By Scott Lutostanski
When it comes to students who struggle with the executive functions, there are differences between girls and boys. The constant thread is that school is stressful and challenging; however, research shows that disparities exist between the way each gender copes with the struggle, pushes through the discomfort, and gets assistance. Below, I will outline some general differences when it comes to the executive functions.
When it comes to identifying executive function concerns in students, girls are at a disadvantage. If we look at the way executive function issues present, we’ll see that boys are much “louder” and hyperactive. They have more behavioral struggles, they will be more impulsive, and they will require more attention in a school or home setting to get on task. This can make it more difficult for girls to be noticed and receive more support. In comparison to boys, girls are much better at compensating academically. If they are struggling with their executive functions, they are usually able to find and implement strategies that will help them get through their week a little more effectively. This will allow them to stay afloat in school or continue to get pretty good grades. It’s another contributing factor that makes it more difficult to identify female students with EF troubles.
The way that girls cope with EF struggles is much different than boys. Girls are generally more quiet and “suffer silently.” Although all students’ self-esteem is impacted, girls are susceptible to being more impacted by this than boys. Additionally, perfectionism is more common in girls with EF challenges, which can exacerbate some of the symptoms. More often, girls are labeled and treated as depressed instead of having EF issues, or even given an ADHD diagnosis. This is a result of the way that girls go about their day-to-day lives. Boys, on the other hand, are diagnosed with ADHD at a much higher rate and identified more quickly.
The skills, coping strategies, and confidence of a student can impact their EF effectiveness as well as their ability to receive help. It is important to understand the gender differences so that we can better identify, help, and support students struggling with their executive functions.