ADHD in Boys

The Top 10 Manifestations of ADHD in Boys

The signature symptoms of ADHD in boys are not hyperactivity and impulsivity. Especially in the adolescent years, they are poor perspective taking, rejection sensitive dysphoria, weak episodic memory, and these other 7 ADHD traits.

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1. Difficulty with Self-Directed Talk

“We all have an internal dialog in our heads that we use to talk to ourselves. When someone has ADHD, they are not always hearing that internal dialog or ‘brain coach.’ When your brain works with ADHD, the volume on your brain coach is turned down too low. The self-directed talk is there; they just aren’t hearing it very well.”

2. Hyperfocusing on Things That Are Interesting and Difficulty Sustaining Attention on Things That Are Not

“Parents say to me, ‘How do I help my son concentrate better?’ I have never found anything that works for this other than medication and helping kids develop their self-directed dialog, and that’s a long process. If your son tends to hyperfocus on things that are interesting to him, that could help him become very successful in life.”

3. Weak Episodic Memory

“Kids with ADHD have difficulty remembering past experiences and the emotions associated with those past experiences. If you’ve explained something to your son, and he says he doesn’t remember how to do it, that may be true.”

4. Poor Future Thinking Skills

“People with ADHD have difficulty visualizing things in the future because they tend to live in the present. If you’ve ever said to your son, ‘If you do your homework every night this week, you can have a reward on Friday night,’ and it didn’t work, it was because the reward was too far in the future.”

5. Difficulty Sensing the Passage of Time

“People with ADHD have difficulty feeling time as a concrete concept. Often, they will spend more time arguing about a task than it would actually take to do the task because they have difficult conceptualizing how much time is required.”

6. Inconsistent Situational Awareness

“I can situational awareness ‘reading the field’ with kids. This is how we take different pieces of information from our environment, put them together as a whole, and make meaning from them. If someone has difficulty understanding the bigger picture because they focus on the small details, they will likely have difficulty with situational awareness.”

7. Poor Perspective Taking Skills

“If your son has trouble reading social cues, it means he really has trouble with perspective taking — understanding other’s thoughts and feelings, and understanding how he comes across to others. It’s not that your son lacks empathy; it’s that he lacks perspective taking skills.”

8. Trouble Putting Problem Size in a Relevant Context

“This is why kids with ADHD may over-react or under-react to the size of the problem.”

9. Difficulty with Unexpected Change

“When they have to do something like get off video games to start homework, that is really challenging because they are going from a preferred task to an non-preferred task without time to prepare for that.”

10. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

“People with ADHD have a propensity to react strongly to perceived or actual rejection. People with ADHD tend to live in big emotions and have a strong reaction to received rejection. The opposite of this is Recognition Response Euphoria. People with ADHD tend to be very responsive to praise and recognition when it is purposeful and helps a child recognize their strengths in themselves — not when it is empty. Give your son recognition for things that require effort.”

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW FOR SOLUTIONS FOR PARENTS OF ADHD BOYS

ADHD in Boys: More Resources

1. Read This: Inside the Mind of a Teenage Boy with ADHD
2. Read This: How Do I Get My Son to Branch Out Beyond Video Games?
3. Read This: When ADHD and Puberty Collide in Boys


Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel.

Submit your questions about ADHD in boys here!

Updated on November 17, 2020

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