ADHD can impact far more than just attention, focus, and concentration. For most people, when they think of ADHD they only consider how it impacts one’s ability to pay attention and complete tasks; however, it can have significant impacts on far more than that. ADHD can have serious impacts on social interactions. Puberty can wreak serious havoc on social interactions and ADHD can throw a huge wrench in that. Social interaction is a crucial aspect of any child’s development, and difficulty with it can lead to isolation, low self-esteem, and even academic struggles. In this post, we will explore 4 ways that ADHD can affect social interaction and 4 strategies that could help develop their social skills.
Difficulty with social cues
Those with ADHD may struggle to read social cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Children with ADHD struggle more than most. They may misinterpret social signals or miss them entirely, which can lead to social misunderstandings. These social misunderstandings can result in challenges with building and maintaining friendships. The children may not notice when someone is upset, or angry, or may struggle to pick up sarcasm or even humor. For example, they could struggle with joking around with people and understanding when people are joking around with them.
Impulsivity is one of the most common and recognizable symptoms of ADHD, and it can most definitely lead to social challenges. Those with ADHD may interrupt conversations, speak out of turn, or say things without thinking. Adults can be more forgiving than children. When children exhibit these behaviors it can create serious social awkwardness, put a strain on relationships, and put children in a place that they are not sure how to come back from. Struggling with things like taking turns and sharing are essential skills children need to build relationships.
Hyperactivity, another hallmark and recognizable symptom of ADHD can also seriously impact social interaction for those with ADHD. Children who have ADHD may struggle to sit still or engage in quiet activities which can make it challenging to participate in group activities or games.
Inattention, another common symptom of ADHD, can impact one’s attention to sustain attention during conversations or group activities that they don’t find stimulating. Children with ADHD may struggle to mask the fact that they have lost the thread of the conversation and are now lost and not sure how to let the other person know, so now they simply appear rude. Or that they don’t understand the directions due to not paying attention when they were explained and they aren’t sure how to ask for them to be repeated in a way that they can follow without feeling embarrassed.
4 Strategies to Help Improve Social Skills:
Explicit instruction in social skills
Social skills coaching, small groups, or discussion can be helpful tools
for those with ADHD. Due to the fact that those with ADHD struggle to read social cues and understand facial expressions and body language they often can struggle with understanding when people are frustrated with their behavior. Furthermore, they can then not completely understand what to do to restore the relationship or fix it when their lack of understanding fractures a social connection. Social skills coaching provides explicit instruction in social skills using techniques such as role-playing, social stories, and very clear discussion about social interaction to help individuals understand social cues and develop stronger social skills.
Group activities, while stressful, can be an excellent way for children with ADHD to practice their social skills in a more structured environment. Group activities can include things such as team sports, drama classes, or volunteering to help others. Having structured activities in which to interact with others in a setting where the activity and purpose is clear can really help children with ADHD.
Coaching can help those with ADHD develop strategies and skills for managing the challenges of ADHD in social situations. A coach can help children identify social challenges, develop problem-solving strategies, determine which one is right for them, and then practice those social skills in a supportive environment. Having a coach with who one can speak freely and that focuses on the things that one can do versus what one cannot be incredibly empowering for children with ADHD. Meeting with an ADHD coach regularly can be empowering and extremely beneficial for those with ADHD
Support from teachers and parents
Teachers and parents can play an essential role in supporting children with ADHD in social situations. They can provide supportive feedback on social interactions and help children ID what they could do differently if challenges arise. They can also help children, at the moment, problem-solve and develop strategies for dealing with challenging social interactions.
In conclusion, ADHD can have significant impacts on social interactions, especially for children between the ages of 11-16. There are many strategies that coaches, parents, and teachers can use to help them develop social skills. With support, children with ADHD, especially those going through puberty, can learn to navigate social situations successfully and build strong meaningful relationships.