identified by hyperactive impulsive behaviors. A second type is primarily identified by inattentive behaviors. Finally, the third type combines both groups: hyperactive impulsive and inattentive.

Most boys have a combined type of ADHD, where they have both hyperactive impulsive and inattentive symptoms. Additionally, they tend to have these symptoms for enough time to cause a functional impairment that leads to an easy diagnosis of ADHD. Many girls, on the other hand, are more likely to just have the inattentive form of ADHD.

So, do girls simply have a different set of symptoms than boys?
Boys have what people generally think of as ADHD. They're overactive. They're getting up all the time in class. They're fidgety. They're inattentive. Some of these behaviors, like touching and talking to other kids, create behavioral problems or disorder in the classroom. So, they're more likely to come to the attention of teachers and parents earlier on.
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Categories: Children's Health, Health & Wellness,

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