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Teaching Social Skills to Children with ADHD

written by: Kathy Foust • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 9/11/2012

Teaching social skills to children with ADHD can be equally challenging for the student and the teacher. Read the information below to learn how you can ease the anxiety of social learning for both of you.

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    Social Skills

    If you're teaching social skills to children with ADHD, you may be running into some frustrating times for both of you. Keep in mind that the student has naturally high anxiety levels. Your anxiety and those of the child may be rising throughout this process. It is important for both of you to be able to manage your stress or this process will be long and painful for both of you. In the end, that may mean that the child will avoid socialization as they learn to associate it with some type of mental anguish. Use the tips below to alleviate the stress of the child so that they can help themselves to calm down a bit. Remember to have patience and keep your own stress in check so that you do not inadvertently impair their ability to develop social skills.

    If the child becomes stressed in social situations, make sure that there is somewhere for them to retreat to. This should not be the answer every time they get stressed or they will only learn to deal with their stress by running away from it. Sometimes however, they do need to be able to remove themselves from situations in order to calm down and process the issue.

    Boundaries may be a major issue for students with ADHD. Physical and social boundaries tend to be a challenge for them as their actions sometimes occur before they are fully able to process them. Teach physical boundaries by practicing them with all students. Demonstrate good boundaries by holding your arm out and asking them to do the same. If they can touch someone then they are too close to them. In order to avoid making the child with ADHD feel like they are standing out in a crowd, ask students to all check periodically to make sure they are displaying good boundaries. A good time to do this may be while standing in lines or when the students are in social groups. If the students think this is too strict, remind them that this is for their safety to use outside of the classroom. Once they develop good boundaries, they will probably become uncomfortable when someone invades their space.

    Students with ADHD may have problems with social boundaries in the way of interrupting people or saying things that are inappropriate. Help students to slow down their speaking process by developing a system of checks and balances with them. Develop a signal with the student to that they know when they are able to talk. Again, if this makes the child uncomfortable, use this method with the entire class. Obviously students should already raise their hands in class, but what about in social groups? Practice this by using this method in class for at least a few days to replace raising hands. These signals should be discreet and include eye contact so that the student is positive that the signal goes to them.

    Don't forget to use positive reinforcement so that the children with ADHD can see some immediate results for their efforts.

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