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ADHD Symptoms: How ADHD Differs in Boys & Girls

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

Inattention ADHD continued...

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.

Combined ADHD

The third type of ADHD is a combination of the first two. For children with this form, ADHD is characterized by symptoms of both the hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattention forms of the condition.

ADHD Treatment: Recognition Is the First Step

Once parents begin to suspect their child has ADHD, they can often recall early symptoms such as such as awkwardness, clumsiness, poor balance, and delayed skills development -- which Melillo attributes to deficits in communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. Such deficits are at the heart of ADHD, he says.

For Melillo's son, problems with concentration showed up on the soccer field. "He had a difficult time with sports and coordinating things together, following multiple steps," Melillo says. "On the soccer field, he just didn't get the game."

Regardless of when a diagnosis is made, it helps parents understand the reasons for their child's behavior and what can be done to help. And there is help for ADHD, says Melillo. That can include ADHD medications, therapy, and changes at school and at home. With medication, behavior modification, and an individualized program he devised to help his son develop skills, Melillo says his once-inattentive second-grader is now a successful college freshman.

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Reviewed on April 02, 2010
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