by Florence J Murray

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects adults and children nationwide.

Various medical and governmental agencies estimate that between five and 11 percent of children in the United States suffer from ADHD. Most children go undiagnosed until they reach school age and their symptoms become more apparent. However, children as young as the age of four can be diagnosed. The symptoms of ADHD tend to be the same, but how boys and girls express their symptoms can vary drastically.

The hallmark symptoms of ADHD are well known and include limited attention and hyperactivity. These symptoms are often expressed as difficulty focusing, irritability, fidgeting, and a general lack of restraint. In boys, these symptoms frequently lead to behavior problems at school and at home. In the classroom, they may draw unwanted attention to themselves if, for example, they are unable to sit still for long periods. This not only affects the way they learn, but can distract those around them. Still, our society has the stereotype of “boys will boys”—causing boys to frequently go undiagnosed. On average, however, boys with ADHD are three times more likely to be identified and diagnosed than girls.

While boys normally express their symptoms outwardly, girls tend to internalize them. As a result, girls with ADHD will come across as withdrawn or ditzy. They may also talk a lot, or cut others off when they are talking. Girls normally don’t exhibit hyperactivity. And since they don’t often show the typical signs of ADHD, they are more likely to remain undiagnosed and untreated.

Although the symptoms manifest differently in both boys and girls, they often lead to the same problems. It is not uncommon for children with ADHD to struggle in school. The inability to stay focused can result in poor performance, behavior issues, and lower grades. It is critical that teachers are trained to notice the symptoms of ADHD so that, if necessary, they may receive additional help as soon as possible. This help can come from additional one-on-one tutoring so the child can review the material at their own pace. There are also several types of tools that children can use to help release their energy in class. Recently, fidget spinners have become widely popular. Rubik’s Cubes can serve to keep a child’s hands busy during listening activities. Or, if a child tends to move his or her feet more when in the classroom, elastic bands can be placed around a chair to allow the student to quietly bounce their feet.

Recognizing that a child is showing symptoms of ADHD is not an easy task. Symptoms are frequently dismissed in boys, and in girls, the symptoms are sometimes difficult to see. However, remaining vigilant as parents and maintaining open communication with well-trained teachers can help ensure that, if your child is exhibiting behaviors associated with ADHD, he or she can be properly evaluated and diagnosed by a medical professional. The key is to identify those children who might have the disorder as soon as possible, so that they may receive the proper care sooner rather than later.