Teaching Social Skill for People with ADHD

People with ADHD have difficulty with making and keeping friends. People with Predominantly Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-I) have problems with assertiveness issues and people with the combined type of ADHD (ADHD-C) and the Hyperactive/Impulsive type of ADHD (ADHD-HI) have problems with self-control issues.
Teachers, psychologist, psychiatrist, and social workers train people in social skills utilizing a variety of techniques. Research has shown that role-playing is one of the most useful methods for teaching social skills but other exercises, which involve modeling and video training, have also proved helpful.
In order to teach a person anything you must first establish what core knowledge they have of what you are teaching. Sociologist have established that people with social skill deficiencies suffer from one of two problems. They have no idea how best to behave in a specific social situation or they know what the appropriate social behavior is but they do not know how to implement it.
People with social skills problems may have spent the majority of their lives avoiding social situations. They are often unaware of o the dynamics involved in a social exchange. Both video modeling and real life modeling are useful tools that give individuals that are learning social skills an idea of how social scenarios play out.

Once the trainer has established the core knowledge of the individual that they are training, they set out to fill in the gaps of knowledge. Only after the social skills behavior is explained by the trainer and understood by the student, does the trainer proceed with practicing the different methods of establishing the desired behavior.
Social situations usually involve many components. Cognitive Psychologists call the totality of these components a social script. Rather than try to teach a person how to behave socially in a given situation, socials skills trainers typically break down the social script into ‘chunks’. The entire social script is made up of many individual chunks. These individual behaviors are taught, practiced, perfected, and reinforced one at a time. Progress is rewarded for each step of the process and the trainee only moves to the next social behavior situation when the basic ‘chunk’ has been mastered.
An example of the steps needed to teach a child how to become involved in a playground game might look something like this:
*The child is taught to look for cues and watch to see if the group is looking for people to play in their game. (Do they seem to need more people? Are they talking about picking teams? Are they looking around to see who else might play?)
*The child is taught how to approach the group in a friendly way. (Are you smiling, is your body language positive and open or are you crossing your arms across your chest? Are you looking down or are you looking at the people in the group)
*The child is taught what to say and how to say it. (“Hi, are you looking for more people to play?” Did your voice sound friendly and interested? Did you interrupt someone that was already speaking? Did you wait for a break in the conversation?)
*The child is taught how to play along with the group. (Did you play the game? Did you get distracted and wander away? Did you try to change the game or change the rules? Were you bossy? Did you try to talk to the people you were playing with? Did you show interest in your playmates?)
Once the person has role-played and perfected the components of the social script they should practice by role-playing with non-threatening friends or family members. The person being trained should role- play both their part and the reverse role in order that they see a model of what their role looks like in the social scenario.
The trainee will require continual feedback from teachers, family members, and peers regarding their progress. Some psychology offices have social skills groups that meet for this purpose. Teachers and guidance counselors can also be a good resource for continual reinforcement and encouragement of appropriate social behavior.
Teaching social behavior involves explaining the social behavior, breaking down the social behavior into individual component behaviors, modeling the behavior, learning the behavior, and practicing the behavior until it comes naturally. We know from research that people with ADHD who have been trained in social skills do better in life and in school. These individuals with ADHD feel less isolated and are more self-confident.

Given that the benefits of social skills training are well understood and established, teachers, parents, and mental health providers must do everything possible to make certain that people with ADHD and social skills problems are appropriately identified and treated. 

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