Undisclosed dyslexia and ADHD for girls
Undisclosed dyslexia and ADHD for girls

Lived experience: follow your instincts

Girls fall through the cracks. Many are brilliant at masking their struggles and will go years before they are able to get a diagnosis.

Need to know: A look at undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD in girls

It’s taken me a long time to understand that my daughter has something called (undiagnosed) stealth dyslexia and ADHD. This means that her cognitive abilities have been able to mask the specific learning disability which is dyslexia and a neurological difference. 

In year 2, my daughter’s teacher suggested that I get some assessments done because she was still reversing letters and numbers, and had challenges with initiating tasks, procrastination, problem-solving, and following multi-step instructions. I did have worries with her reading and writing, but I put it down to the previous year, where her teacher had to navigate her own challenges and not much learning took place. My biggest worry at the time was my daughter’s self-confidence.

I believe that no stone should be left unturned when there is a concern, so I booked my child for the assessments her teacher recommended. In all honesty, I thought that they would come back with not much other than, “Your daughter is a middle-of-the-road student with no learning disabilities”. Instead, the report came back highlighting sub-clinical anxiety (not within range for treatment), a mildly gifted IQ, but with a very gifted result for her verbal comprehension abilities. The results also suggested that overall there were indicative signs of a learning disability, the numbers however, were not low enough to confirm it.

I knew things weren’t quite right so I disregarded the results and got her a tutor who used evidence-based instruction for kids with dyslexia. My daughter finally started getting her self-confidence back! We supported her at home with strategies that would scaffold her challenges and we doubled down on her strengths. There is nothing more powerful than knowing that you can succeed.

Over the last few years, I have tried to talk to all her teachers and make them aware of the discrepancies between her potential and her achievements. I’ve never been taken seriously. I’m always told not to be concerned, and that she is doing fine. To be clear, I am not a parent who needs their child to be the best or come first in everything. I am a parent who can see that their child has a block in front of them and they can’t quite get through it.

In year 5 I decided to look into ADHD again, but unfortunately, her teacher at the time (like all others before her) said that she was fine and there was nothing to worry about. Again I was dismissed by the teacher, but the psychologist who ran the tests agreed that there were definitely many signs of ADHD. This amazing psychologist has kept her observations in my child’s file, because for many girls (especially those who are gifted) a diagnosis comes late in life, if at all. 

I spend a lot of time reading research papers, articles, and blogs and listening to parents who have neurodivergent kids. Over the last month, I have specifically focused on reading all I can about learning disabilities and giftedness so I could synthesise that information for other parents. The penny has finally dropped… I have now been able to put all the pieces together to confirm that she has never received a diagnosis for ADHD or dyslexia because her giftedness and ability to mask (girls are brilliant at this) have carried her through as an average student.

Next year she starts high school. This will be a crucial time for her, as the expectations put upon her will outweigh her executive functioning abilities. Luckily, I know what to do to support and scaffold her at home. Although they couldn’t be more different, I have significant practice supporting her brother who is also twice exceptional. I’m hyper-aware that this may not be sufficient and she may need to try medication – I’ll be ready with my file for the paediatrician when that time comes!

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