How to help ADHD children socialize in school presents a dilemma for parents and teachers alike. Research shows that because of their tendencies toward impulsivity and their general lack of empathy, children with ADHD may have very poor social skills, which can make it difficult for them to form relationships and fit in with other classmates. There are, however, some steps that both parents and teachers can take to help ADHD children socialize in school more effectively—steps that could mean the difference between being accepted or being ostracized by friends and classmates. In this article we will take a closer look at why many ADHD children tend to have poor social skills, and introduce you to a few techniques that can help ADHD children in bridging the gap with their peers.
How to Help ADHD Children Socialize in School: Why Do ADHD Children Have a Hard Time Socializing with Peers?
Students suffering the effects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can experience a number of hardships in the social arena, particularly in forming peer relationships. Due to their symptoms, which can range from hyperactivity to impulsivity to inattention, ADHD children have a hard time picking up social cues from peers—cues that are necessary for acting appropriately in social situations. ADHD children can act impulsively at inappropriate times, which can often make them the “odd man out” during games and other activities. Sadly, these children also have limited self awareness, so most of them have no idea why their behavior is having a negative effect on others.
Students with ADHD tend to display delays in taking a role within a group, and because they tend to over-personalize the words and actions of others, they feel criticized, which only leads to additional problems, making it almost impossible for them to respond in the correct way to positive feedback. The problem is that many children with ADHD fail to recognize their self-defeating behaviors, and as a result, they repeat them over and over again.
At school, periods of the day when there is less structure seem to be particularly difficult for children with ADHD. This includes lunch and recess time, when large groups of children congregate together and where this is less structure and fewer rules.
How to Help ADHD Children Socialize in School: Some Strategies
Parents and teachers can help children socialize more effectively in school by providing a safe environment where the child feels comfortable. They should refrain from accusing or belittling him/her in front of peers, which will only reinforce the child’s issues and differences, effectively giving other children carte blanche to act in the same belittling manner.
Children with ADHD will have more social success when there are fewer numbers of children around. Therefore, during school hours, children who enjoy being helpful can be paired with the ADHD child as a type of “study buddy” or playground friend. Once the student learns how to socialize appropriately with one child, it will be easier to repeat those skills with the other children in school.
Cross age tutoring can also be effective, as children with ADHD tend to have more social success with children in an older or younger age group. Small study groups (3-4 children) within the classroom, as well as small play groups during recess, can also help ADHD children learn important relationship-building skills.
Learning how to help ADHD children socialize in school is usually a matter of trial and error, but by implementing the strategies mentioned above you can create a safe and nurturing environment where the chances of social success for the ADHD child are significantly enhanced.