When I first came across this image illustrating attention deficit symptoms in girls, I immediately found myself thinking more about stereotypes than disabilities. It’s what led me to write: Making Sense of Behavior: Girls, Boys, Attention Deficits and Stereotypes. And yet, I still find myself far more concerned with the way that adults tolerate (or don’t tolerate!) such behaviors than about the differences themselves.
So when I discovered the counterpart to the original image, I went a little deeper.
There are definitely differences in the way that boys and girls demonstrate attention deficits, and science backs this up. But when you look closely at this list for boys, you will recognize more aggressive behavior tendencies than on the list for girls, which brings me right back to square one. I believe that it is significantly less about the behaviors a child manifests and far more about the behaviors the adults in that child’s life will tolerate.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? A child who daydreams is far less of a distraction than a child who is constantly hyperactive. It’s much easier to overlook clumsiness than extreme risk taking. This is why we continue to see a diagnosis rate for males over females of around 3:1.
Let’s be honest – ok? Read the following sentence and then close your eyes and let yourself notice the first image that comes to mind: “That is a child with a diagnosed attention disorder."
So, what was the image came to mind? A boy? A boy doing something “bad”? A particularly challenging male student in your classroom? It’s tough to confront the reality of our own biases, but in order to break the cycle and create change, we must first be honest with ourselves.
Personally, I would start by changing the way we manage behavior in the classroom. I think chart systems are biased toward "female" behavior, not to mention the inherent shaming that comes along with such visible classroom management.