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ADHD Symptoms: How ADHD Differs in Boys & Girls

Experts look at gender differences in the three types of ADHD.
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Inattention ADHD continued...

"I always joke that their backpacks, desk and notebook look like bombs went off in them," says Hertzberg. "When I go through them, I preface it with, 'Is there anything in here that is going to bite me, eat me, sting me, or in some other way hurt me as I open it up?'"

Children with this type of ADHD are more likely to be girls than boys, and teachers are likely to describe them as spacey, says Walt Karniski, MD, a developmental pediatrician and executive director at Tampa Day School, another school specializing in providing educational services for children with ADHD.

One of the key school problems for children with inattention ADHD may be turning in homework because of the many steps involved -- writing down and remembering what the homework is, remembering to bring home the necessary books and supplies to do the homework, remembering to do the homework, remembering to take the homework back to school, and then remembering to turn it in once they get there. Any process with multiple steps can be difficult for an inattentive child. 

These children may also be forgetful in school. "You can tell them something and it's like they never heard it," says Herzberg, a former special education teacher.

At home, a child with inattention may be forgetful, lose toys, keep a messy room, and have difficulty concentrating on games and activities. One exception to this is when he is engaged in video games. Video games are a unique stimulus for kids with ADHD because they offer constant distraction, says Karniski.

"When the kid is sitting in class, the kid is not being put on the spot every second, so their mind can wander easily," Karniski says. When playing a video game, however, every hand movement results in an accommodating move on the screen. "If his hand moves to the right, the characters move to the right or the gun moves to the right. If he pushes a button, sparks or bullets fly out of something. Everything he does results in a response on the screen. So if he is distracted, between the split second he makes the physical response and sees the response on the screen, he will be redistracted back to the video screen.

"When ADHD kids are playing video games, they are constantly being distracted by what's going on the video screen, because what is going on the video screen is always more stimulating than what is going on in their environment," Karniski tells WebMD. So when a mother tells her child it's time to do his homework, he is momentarily distracted from the game. But before she even finishes the sentence, something happens on the screen and he doesn't even hear the rest of it, according to Karniski.

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