By: Candice M. Hughes, PhD, MBA
Based on the struggles your child with ADHD has with homework and chores, you already know that he has challenges with focus and planning, typical executive function challenges. But did you know that many children with ADHD also have social skills challenges?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that children with ADHD are 10 times more likely to have difficulty with peer friendships than other children. Some of the challenges faced by children with ADHD include impulsiveness that causes them to speak before thinking (unfiltered, potentially upsetting comments), black and white thinking (inability to grasp or accept situational nuances), and conflict between a strict cost/benefit perspective and empathy (belief that the other person will benefit from hearing the information combined with challenges in understanding the emotional impact to the other person). These challenges cause them to have difficulty making friends and being accepted by their peers. Often these social concerns remain following treatment with stimulants or other ADHD medications.
Although the name, social skills, implies that these behaviors affect relationships, thus appearing to be mainly a concern for extracurricular activities, in reality social skills affect many aspects of life including school and even grades. This is because kids who have poor social skills have problems interacting with teachers as well as peers. They may say things that the teachers find disruptive or insubordinate even though the child does not understand that their comments may be interpreted in this way. The problem can be further compounded if teachers don’t understand the child’s difficulty in interacting and respond harshly. Additionally, children with poor social skills are not good at self-advocating for help or assistance from teachers when needed. Even peer group challenges affect grades when the child with poor social skills is excluded or marginalized from assigned homework groups. For all these reasons, parents can help their child by communicating with school counselors and with teachers about their child’s challenges. This raises awareness, increases understanding and opens the door to working together to develop a plan for how to assist the child in smoother interactions at school. This plan might include counseling with a school psychologist or participation in school social skills groups.
Social skills can also be improved with behavioral therapy ,  which can be administered one on one or in peer groups. Another way to help kids with ADHD establish friend groups is to be aware that they are more likely to establish supportive, positive relationships with peers who have ADHD that is of a similar level on the spectrum to their own. A large circle of friends is not an imperative, but a few good friends can make a tremendous difference.
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 Daley D, et al. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Aug;53(8):835-47.
 McKee TE. J Attn Disord. 2014 Oct 30. Epub.
Dr. Hughes is CEO/Founder of AdapTac Games LLC, http://adaptacgames.com, which develops educational games with a behavioral health focus for children with ADHD. With a doctorate in Anatomy and Neurobiology from Boston University School of Medicine, Dr. Hughes has researched and published on Alzheimer’s disease as well as vision, and integration of interhemispheric neuronal communication. Her discovery of callosally projecting inhibitory neurons provided key information in understanding epilepsy. She has worked with pharmaceutical and biotech firms for over 20 years both in educating medical professionals and in developing clinical trial materials including regulatory submission documents.
Shared Abilities LLC does not provide medical nor health advice. All the information cited above is soley the opinion of Dr. Hughes.