Do you know about ASD and ADHD?

Adolescent problems, loneliness, bullying at school.

Women and girls generally present differently for ASD and ADHD than boys, which often leads to the condition being unrecognised or undiagnosed - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Life in the WIs with GFWI chairman Janice Cole

By now we will have held our National AGM, this time at Liverpool. We will have voted for a resolution which will define our future campaigning. This year, as often happens, we are faced with one which requires a certain amount of research, it is in this way that less well-known issues come to light. Sometimes this means that there is less enthusiasm for the campaigning that follows. Is this a good thing? Well, we are given detailed information on the issue and sources of more, both for and against the motion. In this way we can discuss it at our voting meeting intelligently and we always finish having learnt much more. 

The topic for this year’s resolution was as follows: 

‘Women and Girls with ASD ADHD Under-identified, Under-Diagnosed, Misdiagnosed, Under-Supported. 
Women and girls presenting with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are going undiagnosed. The NFWI calls on the government and funding bodies to fund research into the female presentation of ASD and ADHD and for action to be taken to improve the diagnosis process for women and girls, to ensure that they are equipped to better manage these conditions and do not suffer in silence. The NFWI further calls on WI members to raise awareness within their WIs of issues facing girls with ASD and ADHD.’ 

Autism is something we hear much about with the focus on boys. Similarly, ADHD is regarded by many to be gender based: ‘the naughty boy in the classroom’. This is a misconception; it is simply more common and obvious in boys. Girls do suffer from both conditions but are generally ignored. They are regarded as ‘difficult’ or ‘disruptive’, but in fact do not have control over their actions. They need help and support, not punishment.  

The main components of these conditions are different but they share similarities and can be confused. Basically, ASD is a lifelong development disability which affect how people communicate and interact with the world, whilst ADHD affects people’s behaviour. 

People with ADHD seem restless, concentration can be difficult and they can be impulsive. These symptoms usually improve with age, yet still cause problems for some as adults. 

ASD affects social communication and behaviour; interaction with others is difficult for those with the condition. They have difficulty understanding the thoughts and feelings of others. Loud noises and bright lights can cause distress; they may also show evidence of repetitive behaviour or thinking. All of this makes it difficult for them to cope with the people around them. 

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Women and girls generally present differently for ADHD than boys, being described as ‘inattentive’ rather than ‘hyperactive’. Possibly because they tend to internalise their problems, taking them out on themselves rather than on others. This often leads to the condition being unrecognised or undiagnosed. 

There is a greater need for further research and education. We hope that by putting the strength of the WI behind this resolution we will be able to make a difference. It has at least given me the chance to highlight the problem, particularly for women and girls, in Cotswold Life.

For more information contact: WI House, Brunswick Square, Gloucester, tel: 01452 523966;