Children who have endured four or more adverse childhood events are three times more likely to use ADHD medication. While it’s possible that ADHD may be more easily identified among children with behavioral issues, it is also likely that childhood trauma, particularly during a significant developmental period of one’s life, is often misdiagnosed as ADHD and other learning differences. When your daughter is struggling with behavioral issues or academic performance, it may be helpful to ask if these problems stem from ADHD, childhood trauma, or both.
How to identify if your daughter is struggling with ADHD
ADHD is often first identified in a classroom setting as a range of behaviors that interfere with learning–from sitting still and taking useful notes to understanding the bigger picture of concepts discussed. Given additional time to work on assignments or study tools to help them stay organized, children with ADHD can thrive in the classroom.
Attention deficit is just one of the ways teens with ADHD struggle with executive functioning. Other elements of executive functioning include self-regulation, organization, and planning that help teens with ADHD navigate learning, conversations, relationships, and even their physical health.
Signs of ADHD may include:
- Trouble focusing
- Disruptive in a classroom setting
Overlap with Childhood Trauma
According to a researcher at Johns Hopkins Hospital, it is possible that the hallmark signs of ADHD may, in fact, mirror the effects of adversity and that it can be difficult to tell the difference.
“I began hypothesizing that perhaps a lot of what we were seeing was more externalizing behavior as a result of family dysfunction or other traumatic experience,” explains Dr. Nicole Brown. “Hyper-vigilance and dissociation, for example, could be mistaken for inattention. Impulsivity might be brought on by a stress response in overdrive.”
Children who have experienced trauma often find it difficult to control their behavior and rapidly shift from one mood to the next. They might drift into a dissociative state while reliving a fight their parent’s had the night before or lose focus while anticipating people around them gossiping about them. This distracted and sometimes disruptive behavior can look a lot like ADHD.
Why This Matters
Sometimes, medication may not help improve girls’ behavior issues or problems with concentrating. Instead, they may benefit from a supportive, social environment, like a therapeutic boarding school, where they have more a more consistent schedule and additional academic support. Even if children do struggle with ADHD, it may be difficult to see a dramatic improvement in their behavior using traditional forms of treatment unless their prior or ongoing emotional issues are addressed.
At Asheville Academy for Girls, we recognize that student’s behavior is often a learned response to situations they’ve experienced. Our holistic approach involves getting to know every student on an individualized basis in order to come up with a personalized treatment plan to help them work with their learning differences and cope in healthier ways.
Asheville Academy Can Help
Asheville Academy for Girls is an accredited Therapeutic Boarding School for girls 10-14 that commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other learning differences. Our small classrooms encourage teamwork and collaboration with additional support for girls struggling with academic skills. This program is focused on emotion regulation and building confidence, communication skills, and social skills that will help students transition back into their home and school life. We can help your family today!
For more information about helping your daughter with ADHD at Asheville Academy, call 800-264-8709 today.
Cat brings more than thirty years of experience making an impact in the lives of adolescents. Cat has developed multiple programs helping children, teens, and young adults in a variety of settings and with a diverse range of diagnoses. She has dedicated her career to behavioral health and is honored to be part of the passionate team at Asheville Academy for Girls. She recognizes how delicate this age is and is proud of the role she and her team play in helping girls grow and prosper.