Strategies to Help Students with ADHD Improve Their Social Skills
According to the A.D.D. Resource Center (ADDRC), 6.4 million American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. With the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noting an increase of 42% over an eight-year time period, parents and educators alike are increasingly focused on helping children with ADHD overcome challenges and develop socially. From fostering smooth transitions to encouraging participation in community groups, there are many steps you can take to help students with ADHD achieve key developmental milestones. Below you will strategies to help students with ADHD deal with social situations.
Understand the Greatest Social Challenges Facing Students with ADHD
The path to helping students with ADHD begins with a strong working knowledge of the key social challenges they face. Former teacher and parent advocate, Amanda Morin, outlines five of the greatest social challenges facing students with ADHD:
- Difficulty establishing friendships
- Difficulty maintaining friends
- Difficulty having conversations
- Overreacting in social situations
- Poor reliability
Provide Access to Mentors
One of the many commonalities that students with ADHD share with virtually all students is an affinity for mentors. Children of all ages are often more apt to accept guidance and advice from a student who is a few years older. Parents of children with ADHD will see a tremendous improvement in their child's social skills after being a part of the Kentwood Preparatory School program as our teachers are specifically trained to be mentors and positive role-models for our students.
Encourage Participation in Physical Activities
The benefits of exercise and good physical health cannot be overstated. A regular exercise routine is especially important for students with ADHD. Make sure that your student's school properly stresses physical education and offers plenty of opportunities for exercise during the day. Parents of children with ADHD can do their part by encouraging their children to participate in their favorite physical activities.
"Dr. Hoza and her colleagues found that for kids between kindergarten and second grade, as little as a half hour a day of moderate to vigorous exercise had a positive, measurable impact on their focus and mood. The results were similar for kids with the impulsive-hyperactive type of ADHD and those with the more inattentive type."
Communicate Regularly with School Personnel, Teachers, and Other Parents
As a parent of a child with ADHD, it is important to communicate regularly with school officials, coaches, and neighborhood parents, so that you are actively aware of your child's social development at school and in neighborhood activities. You should initiate communication before your child begins school or extracurricular activities. This will help avoid surprises and can help your child receive the additional support that he or she may need when challenges arise.
Explore Community Groups that Foster Peer Relationships
Participation in community groups is important, especially during the summer when students' exposure to their peers is more limited. Organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are filled with volunteers who are dedicated to helping children with ADHD improve their social skills. Additionally, activities sponsored by these community groups are enjoyable for students and often help to build their confidence.
"Research and get involved in groups in your community that foster positive peer relationships and social skills development—Boy Scouts, Indian Guides, Girl Scouts, Girls on the Run, sports teams, etc. Make sure the group leaders or coaches are familiar with ADHD and can create a supportive and positive environment for learning prosocial skills."
Meet with Your Child's Coaches Before they Join a Sports Team
Joining a sports team is a great way to ensure that students with ADHD receive physical activity and exposure to teamwork. The key to smooth team participation is to schedule an initial visit with your child's coaches and teachers. During this initial meeting, you should cover the following:
"Don't just dive in. Call the coach of the sports team before the first practice. Ask him questions to figure out whether or not your child — and his ADHD — would be welcome. If you decide to take the plunge, go with your child to meet the coach and/or some teammates before the first get-together. Remember, transitions are hard for kids with ADHD."
- Your child's diagnosis of ADHD and how it affects your child's behavior
- A short list of potential challenges that your child may experience
- Tips on responding to your child (what strategies work well and which ones are counterproductive)
Reward Students Appropriately for Achieving Milestones
Overcoming the challenges of life with ADHD is not easy for students. One of the best ways to foster socially desirable behaviors is to reward students for exhibiting the proper social behaviors. Appropriate rewards include verbal positive reinforcement, written recognition, and "most improved" awards. Students should be praised for achieving small goals as well as major milestones.