The Forgotten Invisibility of Inattentive ADHD in Boys and Girls

ADHD Coaching for Boys and GirlsI think our understanding of ADHD has certainly moved forward, and why many times ADHD coaching is much needed. But yet there are still so many who really do not understand the disability and how it impacts our kids in school, necessitating many times ADHD accommodations through a 504 plan or IEP. In addition, the mindset is that those who have ADHD must be always fidgeting, running, and obviously not focusing.

There are three kinds of ADHD, two of those encompassing hyperactivity. The third kind is the inattentive ADHD that does not carry with it an obvious red flag. The child is impacted with the same kinds of issues like focus, processing speed and the many executive functioning deficits like working memory, organization, time management, and initiation. The difference here is what is seen and what is not seen.

This child who many times is a girl, is trying to pay attention and follow the rules. No one sees lack of focus. She is not calling attention to herself by unacceptable behaviors. She simply is sitting in her seat and appearing to follow along with the class and expectations. Yes, more often boys are the ones diagnosed with the combined type of ADHD or the impulsive, hyperactive ADHD while the girls many times do have the inattentive type.

As a result of the presentation of this inattentive type of ADHD, the child is often diagnosed later if at all. Sometimes, some of the co-existing conditions like depression and anxiety are diagnosed without any realization that the primary diagnosis is ADHD.

I recently spoke with a mom whose 18-year-old daughter was taken to a psychologist for an evaluation. The mom knew in her gut that something was not right. Or maybe what I should say is she was undiagnosed and not supported! But the psychologist only would say that she seemed to have a few traits of ADHD, but that he didn’t think she really had the diagnosis of ADHD. I would question that evaluation for sure.

The intuitive mom and advocate knew then and now as she reaches out to me that her daughter shows all the signs of ADHD and needs support, accommodations, and modifications in the classroom. Her grades have been suffering and she sees how ADHD is impacting her success.

The takeaways are the following:

  • More girls than boys have the inattentive form of ADHD
  • Both the combined type including impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness and the form solely of impulsivity and hyperactivity are seen more often in boys and carry with it red flags because of how apparent the ADHD is in at least two environments.
  • All forms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, have symptoms that impair success: focus, executive functioning deficits like organization, working memory, time management, emotional regulation, transitions, and initiation.
  • Obvious behaviors do not necessarily mean that the ADHD is more impacting than the ADHD that shows up as inattentive.
  • It is so important to have a clinician diagnosing your child with expertise in ADHD. Co-existing conditions that end up as the primary diagnosis instead of ADHD hamper treatment.


As a result of a poor diagnosis by an inexperienced clinician as well as the school district’s inability to see these struggles, this 18-year-old has graduated from high school without the tools needed for success in life going forward. In this case, her desire is to go to college. Her mom realizes the need to formalize this diagnosis and insure some support through some ADHD coaching.

To understand more about what ADHD advocacy is, and how it can dramatically help your child, please contact me directly for a free consultancy session. On our call, you will have the opportunity to share the challenges that your child is facing, and get instant feedback on critical next steps to help both you and your child. You can contact me directly by clicking here!

A little about the author and founder of ADD Advocate, Karen Lowry: I am a certified ADHD Coach. ADHD advocacy is my passion. There are so many school support challenges facing our children, that knowing your rights as a parent have never been more crucial. Effective ADHD coaching depends on effective advocacy for our kids. Remember, if you should ever have any questions about anything regarding school support, or just understanding about ADHD, IEP programs, 504 plans, etc….

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