Social skills problems can result from a skill deficit, in which the child does not know what to do in a social situation and needs to learn the skills to become socially competent. Social challenges can also have nothing to do with a lack of skills. According to a leading authority, Dr. Russell Barkley, children with ADHD typically do not have a skill deficit, but rather a performance deficit. They know what they are supposed to do and the appropriate social skills, but fail to apply or perform those needed skills (Barkley, 1998).
When the child has difficulty acquiring or learning a skill, he or she may need a different intervention than a child who already knows the skill, but struggles to perform it. Children who have a deficit in specific social skills need direct, explicit teaching and frequent opportunities to practice those appropriate skills. Those children/teens who know the appropriate skills but do not perform them due to inhibition problems need a lot of external rein forcement (behavioral modification techniques) to help them exhibit better self-control in order to use the skills (Rief, 2003).
Children with social skill deficits will benefit from social skill training in which they learn age-appropriate social behavior, reading of social cues, and social perspective. Those with social performance deficits should be trained to develop control strategies (for example, anger management training) so they can apply what they already know (Zumpfe & Landau, 2002).
An important study and national survey, called I.M.P.A.C.T. (Investigating the Mindset of Parents about AD/ HD and Children Today), conducted by New York University Child Study Clinic (2000), revealed some of the impact of having ADHD on the life of the child and the whole family. According to the survey results:
• 72 percent of parents of children with ADHD report that their child has trouble getting along with siblings or other family members (compared to 53 percent of parents of children without ADHD).
• Nearly one-quarter say their child has problems that limit their participation in after-school activities (compared to only 7 percent of parents of children without ADHD).
Parents of children with ADHD are nearly:
• Three times more likely to report that their child has difficulty getting along with neighborhood children
• More than twice as likely to say their child gets picked on
• Half as likely to believe their child has many good friends (Koplewicz, 2002)
Susan Sheridan, author of The Tough Kid Social Skills Book, explains that in any classroom, students can be classified into one of four groups:
1. Popular students—those who are highly rated or named frequently as those with whom others would like to play.
2. Neglected students—not many classmates report them as those with whom they would like to play, and not many report them as those with whom they would not like to play.
3. Controversial students—several students say they would like to play with them, but several say they would not like to play with them.
4. Rejected students—not named by many as those with whom they would like to play; and named by many of their classmates as those with whom they would not like to play (Sheridan, 1995).
Using sociometric methods of data collection (classmates identifying peers they would and would not like to work and play with), it has been repeatedly shown that many children with ADHD are the most rejected among their classmates (Zumpfe & Landau, 2002). This is of great significance to parents and teachers, as children with peer problems can experience a great deal of sadness, worry, anxiety, and pain—which affects all aspects of their lives and functioning.
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