Oct 21, 2022 

Staring out the window, Jane could hear the distant voice of her English teacher. Instead of following along with the lesson on in-text MLA citations, she was thinking about the chemistry lab she forgot to submit and was trying to distract herself from the feelings of failure by watching a couple of squirrels chasing each other through the tree branches. She was about to give them names when the bell rang, signaling it was lunchtime (i.e. 30 minutes of social awkwardness). Jolted back to reality, she couldn’t shake this feeling that something was wrong with her. She just wanted to be normal.

Jane, like many girls with ADHD, is struggling with the demands of high school. While the boys in her class with ADHD were diagnosed in elementary school, Jane and girls like her were overlooked. Since their symptoms didn’t manifest as stereotypical hyperactivity that regularly disrupted lessons, they were ultimately just labeled as daydreamers or lazy. Girls with undiagnosed ADHD may be able to get by and mask their difficulties in elementary school, but problems may emerge along with the increasing academic, emotional, and social demands of adolescence and young adulthood. So, in this article, you will learn about the consequences of undiagnosed ADHD, how to recognize the symptoms of ADHD in girls, and the types of support available and what you can do to help.

Why is it important to diagnose girls with ADHD?

Boys with ADHD act out to externalize the pain caused by low self-esteem and frustration; girls, on the other hand, tend to blame themselves as their academic and social difficulties snowball into a perception of themselves as “stupid” or feelings that they don’t belong. That’s why it’s so important to understand and identify the symptoms of ADHD in girls. If a girl with ADHD isn’t diagnosed or receives a delayed diagnosis, she could struggle with academic as well as mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. 

What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD in girls?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines ADHD as a condition “marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” ADHD is often underdiagnosed in girls not only because of developmental differences between girls and boys (i.e. girls’ symptoms emerge alongside puberty), but also because symptoms manifest differently. 

Girls with ADHD tend to:

  • struggle with anxiety and mood swings (e.g. cries easily, slams doors, oversensitive).
  • have problems with time management (e.g. often late).
  • have trouble making friends because they are more socially and emotionally immature compared to their peers.
  • be hyper-talkative (e.g. blurts things out, interrupts) and hyper-emotional rather than hyperactive.
  • hyperfocus on a task or topic (e.g. spends hours working on a project at the last minute or is obsessed with a television show).
  • fidget with their hair and nails or constantly doodle when feeling restless instead of engaging in more disruptive behaviors.
  • daydream.
  • be forgetful.
  • be underestimated academically (i.e. seems like she doesn’t listen).
  • act shy and withdrawn.
  • be easily distracted.
  • be disorganized.
  • have a messy appearance.
  • seem unmotivated (i.e. doesn’t look like she is trying).
  • have trouble shifting between activities or tasks.
  • have problems completing tasks.

Not all girls with ADHD will display all of these symptoms, and having some of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that a girl has ADHD. If you recognize the signs of ADHD in yourself or a girl you know, you can complete a self-test created by ADDitude or set up a meeting with a doctor or school psychologist.

How can we support girls with ADHD?

Once a girl who exhibits many of the symptoms of ADHD is officially diagnosed, she can start to let go of the shame and negative labels she’s attached to herself. She will have access to specialized treatment and a variety of options for support, including medication, counseling, executive function coaching, academic services, and accommodations. 

Parents can also help to address the unique challenges of ADHD in girls. One of the most important things a parent can do is to educate themselves about ADHD and help their daughter understand herself better. Organizations and support groups, like CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and its local affiliate locations, are a great place to start learning more about ADHD and access resources. ADDitude also offers its own parent support group on Facebook. The more parents and their daughters know about ADHD, the better prepared they will be to advocate for themselves. 

In addition to getting educated about ADHD, girls will benefit from living in an environment that matches their specific needs, which can mean anything from creating and establishing routines to developing more productive forms of communication. Here are some ideas for how to create a supportive environment for a girl with ADHD:

  • Establish structure and routines to reduce distractions, misunderstandings, and unpredictability.
  • Make sure she has a quiet and clean place to study and do homework.
  • Help her develop her talents and social skills by seeking out structured activities (e.g. clubs devoted to a favorite hobby or interest, sports, volunteering).
  • Set aside time to check-in with your daughter. 
  • Focus on her strengths and validate her perspective instead of offering solutions or judgments. 
  • Explore ways to calm down or to deescalate conflict. Identify common triggers, like changes of plan or homework, and come up with ideas to cool off and regroup (e.g. listening to music, go for a walk, etc.).
  • Help her identify role models or find mentors.

How A+ Can Help

Girls with ADHD may need help developing executive function skills as well as academic support. At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, we offer Executive Function Coaching services and academic tutoring. Our test prep tutors also provide students with individualized support based on their unique needs and learning styles. All test prep students have access to a free computer-based cognitive assessment called Mindprint that measures complex reasoning, executive functions, memory, and processing efficiency. Ultimately, our strengths-based approach supports girls with ADHD by helping them develop both their knowledge and confidence. 

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Directors Joelle Faucette and Michelle Giagnacovo can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at


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