Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Boys

One of the more disturbing statistics produced by our schools concerns the fact that boys are diagnosed with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in much greater numbers than girls – anywhere from 3 to 1 up to 10 to 1.  If you assume that all these problems are due to brain abnormalities or neurological chemical imbalances, such statistics don’t make sense.  Why would boys suffer these sorts of biological defects so much more often than girls?

A more sensible explanation focuses on socialization.  Traditionally, we encourage our little boys to engage in a lot of boisterous large muscle activity – run, jump, throw, climb, etc.  Meanwhile, we encourage our little girls to engage in a lot of quiet small muscle activity – have tea parties with your dolls and dress them in tiny outfits.  What is school all about?  That’s right.  Quiet small muscle activities.  Girls are well prepared for this, but for boys it typically is like hitting a brick wall.

It is interesting – and alarming – that in recent years we have gone a long way with regard to providing our little girls with a more balanced socialization experience.  They are now encouraged to run, jump, throw, and climb like the boys; and consequently, they now enjoy all the benefits of engaging in boisterous large muscle activities.  Unfortunately, it is still rare that our little boys are getting a more balanced socialization experience.

That is why Romp n’ Roll – from the earliest Gym classes to the Art, Music, and Adventure classes – is so critically important, especially for boys.  While the boys get to “be boys” and do all the things that boys traditionally do, they also get a gradual introduction to and steadily increasing practice in the kind of structure, serenity, and small muscle tasks they will be expected to cope with in school.  Through this special kind of fun, fascinating, free-form play they are not only enhancing their potential for educational success, they also are being inoculated against educational problems many of their male peers will face in the future.

2 replies
  1. A Richmond Mom
    A Richmond Mom says:

    You seem to be suggesting that encouraging a boy to play actively increases their chance of having ADHD. Several kinds of developmental delays on the autism spectrum are more common in boys than girls because boys and girls inherit certain genetic traits differently, not because their parents socialize them differently. My own daughter has qualities that resemble ADHD symptoms, and she far prefers active physical play to what you call “quiet activities.” Her preference for active play is due to her own inborn inclinations, not because her parents have pushed her in one direction or the other. Instead of suggesting that boys exhibit ADHD more because their parents don’t encourage them to do quiet activities, it would be more useful and responsible to say that we owe it to our kids, both girls and boys, to provide them with a variety of activities. A child with ADHD — boy or girl — benefits from this variety as well as a child without ADHD.

    Also, it is neither informed nor sensitive to call ADHD a “biological defect.” A difference is not the same thing as a defect.

    Thank you.

  2. Kate Olenyik
    Kate Olenyik says:

    Great points! As a “certified” facilitator for “Parent to Parent” a curriculum created for parents of children with ADHD by CHADD (the national ADHD organization), and more importantly as the mom of a kid with ADHD I agree with much of what you have stated. I do want to point out that research is now showing more girls have ADHD than historically noted, but they express their ADHD in different ways than boys. With that said, though ADHD does seem to be over-diagnosed, it’s alarming how many children continue to be challenged both at home and in school with it.

    I would love to talk to both you and Roger about perhaps offering some parent trainings through Romp n’ Roll. I offer a wide variety of other topics besides ADHD and let’s face it . . . we can never have enough knowledge when it comes to being parents!!

    LOVE the work that you do! Keep making a difference one kid at a time!

    Kate Olenyik

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