Many children with special needs experience difficulties with their social life. These problems can continue through adulthood and cause a person much grief. It is important to understand why your child may be rejected so that you can help her develop the skills necessary for friendships. Impulsivity, aggression, academic problems, inattention, and bad behavior can contribute to poor social outcomes for children with ADHD (Kane, A.). Many parents know these social outcomes can occur for their kids who have various other special needs, too.
There are lots of good resources for developing your child’s social skills and many are free! Here are just four:
- Anthony Kane, in his free Parenting Difficult Children: Teaching Social Skills video, explains that children with ADHD, learning disabilities, and other special needs have difficulties generalizing what they learn in one environment to a new environment. He describes how a parent can prepare their child for upcoming social situations.
- Do2Learn has an entire area on Social Skills. They have five main topics consisting of the following:
- Communication Skills: “Some individuals with special needs may struggle to communicate because they experience difficulties remembering and learning from previous experiences, maintaining the topic of discussion, easily shifting and modulating reactions to peers, attending to the visual information presented during social discourse, and interpreting the nonverbal cues and body language.” (do2Learn.com) Free material includes printable forms, activities, a social skills card game, and games and support for communication in the classroom.
- Social Behavior: “To be successful within social exchanges, one needs to be able to accurately decipher both verbal and nonverbal cues.” (do2Learn.com) Free material includes printable forms, activities, graphic organizers, an interactive visual aid, charts, games, and much more.
- Social Skills Toolbox: “It is important to recognize that for individuals with communication disorders, these skills generally are not ‘picked up’ over time by watching others. Instead, they should be systematically addressed by offering the student a chance to understand the purpose for the skill and teaching the steps to take in order to execute the skill.” (do2Learn.com) This section includes information on improving communication skills, improving social behavior, and graphic organizers and tools.
- Emotions Color Wheel: This page provides a visual tool to help you understand and define emotions. Color within a wheel is used to group like feelings ranging from angry, disgusted, and sad to happy, afraid, and surprised. When you click on an emotion, a picture of person depicting this feeling appears, as well as a definition of the emotion. You will find tips, activities, and much more.
- Social Emotional Skills: This section has activities, card sets, and worksheets to help perspective-taking. These would work well in the classroom, but could also be used in a small group or one-on-one situation. Stress is also addressed, as far as how to identify it and its triggers.
- Nonverbal social cues are an important component of a child’s social skills. Many children with special needs often have problems understanding nonverbal social cues, such as eye contact and gestures. Diamond Social Skills is a free video addressing how to teach a child eye contact using “soft eyes.” The presenter, Sue Diamond, MA, CCC, does a good job explaining how a person engaged in a conversation typically scans someone’s face and the difference between staring and making appropriate eye contact. Take a look here:
- My Young Child offers many free online stories that can be read by parents, teachers, and others with young children to help build values. The books are aimed at children developmental at 3 to 7 years of age. There is an entire story section on social skills and most of the stories offer the ability to listen to the story being read. Topics include:
- Sharing, and
Each story offers the following:
- Colorful illustrations,
- Discussion questions and activities, and
- How to teach values using the story.
After a social situation, it is also beneficial for you to debrief your child on how he did. Tell him the things that went well and explain other options for behaviors that need more work. You can role-play the new behaviors to make sure your child understands your comments.
Kane, M.D., Anthony, Why Other Children are Rejecting Your Child, ADD ADHD Advances.