Women, girls, and ADHD


For some September marks returning to school, whether it is to post-secondary or elementary classrooms. This return may include gathering accommodation letters from school disability centers and organizing Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

When my eight-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD the three most common comments I received were: “But she is so smart”, “Are you putting her on medication?” and “But she’s a girl.” The ladder is why I strongly suspect her school has been so reluctant to help with the diagnoses and IEP process. Instead most feedback from educators and some of her family has been that she ‘acts like a boy’ and that I ‘let her’ behave as such; I did paint her first room blue after all. This resistance can be attributed to what a Bitch article titled ‘Five Media Myths About ADHD’ refers to as “a combination of stigma and sexism.”

A huge support in our lives has been a family friend who has dealt with her own frustrations in getting diagnoses with ADHD as an adult. While diagnoses have risen in general in school aged children, and even more so for girls, it is still remaining almost completely not talked about in regards to adult women. Unless a person is behaving like how a hyperactive young boy would (like my daughter), they may be overlooked. And though many may be critical of the rise of diagnoses, and in turn drug prescriptions, and the potential harm in this relationship between capitalism and health writer Maria Yagoda writes in her The Atlantic article ‘ADHD is Different for Women’, “also harmful are the consequences of ADHD untreated.”

ADHD is known to become less intense post-puberty, for boys. In women and girls it can intensify after puberty. In many of these cases instead of hyperactivity symptoms involve forgetfulness and disorganization. Since these symptoms are less obvious than what we have been told are ADHD symptoms, undiagnosed women are left to remain confused, frustrated, and depressed; all because ADHD has up until recently been studied without women and girls in mind.

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Nothing has made me aware of mortality as much as my daughter has. Nothing has made me care about life as much as my daughter has. I didn’t care all too much about life before my daughter was born. My mom died, my dad kept finding family and friends to leave me with, and by the time I was a senior at high school my vice principal told me people “like me” should drop out.

My childhood years spent with my mom were great, and I used a lot of what I remember of those six years to raise my little one. Now that she is eight, I sometimes feel lost. Now that I’m five years away from the year my mom died, I feel really lost. I am seeing specialists and getting screenings done more and more often, making sure I don’t get cancer like the women before me on my mom’s side.I know these tests are the right thing to do, and a 50% chance of having cancer means there is a 50% chance that I will not. But I’m still scared, and it is because of my baby.

My kidlet is an obvious indicator of time past. A couple of years in an adult’s life can go by unnoticed. A couple of years in a little kid’s life mean a big kid will take their place. Two years is a whole lot of time, a whole lot of time that flies by. That doesn’t make five years seem that much farther.

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Get famous or get fat trying

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We got duped, sort of.

Like most parents I think that my baby girl is a star (she is though). So when I got a call from some agency called Premiere, in response to sending our contact info to them in order to audition for Disney, I was intrigued. I set it up and my daughter was excited. Looking back, Premiere never said they were Disney, they just used the name Disney in every second sentence and went on about how their actors were on the Disney channel.

Just under a month after this phone call we went to a Toronto hotel and registered outside of one the many ballrooms – there were so many ballrooms. I expected there to be hundreds of children and I was right. My daughter was given a number and a script to memorize. We were told to go inside the ballroom, for a presentation.

And so I realized what was going on. We were one of many families seated in there, I felt like we were going to be told how we could make millions by selling soap or something. I did a serious Google search of Premiere and found out my suspicions were right.

As it says in this article ‘Disney auditions and Nickelodeon auditions – how the scam works’ explains: “They lure people to these events dropping the Disney brand. After people call the number, they are given a time and place to go. They make it sound very real by telling the parents to bring photos and to dress up as if to meet real casting directors. Some of these groups go as far as booking convention rooms at Disneyland resorts or hotels just to make it look more legit and connected with Disney … hey often drop Disney star names and even pay ex Disney stars to attend these events.”

We were already there and my daughter likes memorizing lines and relishes any and every chance she can get to receive attention. I figured we would go through with it, I would get a taste of ‘hurry up and wait’ and she would get another chance to show her skills off.

The presentation was hilarious. These two dudes in suits walked in the room. One just radiated ‘Asshole’ and the other had jumped out of a hair gel ad. They looked like caricatures of salesmen. Asshole spoke into a mic set up to way too loud speakers while Hair Gel watched Asshole admiringly. We watched a lot of Disney channel clips and ads with dude being like, “Your kid could be on something like this!” After a while of YouTubing Asshole got mad at all the parents, yelling about how we need to take our children’s lives seriously and not get in the way of their dreams. He actually said we can either put in the time at this ‘audition’ or go home, eat Doritos, and get fat. THERE IS NO IN BETWEEN. He also let us know faith is very important to him, and he doesn’t care what faith we all believe in, as long as we believe in God. At this point my daughter’s jaw dropped. She and I continued passing notes to each other and I told her that these people are tricking us, she wrote back she thought so too, but would like to show off how she memorized the lines anyway.

We were one of the first families to ‘audition’ because we were seated in one of the front rows. We went into a smaller room with about ten other families. There were so many pushy people! They were taking this all very seriously. We got in and Asshole’s accent changed from Posh to average ol American. He started shouting out numbers. Kids wearing corresponding numbers would go up, say their couple of lines and then sit down. While the kids acted like professionals he made fun of them, made bad jokes, and hammed it up for the five cameras his crew were filming him with. As the aforementioned article reads, “To make it look more legit they may have the child read a few lines, pose, or do something to demonstrate their talent.”

Later a group was told to leave the room. I didn’t understand it at first because kids who were made to leave did really good jobs, while some of the kids who stayed either read off their script in a monotone or forgot their lines all together; “These evaluations are usually nothing more than the sales people evaluating the parents for financial means. They look at the clothes the parents are wearing and other factors to decide which package to try to sell.”

A rule of thumb is, auditions do not include a price tag. But since so many of us parents want to believe our kids are the next big thing in entertainment. I mean, I didn’t Google anything before? I must have known deep down and ignored the truth in lieu of a more fun lie. Because of our ignorance, willful or not,  hustlers are able to make a living. I spoke with someone later about the package the ‘accepted’ children received. If a family agrees to the deal, and they have to within less than 24 hours, they are looking at paying thousands of dollars, in addition to paying to go to a Premiere Event party at a Disney resort.

It was a laughable time, but we had nothing else to do on that rainy afternoon. We spent the rest of the day reading by the water and grabbing something to eat downtown. Though this is a scam, it is a legal one. Premiere actually has a portion of their site wearing up and down they are legit and that anyone who says they are not simply misunderstood them. Which is true, they purposely confuse and play on families in order to get the big bucks. Capitalism is grand, eh?

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Survival instinct

Image source: Women Elite

One night I went to check up on my sleeping five-year-old. Her bed was empty and her bedroom window was open. There was no screen to the window, just a child-sized entrance to our third floor balcony. I called out her name and no reply. I searched our small apartment and did not see or hear her anywhere. I expected that I would get emotional, that my ever-present anxiety would kick in and I would become a sobbing mess. Instead I thought to myself, oh so matter of factly, “She is missing and I need to call the police.” My heart did not race, instead it beat slowly and deliberately. My hands did not shake. Tears did not stream down my face and my mouth did not tighten. My mind remained clear, almost empty. I went into my room and reached under the side of my bed, where I keep my phone when I’m asleep, prepared to make ‘the call’. And there she was, curled up with a bed sheet, sleeping soundly.

I let out a breath, previously unaware of how long I had been holding it in. I gently woke her and guided her back to bed, locking her window and making a mental note to remind the landlord, yet again, about the screen. I tucked her in, she was already asleep by the time her blankets fell at her shoulders. I climbed into my own bed, getting under the blankets as my head settled heavily into my pillows, and cried.

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com