Many problems children with ADHD face have a direct relationship with poor social skills. Here's an analysis plus strategies for enhancing your ADHD child's social skills.
Problems with impulse control, attention and related issues, means that our ADHD children tend to find integrating with their peers very difficult.
Our children with ADHD will often butt into conversations, not wait their turn in a queue or in a game. They often think of something which they really need to say before they forget it. Generally not being able to communicate at the same level as their peers - it is generally felt through a lot of the research which has been carried out, that children with conditions like ADHD develop at approximately 3 years below their peers in their emotional and comprehension abilities. This makes it very difficult for them to interact with other children of the same age. They will very often get on really well with younger children who they obviously feel more able to communicate with or with older children or adults; as they do not feel as threatened when in conversation or interaction with these groups.
It is very difficult for them to understand all that is going on around them due to lack of attention and concentration they will often not be able to follow the flow of conversation and therefore will then often make inappropriate remarks to get back to the centre of attention!
What Causes Children with ADHD to Have Peer Problems?
However, first we need to consider a number of the main problems which hamper our children from being able to interact as well with their peers.
These can include:
a) Inhibited peer interactions or social relationships - the children may appear solitary, preferring their own company, even resisting any "invasion" of their space by others. They may seek interaction but are uncertain how to approach other children, fail to give out or read the appropriate social signals, and do not appreciate how behaviour may need to vary according to circumstances. They may appear actively anti-social.
b) Limited communication - vocabulary knowledge and articulator skills may be adequate but there is poor use of language, and communication may be one-sided and eventually break down altogether. There may be an obsessive repetition of the same questions or, at least, an insistence on focusing upon one topic. Understanding is often literal with an inability to understand humour or idioms. Tone of voice tends to be monotonous, the face may remain expressionless, and there is minimal use or understanding of non-verbal signals (including when the other person is becoming irritated).
c) A lack of imaginative play or flexible thinking - there is a common lack of true interactive play with other children so that the children with ADHD may focus upon individual activities and appear obsessed with some particular object or set of objects. They may seek to impose their choice of games upon others and may not be able to take part in "pretend" games.
Children with ADHD also commonly fail to understand that other people may have and are entitled to have opinions, attitudes, or knowledge which differ from their own. They are likely to assume, instead, that others share their outlook and will be immediately able to tune into what they say and to understand what they are talking about without the need for introduction. If there is no awareness of what someone else might be thinking or feeling, it will not be possible to make sense of that person's actions or to anticipate their reactions to a given situation or event.
Other difficulties which can include a resistance to change and anxiety at the prospect of an interruption to routines ( or distress/anger if someone makes any change in the way toys or belongings have been set out). They really do prefer things to stay the same.
Other Difficulties Faced by ADHD Children
Some of our children may also have awkward motor skills, a clumsiness, and impaired ability to run or throw or catch. Where, some children may show an exaggerated response to touch or sound, or display a sensory defensiveness.
Finally, these children may show a kind of innocence in not recognising teasing but a tendency to comply with being told to perform some unacceptable or silly action and then fail to comprehend why the other children laugh at them or why they are the ones who end up getting into trouble, they are also then unable to explain why they have done these things so will often end up lying about them, some can almost convince you that black is white as they are so adamant about things which can then lead them into even more trouble. The other thing that often ends up happening is that they get so used to getting into trouble and others being believed over them that they start to loose self esteem, confidence and sense of self worth with is a very sad and serious consequence of their lack of social skills.
In respect of anxiety, the technique involving "Social Stories" may be very helpful in individual work with a given child to reduce his or her anxiety over some identified activity or circumstance during the school day, with the implication that, if the negative thoughts and anticipations can be largely eliminated, the child will no longer feel the need to set him/herself apart or avoid significant parts of the school experience.