The ADHD Circuit®
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Joe, whose son has ADHD and he wanted to know if I had any thoughts about managing social skills. This was my response…
You have a great question! First, I am a big proponent of teaching communication/interpersonal skills to ALL children/students, not just students with ADHD. I wish “Dale Carnegie”-style courses were taught in schools because interpersonal skills are golden for everybody!
Unfortunately, however, parents are in a tight bind trying to teach these skills on an individual basis because: 1) Children don’t have the patience to learn these skills from us, and 2) we often don’t have the patience it requires to repeat lessons like this over-and-over-and-over…
Therefore, if your child needs help building social skills, I would highly recommend working with a counselor! As you may know from previous articles, ADHD was definitely impacting my son’s emotions and relationships. We started working with a counselor at the beginning of the school year and are seeing very significant gains. I was very skeptical because my son seemed so far beyond logic that I wasn’t sure he would respond to counseling.
However, we noticed improvements right away; baby steps, but forward progress, nonetheless. For example, he still had meltdowns, but when I would ask him “What would Michelle (counselor) want you to do right now?” the meltdown would not escalate. When he had a problem on the playground, Michelle helped him talk through it. After two months (eight sessions), the meltdowns were happening about once every two weeks, instead of daily. After four months, they are almost non-existent.
These are only the behaviors I am able to observe, but they are a testimony to the progress that can be made with counseling. I can also tell you he hasn’t complained about problems on the playground in weeks!
At Christmastime, I received feedback from over a dozen relatives about him: “Mark seems happier.” “He actually looked me in the eye.” “He didn’t run away from me.” “I used to think Mark didn’t like me, but we got along great today.” No one knew about our struggles, they were simply sharing their observations. I was actually was more shocked to learn about the behaviors they had noticed in Mark over the previous few years than the progress they had observed most recently. But, at least they were reporting positive things!
For the record, as a parent, I am the Polite Police! I have always insisted that he say “thank you,” that he look people in the eye, etc. However, he wasn’t internalizing the importance of those skills until he heard them from someone else. It goes to show you that parents’ hands are often tied on this topic!
If you think that counseling is worth a try, ask your pediatrician for counselor recommendations and/or locations that hold classes for students on interpersonal skills. Shop around until you find someone you feel comfortable with. Trust your instinct on this!
Also, I can share a specific list of topics that the counselor has been addressing with Mark:
-How to name specific feelings,
-How to identify specific things that bother him than rather than getting mad at “everything,”
-How to understand his peers’ perspectives and feelings,
-How to cope with upsetting feelings,
-How to manage anxiety,
-How to be polite, and
-Why it is important to be polite.
As I already said, every child should learn specific skills and strategies like these for managing feelings and relationships. Children with ADHD may have a more magnified and urgent need to learn them at a young age, but this training will give them a great advantage and serve them for life!
I appreciate Joe’s question and welcome all responses and questions. Hopefully, our experience provides some optimism for other families. It seems that the skills Mark is learning are making a wise young man out of him. It is a wonderful thing to observe!
Other ADHD Circuit® articles can be found here: