Children with ADHD typically exhibit behaviors that make it difficult for them to interact with others. They may speak too loudly, dominate conversations or ignore personal boundaries – all of which can make socialization an ongoing challenge. Social skills training for children with ADHD can help them better understand the rules and limitations of appropriate social interaction.

Social behavior in children with ADHD

Most children learn social skills by observing other people – they watch what they do and mimic their behaviors, and they have years of practice that begins in infancy. Youngsters with ADHD may be unable to effectively participate in games because they can’t sustain the focus that is necessary to see it through to the end. Their difficulty in attention to details may impact on their interactions in the home, classroom and on the playground. They may not seem to listen when spoken to, frustrating parents and teachers and annoying their classmates. Children and adolescents with ADHD have organizational challenges that affect work and play alike, creating an avoidance of activities that require mental effort over substantial periods. They make careless mistakes and often fail to finish homework or household chores.

These challenges lead to a child or adolescent who experiences difficulties in and out of school. These children may be easily provoked by interactions that would not disturb other students or playmates. Due to the lack of intuitive awareness of social norms, children with ADHD are often clueless about personal and conventional boundaries. They’ll blurt out answers, talk more than other children and have trouble waiting for their turns. They will not only face obstacles in the classroom setting but are likely to struggle in a myriad of other settings as well.

How social skills groups work

Along with home and classroom-based interventions, social skills groups can be useful in helping children to acquire the skills they need for more fruitful connections with adults and peers. These groups facilitate more effective communication to promote appropriate social interactions, such as learning how to start or join a conversation.

It is difficult for children to honor interpersonal boundaries when they lack the ability to perceive them. A social skills group can help children learn about boundaries and expected behaviors in various settings. A group will learn about nonverbal communication; concepts that are taught include observing others, noticing facial expressions and body language. Group participants learn the rules about maintaining personal space. Social skills groups can help give children and adolescents the tools to overcome social-cognitive deficits. Learning how to compromise, negotiate and resolve conflict can help improve a child’s interactions with others including their capacity to develop friendships. The repeated practice of these skills in a controlled group setting can help a child be more successful in the use of them in his daily life.

Creating the best group for a child

A social skills group should be age-appropriate. However, experts should also assess developmental levels when determining a peer group. Professionals helming social skills groups should have the training and the flexibility to adapt their methods to the participants. Techniques include teaching, modeling and role-playing. Children can practice their behaviors and learn to recognize when they’re doing something inappropriate.

Even those of similar ages and developmental levels can have disparities in social and behavioral difficulties. While the DSM-5 specifies many criteria involved in the diagnosis of ADHD, these may change over time or present differently. A group should address the social skills a child demonstrates and not depend exclusively on diagnostic history.

Looking ahead

While many regard ADHD as a condition of childhood, it often lasts into adulthood. Affected adults can have difficulties in meeting day-to-day responsibilities, pursuing careers and maintaining relationships. For a child, developing an understanding of social interactions may be vital to coping with life-long challenges. To learn more about helping your child or adolescent build the social skills they will need now and in the future, contact Therapeutic Options.