Every Child Deserves A Meaningful Education

ADHD frequently goes undiagnosed in girls

On Behalf of | Sep 24, 2021 | Special Education Law |

The CDC reported in 2016 that nearly 6.1 million students have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  As many parents know, ADHD is different for each student. Some students might need an independent education plan (IEP) or other accommodations to succeed in school, while others may not.

Regardless, getting a diagnosis can clear up a lot of confusion and anxiety for both parents and students, as well as creating a starting point to move forward from.  However, obtaining an ADHD diagnosis is not always easy for students — especially girls.

Underdiagnosis can be a challenge for girls with ADHD

For many years, it was a common belief that ADHD was more common in boys than girls; however, that is simply not true.

Although girls make up nearly half of all ADHD cases, boys are much more likely to obtain a diagnosis.  Many girls do not get a diagnosis until later in their school career – and some not even until adulthood.

Why is underdiagnosis such an issue for girls? There are a few reasons:

  1. ADHD often presents differently: Boys tend to present more hyperactive symptoms, or other symptoms more often associated with ADHD.  Meanwhile, girls tend to exhibit more inattentive symptoms.
  2. There is a lack of research: Most of the research studies done on ADHD have focused on the symptoms of boys.
  3. The cultural and societal norms: According to Verywell Mind, the ways ADHD presents in women is often seen as various personality traits instead of signs of a disorder.  Societal gender norms regarding both boys and girls have contributed to the underdiagnosis of ADHD in girls.

The combination of these three factors have created several obstacles.  It has made some girls feel ashamed and try to hide the signs of ADHD, while also leading professionals and educators to overlook the signs that many girls have presented.

It can also pose a challenge for obtaining IEPs

It is more common nowadays for girls to obtain ADHD diagnoses at a younger age.  However, students and their families might still face challenges when they seek a diagnosis and work to obtain accommodations through an IEP or 504 plan.

California families should be aware of the trend of underdiagnosis in order to protect their child’s best interests and mitigate any potential challenges they may face. They should also be mindful of the signs of ADHD that are common in girls, and remain aware of them in order to assist as many students as possible.