If you’re a parent of a daughter with an invisible disability, you may be angry and frustrated, just like me. It’s incredibly hard to get teachers and medical professionals to take concerns of ADHD or autism seriously in girls. Autistic girls, and girls with ADHD go underdiagnosed because of diagnostic criteria that was based on while males only. That’s part of what makes parenting girls with ADHD even harder.
Compounding this issue even more is that the symptoms of ADHD and the symptoms of autism in girls overlap a lot when it comes to higher-functioning autism (not the best way to describe the differences in symptom severity, but it’s what most people use).
So, if your daughters are anything like mine, you spend a lot of time researching ADHD vs autism in girls.
Here’s the thing: you may actually never know if your daughter has ADHD or autism unless she shows some of the classic autism symptoms like hand flapping and refusal to interact with others.
I definitely don’t have all the answers, and I still wonder and research almost daily on the symptoms of ADHD vs autism to try to identify which diagnosis is the “true” diagnosis for my girls.
If you’re in the same boat, here’s a bit of what I’ve uncovered about ADHD vs autism.
What are the Symptoms of ADHD in Girls?
I have several articles on the symptoms of ADHD in girls. Here are some signs of ADHD in girls. And here is what ADHD looks like in girls vs boys. You may also see some of these hidden ADHD behaviors in your daughter.
If your daughter has these symptoms, she could have ADHD. But there is more to the story.
What are the Symptoms of Autism in Girls?
Autistic girls are are fascinating subject. Currently, autisim is diagnosed in boys in a ratio of anywhere between 16 to 1 and 68 to 1. But, as the linked resource suggests, this ratio is far more likely to be 3 to 1 or 2 to 1 once gender differences are accounted for.
This means that for every girl diagnosed with autism, there are anywhere between 15 and 67 undiagnosed autistic girls out there who have to learn how to deal with their symptoms on their own.
You can read more about the symptoms of autism in girls here.
How ADHD and Autism Can Look the Same in Girls
Girls with ADHD and autistic girls have similar and overlapping symptoms. Both conditions have these symptoms in common:
- Difficulty reading social cues
- Struggles understanding emotions
- Social isolation
- Tics and repetitive behavior
- Difficulty making friends
- Emotional outbursts
A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2015 found that when children were first diagnosed with ADHD, they were often not given an autism diagnosis until much later in life, sometimes even as late as the teen years when social interactions become more difficult.
My girls both exhibit signs of ADHD and some signs of autism. My personal theory is that ADHD is part of the autism spectrum, but I haven’t read any studies backing up my theory. 😀
My middle daughter, especially, exhibits signs of autism. She had extreme symptoms up until preschool, including lining up toys, refusing to look at or smile at people, not playing with toys, not speaking until the age of 4, extreme meltdowns, rigid behaviors, sensory sensitivities, and just about every classic symptom of autism except for hand flapping.
But, because she learned to overcome her symptoms in preschool and kindergarten, she was not diagnosed.
Now, as a hyperactive and distracted learner, we’re attempting to have her diagnosed with ADHD. For us as parents, we’re hoping that she can get support at least through that diagnosis.
What Can Parents Do about ADHD vs Autism in Girls?
Unfortunately, if you’re the parent of a daughter with ADHD or an autistic daughter, it’s going to be harder for you and her.
The only thing you can do is keep researching, keep track of your daughter’s symptoms, and bring them up with your daughter’s medical professionals.
You can also request an evaluation by a psychologist (many psychologists work with ADHD and autism) and choose someone who has experience with girls with ADHD and autism.
Unfortunately, most of the research on girls with autism and ADHD is going on in Europe and Australia, so it’s harder to find a knowledgeable professional in the United States.
But, as parents, we can keep advocating for our girls and keep asking that they get the help they need to succeed.