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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