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Why is ADHD in Girls Overlooked?

Teen SleepingData show that boys are diagnosed 3 to 1 over girls.  However, adult data indicate that for every adult male diagnosed with ADHD, an adult woman is diagnosed presenting a 1:1 ratio of diagnoses. It shows that girls are being overlooked, but why?

Research Digest published an article this month titled New Findings Could Help Explain Why ADHD is Often Overlooked in Girls to help answer the question. The research from 2017 investigated possible predictors of childhood vs. adolescent/adult-onset ADHD. The researchers discovered that girls tend to develop ADHD at a later age than boys.

The same team that performed the research cited above, also explored the diagnosis discrepancy in their research paper published in Developmental Science.  The same results were confirmed. During their research, 1,571 children were analyzed from the age of 7-15 each year by their teacher for symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. The data indicated that the girls and boys developed ADHD at different rates.

When looking at inattention, most of the students (60% of boys and girls) had a low level of symptoms; however, the 40% of the remaining boys had persistently high inattention levels during the study. Most of the children (81% girls and 61% boys) started with low levels of symptoms. The remaining 14% of boys and 10% of girls had mild symptoms in childhood but then a rapid increase in adolescents. The most interesting part of this data is that there was a group of children (24% boys vs 9% of girls) who had high levels of symptoms throughout the study.

This research indicates that consistently more boys than girls show a high level of hyperactivity/impulsivity as well as inattention and symptoms from a younger age.  Additionally, more girls might be overlooked by doctors because symptoms are usually only examined and tracked prior to age 12. Additionally, girls often show less hyperactivity/impulsivity than boys thus getting them the diagnosis of a daydreamer and not ADHD/ADD.  Murray and her colleagues write; "It should be investigated whether removing the “onset before 12” stipulation in the diagnostic test would help identify more girls who would benefit intervention.”

If you are worried about your daughter not receiving the intervention she needs because of misdiagnosis, Play Attention can help. Play Attention provides integrated feedback technology, cognitive training and behavior shaping to increase Executive Function in all individuals - whether they are diagnosed with ADHD or not.

A customized program is created to help each specific individual through the FOCUS Assessment. The FOCUS Assessment is a norm-based computerized test of attention that you can take at home.  It looks at different constructs of attention including performance, consistency, impulsivity, and ability to deal with auditory and visual distractions.  Once the test is completed, a Play Attention Executive Function Coach will provide a review of a detailed report that shows us your child’s attentional controls compared to that of his or her peers. The great thing about FOCUS is that it provides a baseline of their current attentional control and allows us to customize your Play Attention program even further.  We use this information to pinpoint the executive functions that may be weakest for your child and can be addressed within Play Attention.