Do I recommend the new revision of Understanding Girls with ADHD: How They Feel and Why They Do What They Do?
Consider the opening lines of my review on Amazon.com. After, you’ll find a personal essay from co-author Kathleen Nadeau, PhD. This longtime prominent expert on ADHD shares some of the research findings that inform the book.
This is the definitive guide from the definitive experts. A newly revised edition of the classic, brimming with expert insights and guidance.
Buy this book. Read it. Read it again. Buy another copy for anyone else who could benefit from a more in-depth understanding of the girl in your life who has ADHD (maybe the girl that was you, maybe your daughter or grand-daughter).
My female friends who’ve read this book rave about it, too, typically saying, “If only my parents had this book when I was growing up.”
I had asked the book’s co-authors if I might share an excerpt of this must-read book. Dr. Nadeau responded with something even better: a personal essay.
Drs. Nadeau and Quinn rank in my Top Five of ADHD experts. I greatly respect both of these professionals not only for their tireless efforts in placing “ADHD in Females” on the map but also for being pioneering and prolific authors on ADHD in general. Ellen Littman, PhD is also well-known as a longtime clinical ADHD expert, based in New York City.
By Kathleen Nadeau, PhD
I was thrilled when Gina Pera, a pioneer in helping all of us to understand couples affected by ADHD, invited me to submit a posting to her wonderful ADHD Roller Coaster blog.
As an ADHD specialist, my mission has been to write about those with ADHD whose struggles go gnored.
I first focused on adult ADHD in the 80’s and early 90’s, when adult ADHD went largely unrecognized. Then, a few years later, my colleagues Ellen Littman, Ph.D., and Patricia Quinn, MD, and I came together to write Understanding Girls with ADHD.
Ours was the first book to focus on how to identify and help girls with ADHD, and what made them different from boys. At that time there was precious little research. Yet, Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D., was in the early stages of his ground-breaking research on girls with ADHD, and more research was on the way.
Now, in 2015, we’ve written a revised and updated edition of Understanding Girls with ADHD. I’m glad to say that there is much more research to report.
A Personal Connection
My daughter received her ADHD diagnosis n 1980. She was distractible, restless, and unfocused in school, but made good enough grades to be denied any accommodations. There was no recognition of “gifted ADHD” as there was of “gifted LD.”
Now, in 2015, I have a granddaughter just diagnosed with ADHD. She’s a lovely, bright, creative 10-year-old who has been denied accommodations on a qualifying exam for a magnet program. Why? Because like her mother, she is doing very well in elementary school thanks to her above-average IQ. There is no recognition that her ADHD will likely prevent her from acceptance into the magnet program – the very type of program that she would thrive in – because she won’t receive accommodations on the entrance exam.
So, just at the time of the publication of our second edition of Understanding Girls with ADHD, it’s clear that there is more work to be done. Due to my granddaughter’s issues, I continue to have a very personal stake in helping educators and other professionals to better understand girls with ADHD.
A Review Of Recent Research On Girls
How are girls different? Let’s take a look at what research over the past decade tells us.
Girls With ADHD:
—Have differences in brain structure compared to boys
- The parts of the brain associated with hyperactivity were larger in girls than in boys, helping to explain why hyperactivity is less pronounced among girls.
- The part of the brain associated with emotional regulation (the amygdala) is smaller in girls, offering some understanding of why anxiety and depression seem to be more intense in girls with ADHD.
—Show differences in brain development compared to boys
- Girls’ brains develop earlier than do boys’ brains, leading to better executive functioning in girls than in boys around the time of puberty.
- But because boys’ brains continue to develop after puberty, there is more opportunity for improvement in adolescence for boys than for girls.
—May find symptoms worsen at puberty, just at the time when boys’ symptoms of hyperactivity are improving
- Because the female brain is sensitive to low estrogen states, the hormonal fluctuations that occur at puberty and during the premenstrual week post-puberty can worsen ADHD symptoms in girls.
—May be more at risk for serious mental health problems in early adulthood than are boys:
- Research in Scandinavia, and more recently in California, demonstrates that girls with ADHD are at risk for self-injurious behavior, and later at risk for suicide attempts.
- Females with ADHD also show a pattern of higher levels of serious psychiatric disorders in their 20’s and 30’s than males with ADHD
—Girls with ADHD tend to be overlooked if:
- They are well-behaved and fall into the predominantly inattentive category
- Their anxiety drives them to work hard to compensate for their ADHD
- A high IQ allows them to easily compensate for ADHD in elementary school
Even girls showing ADHD symptoms similar to boys, are still often overlooked by a teacher; studies show that:
- Parents and the girls themselves report significantly higher levels of ADHD than are reported by teachers
- When girls and boys demonstrate exactly the same symptoms, boys are more likely to be referred for evaluation and support by teachers
- Girls are much less disruptive in the classroom than are boys with ADHD, and that their symptoms are more likely to be misinterpreted as signs of anxiety or as evidence that they “aren’t trying”
Bottom line About Girls with ADHD
Research shows that girls often continue to be overlooked due to less obvious symptoms in the classroom. Yet, they are actually at greater risk than boys if their ADHD goes untreated as they pass through their teen years into adulthood. It’s up to all of us to educate those professionals that can make such a difference to our daughters with ADHD.
—Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.
Patricia Quinn, MD, is retired.
Ellen Littman, PhD, practices in New York City
Link to the Book and First-Person Essay
- Are you the parent of a girl with ADHD, a grandparent, or any other concerned adult? Understanding Girls with ADHD, 2nd Edition is your guide to identifying, understanding, and helping.
- Head here to read the candid memories of girlhood by a woman diagnosed with ADHD in her 30s. The Late Diagnosis of an American Girl