What parents can do to support learning and self-esteem
Helping kids with ADHD is a big job. Both sexes benefit from medication, organizational assistance and accommodations. But girls with ADHD—like me—face a different set of challenges than boys, and when it comes to helping, parents need an approach that addresses these differences head-on.
Make the invisible visible
In girls, ADHD is often referred to as a “hidden disorder,” and with good reason. Most girls with ADHD have the inattentive type, which means that they have problems focusing but are not hyperactive and impulsive. But even those who are hyperactive and impulsive present with less obvious symptoms than boys, so it often goes unnoticed or unacknowledged. Instead of a diagnosis, girls with ADHD often get criticism from parents, teachers, and peers, and the fallout takes a serious toll on self-esteem.
“Pardoxically,” says Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, who chairs the psychology department at UC Berkeley, “Stigma is stronger against subtle disorders than obvious ones: ‘You’re bright. You should have it together! What’s wrong with you?’ The very subtlety and inconstancy of the symptoms fuels stigma—it doesn’t reduce it.”
Educating yourself about ADHD can help build understanding around a frustrating, complex disorder. It will also give you the arsenal you’ll need to become a strong advocate for your daughter.
I asked my dad, who doesn’t have ADHD, what he thought was the most difficult part of having a daughter who does.
“I didn’t understand it for a long time,” he told me. “It was invisible. We’d never heard of girls having ADHD. It seemed like you should be doing fine but were screwing up, and I didn’t know what it was about. That made it very hard to get on your side.”
Reach out to other parents
Dr. Kathleen Nadeau, a clinical psychologist who works with girls with ADHD and their parents, says that parents not understanding is a common refrain.
“The not-ADHD parent is going ‘I don’t get it!’ ” she says. “When parents have to keep repeating the same things—’You’re not getting up on time.’ ‘Put your shoes away.’—it adds up and makes it hard to see past the behavior to the causes behind it.”
Nadeau suggests that parents with ADHD daughters spend time talking with and listening to other parents whose children have ADHD. Hearing the similarities and sharing struggles and strategies helps non-ADHD parents understand the disorder better. “It really helps to have people who can relate,” she says.
Help with friends
Girls with ADHD sometimes struggle to make and maintain friendships, and the relentless complexities of the girl social world are overwhelming. Dr. Patricia Quinn, co-founder and director of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD, recommends helping girls with ADHD find social outlets that make them feel comfortable and play to their strengths. “If your daughter is socially awkward, find environments that are socially accepting—places that are more supervised and focused on kindness and treating people well and self-acceptance,” she explains.
Encourage your daughter to get involved with afterschool activities—clubs that focus on her interests or group activities that allow for individual space, like art classes or book groups—to help her learn to feel safe, comfortable and confident in a social setting. Likewise, if your daughter is impulsive or hyper, social situations where she can release some energy, like theater or sports, can make things go more smoothly.
And because boys are more likely to be diagnosed, even though lots of girls have ADHD, it’s easy for girls to sometimes feel alienated. Help your daughter normalize and legitimize her experiences by connecting her with other girls her age who have ADHD. Check out books about girls with ADHD and try reading and talking about them together. It also might help to find an older girl with ADHD to mentor your daughter, through school or a program like Eye to Eye. Meeting other ladies with ADHD, especially those who are open about their disorder, can make girls feel less alone and more hopeful.
Engineer her environment
When you have a clear understanding of what your daughter needs, you and she can work together to create situations that bolster her abilities and offer support in the areas where she feels less competent. Dr. Nadeau calls this “environmental engineering.”
For example, says Dr. Nadeau, “Extroverted, hyper-talkative girls might benefit from forming a study group. If studying alone is a nightmare but socializing is easy, find a way to make it constructive.”
Similarly, girls who are more introverted or struggle to stay focused might do well in a quiet, calm setting, with minimal distractions. As I write this, I’m facing a white wall (visual stimuli are really distracting for me) and using a white noise app on my phone—which is set to ignore all calls until I’m done working—to block out distracting sounds.
Research shows that girls with ADHD, especially those who’ve gone undiagnosed, suffer from low self-esteem. I was no exception.
Failure, I’d think morosely, shaking my head for the umpteenth time when the teacher asked if I had my homework. I’m a stupid, useless failure.
The emotional fallout of ADHD can be as or more severe than any academic difficulties. We know now that girls with ADHD have higher rates of self-harm, substance abuse, and suicide attempts. Encourage your daughter to talk about how she’s feeling and seek further help if necessary.
Highlighting her strengths is one way to build back lost self-esteem and help your daughter see herself in a more positive light. “Look for islands of success,” says Dr. Nadeau. “Look for what she’s good at and really likes to do and arrange her world so that it’s a major focus in her life.”
Help her come out of hiding
Having ADHD can be frustrating and humiliating. Girls with ADHD often hide, minimize or compensate for their difficulties, too embarrassed to ask for help (even when we really need it). A 16-year-old I know explained how painful it was trying to cover up her struggles. “I wanted so badly to be like everyone else,” she said. “I didn’t want to ask for help because I didn’t want to be the weird girl who couldn’t get it done, but—of course—I did need help so then, after all that, I’d fail anyway. It was terrible.”
Work with your daughter to help her get comfortable with asking for help. It can be very hard for girls with ADHD to acknowledge their needs, and it may take time and practice for her to find her voice.
It may sound simple, but for me, learning to say, “Please repeat that. I have trouble remembering things if I don’t write them down,” instead of ducking my head and quietly panicking, has been life changing.
In the meantime, you can model how it’s done by being her advocate. Standing up for your daughter will not only help her get the services and accommodations she needs, but also send the message to her that ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. This will help empower her to become her own advocate as she grows up. The more she is able to figure out what works for her, and ask for the help that will enable her to succeed, the more she will thrive.
I asked my mother what was the best advice she’d gotten on raising a daughter with ADHD.
“Dan,” she said, with no hesitation.
Dan was my 3rd grade teacher, and the first person to notice I might have ADHD.
“Rae thinks a little differently than the other kids,” he told my parents. “It’s not a bad thing, but it might make some things more difficult for her as she grows up.”
My parents were confused and worried. “What should we do?” they asked. “How can we help?”
Dan thought for a moment.
“Keep her ego intact.” He said. “Make sure she knows you think she’s smart and you love her no matter what.”
“That,” my mother told me, nearly 20 years later, “was very good advice.”
Article sourced from Child Mind Institute
The disorder affects around 500,000 school-aged children
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects around 500,000 school-aged children in the UK – that’s around 5%. It’s a complex neurological condition most commonly diagnosed in childhood. Symptoms can vary but key characteristics are a tendency to talk incessantly, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour.
‘ADHD is a condition that has been and continues to be significantly misunderstood’
‘ADHD is a condition that has been and continues to be significantly misunderstood,’ says Dr Dimitrios Paschos, Re:Cognition Health’s psychiatrist specialising in adult ADHD and related disorders. ‘It’s hard for both the public and professionals to move beyond the label of someone just having attention problems or being disruptive at school.’
Dr Paschos reveals some common myths about ADHD:
Sourced from NetDoctor.co.uk
So here it is my little rant. Sometimes you just have to let it out the frustrations of the prejudice we face on a daily basis. I am at an age now that when I get my mind blanks I get “it’s your age my love”. I think to myself, what was it then when I was a child then? My mind blanks, as I like to call them can be a pain! You have in your head exactly what you are doing then someone helps you….Ahhhhh! No no don’t help me I will forget what I am doing. Resonate with you?
Sorry distracted from the point I wanted to make a video showing me at my most vulnerable and speaking from the heart. For 10 years I have fought for ADHD and rights and to be honest not not much has changed. So I figure I needed to change what I was doing. I needed people to see my pain, my vulnerabilities and hopefully identify with them. It’s was a huge risk as I fear rejection and criticism (wonder why? Growing up with out a diagnosis?)
My goal is to be listened to – that’s it. Be listen to by the people that matter the ones that can the lives of billions of people. Knowing I have so much support makes me stronger and when I feel stronger I have more faith and want to fight harder so please stick by me. We will win this battle!
Living with a partner with ADHD
Maintaining a strong relationship can be a particular challenge when one of the partners has ADHD. Individuals might be perceived by their partners as being poor listeners or easily distracted; moreover, the causes of these symptoms––and more traumatic ones, such as angry outbursts––might not have been diagnosed, resulting in a lack of understanding from the unaffected partner.
Partners with ADHD might also struggle particularly owing to their perceptions of themselves. They could, for example, possess low self-esteem, which in itself may have resulted from past difficulties maintaining relationships. As a consequence, they will consider taking steps to avoid their partners in order to prevent confrontation, and can see the significant other’s action as unduly controlling. Alternatively, being easily distracted, they could fail to appreciate that the relationship is in danger and be shocked when it disintegrates entirely.
From their angle, the other partner could feel as though they are bearing too much of the responsibility in the relationship; that they are unable to rely on their other half, and feel lonely or underappreciated. These issues might, at least in the early stages, have been easily masked by the benefits that can emerge from the hyperfocus of the ADHD partner, making the change in the relationship even more difficult to comprehend.
The stresses on the relationship can become particularly acute when it has progressed to the stage at which factors such as raising children and managing the home must also be taken into account. Particularly frequent are disagreements over money, as those suffering with ADHD are sometimes inclined to spend in an impulsive way, which their partners see as irresponsible.
Among the key approaches to breaking this cycle is an understanding of the disorder, the symptoms that it can present, and the most effective ways of responding to these symptoms. As with any other relationship, empathy is important from both perspectives, underpinned by recognition that it is the disorder––rather than either of the individuals involved––that is the source of many of the problems. To this end, a significant first step will come in visiting a GP and enabling them to diagnose the problem. Potential treatments, such as behavioural therapy or some form of medication, can then be considered. Marriage counselling could similarly be deemed beneficial.
Couples might also aim to develop their own specific strategies for building more effective communications. These would not necessarily be complicated; one academic in the field has, for example, suggested that simply writing down what has been agreed and displaying this on post-it notes in the home can be highly useful. This can help the unaffected partner to avoid being seen as nagging or controlling. Another option might be to ask the partner with ADHD to repeat what has been said so that misunderstandings can be avoided.
Towards the end of 2016, Kings College London (KCL) announced that it was to undertake a major study programme that would examine a potential treatment for ADHD among young male prisoners.
While research on the issue is patchy, up to 30% of young prisoners are believed to have the disorder, compared to around 3%-4% of the broader population. But it is often left undiagnosed, in part because a number of the symptoms––such as personality disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse––overlap with other mental health issues. As a consequence, the effect of treating ADHD in prisoners remains unclear.
The issue had already been a subject of media attention earlier in the year. In April, a charity called for prison officers at young offenders’ centres in Northern Ireland to receive mandatory training in both spotting and understanding ADHD. Its call for action followed the publication of analysis, by ADD-NI, which suggested that at least 70% of the young people in one of these centres had the disorder.
KCL’s three-year study programme is to focus specifically on the potential for a drug called methylphenidate (MPH) to reduce the symptoms of ADHD among young male prisoners. It works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, which in turn strengthens the brain’s activity in areas related to attention and behaviour regulation. It could, KCL said, have a “huge impact on improved self-control of behaviour and function in education and work”.
An earlier, Swedish study, which involved use of the drug, showed signs of promise. It found a six-fold higher rate of criminal convictions in adults with ADHD, but a 30%-40% cut in crime during periods of treatment with MPH.
Meanwhile, a pilot study of the drug by KCL has also yielded positive news. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons said that the trial, which involved 100 prisoners at HMP Isis, had left some prisoners saying that they were, for the first time in their lives, experiencing a measure of “stability”. It argued that prisoners who were treated for ADHD should, following their release, continued to be prescribed with medication and ongoing specialist support.
Professor Philip Asherson, who is leading the investigation, said:
“If the treatment is effective in a prison setting, this will pose bigger questions around what happens to prisoners when they are released. Does it lead to better functioning in society and a drop in subsequent criminal offending? These are the issues we will seek to examine in future research.”