Little girl staring off into space

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD often is mentioned as being more prominent in boys. This may be due to how the symptoms and signs differ between boys and girls.

If you, your pediatrician or your daughter’s teachers are concerned, you can get help. Dr. Amanda Chavez, MDa pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hermann Pediatrics Sugar Land talks through the signs, symptoms and treatment for ADHD in girls.

Know the signs that your daughter may have ADHD.

“Unlike boys with ADHD, who may be impulsive and hyperactive, girls with the condition don’t normally call attention to themselves,” Dr. Chavez says.

Instead, girls may seem forgetful, disorganized or inattentive.

While it appears that more girls are being diagnosed these days, “it’s not that ADHD has risen in girls,” she says.

Rather, the rise is probably due to increased research and awareness of how ADHD can be present in girls. “We’re more aware of symptoms to look for than we were in the past,” she says.

Talk with your daughter’s teachers first and then consult your pediatrician.

“Teachers may be the first to identify these behaviors and share their concerns with parents,” Dr. Chavez says.

While ADHD may be present before age 12, by that age the signs should be clear. “As school gets harder, ADHD symptoms come out more because it becomes more difficult to concentrate,” Dr. Chavez says.

Being inattentive or hyperactive can be normal for children every once in a while, she says. Perhaps they’re just bored or unable to keep up with others in a particular class. But when such behaviors become the norm and affect daily life, including a child’s grades and ability to concentrate, it’s time to take action.

Generally, six months of inattentiveness at home, at school or in extracurricular activities merits a chat with your pediatrician. 

Your pediatrician will evaluate your daughter.

The Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Rating Scale (VADRS) is a psychological assessment tool used to measure ADHD symptoms and their effects on academic performance and behavior in children ages 6 to12. 

You and your daughter’s teachers can fill out a Vanderbilt questionnaire to provide context of your daughter’s behavior in class and at home. “Be as honest as you can with the questionnaire,” Dr. Chavez says. “Once you and the teachers provide input, your pediatrician can talk with you about whether or not your daughter has ADHD.”

Occasionally more guidance may be needed, and your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or neurologist if there are concerns about depression, anxiety or underlying medical conditions, which could put your child at a higher risk. 

A psychiatrist can check to see that nothing else is causing ADHD-type behaviors in a child. And neurologists can address developmental disorders, such as learning disabilities, motor or speech issues. 

Your doctor will create a treatment plan tailored to you and your child.

“Treatment always starts as a discussion between you and the doctor,” Dr. Chavez says. “They meet with parents to talk about what would be the best treatment for their particular child.”

If your daughter has ADHD, your pediatrician or primary care physician can help determine the accommodations at school that will best aid your daughter with her challenges.

They’ll also provide support in how to talk with your child about an ADHD diagnosis. It’s important that both you and you daughter understand her behaviors, as well as the changes that are needed at school so she can succeed without feeling alienated from other students.

Occasionally a child might need more than behavioral modifications, at which time medication might be prescribed to help them cope with stimuli.

Your doctor may suggest changes at home.

“Kids with ADHD often need structure and, if possible, an area where they can do their homework and projects,” Dr. Chavez says. “You also can support them by being understanding, helping them refocus on tasks and offering extra time.

“Be nearby so you can assist your child if they have questions about their homework. Let your child lead the way.”

Since children with ADHD can have difficulty paying attention, safety also can be a concern. Keep a close eye on them around swimming pools, traffic or lawnmowers, where safety is an issue.

“ADHD is a chronic condition, so people can have symptoms throughout their life,” Dr. Chavez says. “But children often figure out what works for them as they mature. They don’t necessarily grow out of ADHD, but they learn how to navigate it.”

In the meantime, try to focus on the positives, she advises.

Be understanding, patient and encouraging, especially when your child is first diagnosed. It takes time to adjust to a new structure at school and at home.

“We like to say, ‘Catch them being good,’” Dr. Chavez says. “Most kids try to do their best.”


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