Highly intelligent girls with ADD can be the most difficult to spot. The brighter your daughter with ADD is, the later her school problems tend to emerge. Many girls with above average IQ can keep it together academically until they hit middle school, or even high school. As their school life becomes more demanding and complicated in the upper grades, their problems with concentration, organization and follow-through are more likely to reveal themselves.
Girls with undiagnosed ADD often pay the price of being seen as ditzy, spacey or nonacademic. Due to internal disorganization and distractibility many of these girls pick up, but soon drop many hobbies and interests. Activities such as learning to play a musical instrument, which require discipline and perseverance, are rarely continued. Not only do they fall behind academically, but they also come to think of themselves as "quitters" with few talents. Parents and teachers may dismiss these girls as undisciplined, and sadly, they come to deny their own abilities.
Paula and Becky Stanford, a mother and daughter, both now diagnosed with ADD, have made a very touching video called Dismissed and Undiagnosed Dreamers, describing the experiences Becky encountered as a girl, and later a teen, with undiagnosed ADD. Following her diagnosis and treatment for ADD, Becky went on to earn a master's degree in social work and has made it one of her life's missions to educate parents, teachers and professionals about girls with ADD so that other girls will not suffer through the same experiences.
A checklist if you think your daughter may have ADD:
__ I have trouble finishing my assignments in class.
__ I daydream in class.
__ Even when I try to listen, my thoughts wander.
__ I forget to bring papers and permission slips from home.
__ I have trouble following the teacher's directions.
__ My mind wanders when I read.
__ Projects and papers are hard for me to finish.
__ I often do my work at the last minute and turn things in late.
__ I forget to bring the right books home from school.
__ I get upset more easily than my friends.
__ Sometimes it feels like I'm not good at anything.
__ I am frequently late.
__ It's hard for me to concentrate when there are people around me.
__ My parents and teachers tell me I don't try hard enough.
__ Other kids tease me about being spacey.
__ I feel different from other girls.
__ I lose track of time.
__ I have a messy book bag.
__ My room at home is a disaster.
Look carefully in your community for professionals who have experience in diagnosing and treating girls. CH.A.D.D. (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) is a national organization with local chapters in many cities and towns across the country. You can contact the CH.A.D.D. national office to find the CH.A.D.D. chapter nearest you. (301-306-7070). Monthly CH.A.D.D. meetings are free and are a good place to network with other parents to find the best professionals in your area. If you feel that your daughter is not working up to her potential, or if she seems to fit some of the patterns described here, trust your instincts and seek an evaluation. Your daughter's teacher may disagree with an ADD diagnosis because he or she is only trained to recognize male-pattern ADD behaviors. Teacher education is badly needed to help them recognize the different ADD patterns seen in girls.
You can advocate even more actively for your undiagnosed daughter by helping with community education. Check out the ADDvance website - A Resource For Women and Girls with ADD. Try to convince your daughter's school or your local CH.A.D.D. chapter to purchase the video Dismissed and Undiagnosed Dreamers as a community education tool.