ADHD people are my people.  I know them to be charismatic, charming, engaging, energetic, creative and interesting (with an abundance of unique hobbies)…and hilarious! Never a moment of my mind meanders while in their presence.  I don’t have ADHD myself, but lots of people I know and love do.

My first experience with ADHD was a full immersion one, living with a high school population completely comprised of students with ADHD and other learning differences.  Here I taught and coached and encouraged and dispensed medication before bedtime.  It was overwhelming, heart-wrenching, frustrating and joyful.

My initial classroom observation was that, overall, the girls were demure in comparison to the boys—composed, mature and sometimes meticulously organized.  And they were also chatty, needy, fearful and oftentimes depressed while struggling mightily with low self-esteem. Conversely, the boys acted out more—-they were hyperactive, messy and loud. Sometimes their anger was explosive.  They lost things, showed up late to exams and forgot tests.  The striking differences between the genders makes me think of something I recently heard on a TEDX Talk—that males tend to take their ADHD out on those around them, whereas girls turn theirs on themselves.  It seemed to me that societal norms allowed the boys the freedom to stretch, unrestrained, into the nebulous boundaries of their diagnosis, while conversely, the girls had been conditioned to shrink (even moreso) with shame.

The teenage girls I taught over that period of time were lucky—they had been diagnosed before entering this specialized high school and could safely explore a new support network that had the potential to create some major paradigm shifts in their lives.  Some seemed very much able to overcome the false beliefs from childhood that they were “stupid” or “lazy”, while others didn’t, as the damage done to them before they knew that their brains worked differently had caused irreversible injury to their spirit.  I wondered what would become of their adult selves, knowing that the stakes were high, looming dark and pregnant with things like addiction and even suicide   The resounding take-away for me was this:  we must start supporting females just as much as we do males.  It is certainly not dramatic to say that their lives depend on this very thing.  We need to support, educate, encourage and diagnose our ADHD girls early on.