ADHD Inattentive in Girls

While on Spring break I saw a friend that I had not seen in years.  I met her 13 year old daughter as well and we had a great time visiting.  My friend spoke to me about recently realizing that she had the symptoms of inattentive ADHD and concluding, after reading the book Delivered from Distraction, that her daughter had the symptoms of inattentive ADHD as well.

My friend's daughter is in the gifted program at her school.  She was clearly very bright, very secure, quite self aware, and very composed for a 13 year old.When I spoke with her she was clearly concerned about her performance in school and my friend told me that this year, as a seventh grader, she had received some very poor grades and my friend suspected that her daughters inattentiveness symptoms were finally starting to present an impairment.

I spoke to my friend regarding the non-medical interventions that I thought would work best for her daughter but speaking to her reminded me that I have written very little about girls with Inattentive ADHD.  My friend's daughter situation is a pretty classic case presentation of how ADHD is first discovered and diagnosed in girls.

We know from many studies that girls are more likely than boys to go unnoticed and undiagnosed when they have symptoms of ADHD.  They are likely to be more inattentive and not hyperactive.  They are less likely than boys to be impulsive and they are at less risk for co-morbidities such as depression. 

A large study of ADHD done in the U.S. was completed in Massachusetts in 2002.  The lead author of this study, Dr J. Biederman, reported that:  "Girls with ADHD were more likely than boys to have the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD, less likely to have learning disabilities, and less likely to manifest problems in school and in their spare time.  In addition, girls with ADHD were at less risk for comorbid conduct disorders, and oppositional defiant disorder than boys with ADHD."    This same study, however, did find a statistically significant increase in the risk of substance abuse in girls with ADHD symptoms.

From other studies we know that girls respond positively to the same medication and behavioral interventions for ADHD as boys do and we also know that 70% to 80% percent of boys and girls identified with ADHD will continue to have problems into adulthood.  Some research has indicated that girls and boys without disruptive behavioral disorders and learning disabilities respond best to stimulants and behavioral therapies while individuals without learning disabilities and disruptive behavioral disorders do just as well on behavioral therapy alone.

Girls are more likely to have the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD, they are likely to be diagnosed late or not at all, they are less likely have behavioral problems but more likely to have anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems in adolescents and as adults.  Teachers are less likely to be aware of the symptoms of ADHD in girls.  It is imperative that parents of girls advocate for the treatment that will address the issues of Predominantly Inattentive girls with ADHD.

I will be devoting the next several posts to what more we know about ADHD in girls.


  1. I can't wait to hear more about what you have to say about girls with ADHD. My daughter so far does not seem to fall into any of the "normal" catagories of ADHD. She is extremly hyperactive but not aggresive with peers.

  2. I'm interested in more information on Inattentive. My 11 year old daughter was FINALLY diagnosed with "cluttering" speech. Very rare, same part of the brain as stuttering, but wondered if these two are related? For 2 years, we've been trying to find the "right" medicine for her but nothing has worked well.

  3. I read up on 'cluttering' and I can see how it could absolutely be related to the brain changes that go on in ADHD. I found this study that reported the following; "There are strong similarities in the EEG, morphology, and behavior of stutterers and individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These similarities suggest that neurofeedback, which has proven successful in the treatment of ADHD, may hold promise as a viable adjunct treatment to traditional speech therapies for stuttering."

    It sounds as though there is an audiology processing component to cluttering and maybe an audiology therapy program might help.

    Have you tried a program like Fast ForWord? I have recently posted about the success my son has had with this program.

    Thanks so much for reading and posting. Tess

    Journal Title:
    Journal of Neurotherapy:
    The Official Publication of the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research
    Volume: 5 Issue: 4
    ISSN: 1087-4208 Pub Date: 1/1/2001
    Tuesday, 24 April 2007 04:12:00 CEST

  4. Thanks for that information. yes, you are correct about cluttering. We have used an auditory feedback delay headset with her speech therapy. It works great, although the voice you hear in the headset sounds like darth vader. Of course that is $3500 & insurance won't cover it. I will look into Fast ForWord, especially since summer is coming. Thanks! I'm going to keep reading your blog!

  5. All of this is so expensive. My son is now starting the second Fast ForWord program and it is costing another $1500.00. Our insurance does not cover it either. I am looking into a Neurobiofeedback program for my inattentive son and all I can think of these days is Ca Ching, Ca Ching, Ca $$$$$$hing.

  6. Hi Tessermom, thanks for the interesting blog. Because this talked about cluttering, I posted a link to your blog on:

  7. Thank you so much for this post. I'm hoping to go find other info you have posted since I am finding it so late. We have a 13 year old ADHD girl.

  8. It is much more common for the diagnosis of Inattentive ADHD to be made when girls get into middle school instead of earlier. Let me know if you have any question and thanks for reading. Tess

  9. I didn't know the effects of ADHD differ according to gender classification. Thanks for sharing!

  10. My daughter was just diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD and she is 8yrs old. I'm very grateful we caught it early on and am hopeful for treatments that will help us, help her. Thanks for this information.

  11. I suppose this thread is too old to find any of you here. I suspect my 10 year old has inattentive ADHD: positively dreamy, can drift off in school, doesn't always follow instructions, seems to make careless spelling and grammatical errors in her work etc. No one is calling this ADHD, but I can't work out why, for example, a very bright and otherwise model student, has difficulties writing to speed, checking over her work etc. etc. Can anyone advise what I could do for her? I don't want to call attention to a problem that just isn't there... but it is really gnawing at me. Thanks


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