Improving Social Skills with ADHD Teenagers

Improving Social Skills in Teens with ADHD

  • Students with Attention Deficit Disorder often lack social skills.
  • Their impulsive comments or lack of empathy often makes it hard to keep friends. This is not true for all students with ADHD, as their aredifferent types of ADHD, but it is true for many students with attention deficit disorder.
  • Some teenage ADHD students will also be “anti-social” and in trouble with the law. This may, in fact, be a different neurological condition than ADHD.

ADHD and Improving Social Skills 

Students with attention deficit disorder experience many difficulties in the social area, especially with peer relationships.

  • ADD ADHD students tend to experience great difficulty picking up other’s social cues, and often act impulsively. Attention deficit stuents usually have limited self awareness of their effect on others. They are likely to over personalize other’s actions as being criticism. They tend not to recognize or respond well to positive feedback. In fact, ADHD may be directly related to a deficit in recognizing rewards.

  • Students with Attention Deficit Disorder tend to get along better with younger or older students when their roles are clearly defined. ADD ADHD students tend to repeat self defeating social behavior patterns and rarely learn from experience.

  • Students with ADD ADHD tend to get into the most trouble during times with little structure or little supervision.

  • Enlisting the support of peers in the classroom can greatly enhance the ADD ADHD student’s self esteem. Students with good social awareness and who like to be helpful can be paired with the attention deficit student. This pairing can take the form of being a “study buddy” while doing activities/projects. Cross age tutoring with older or younger students can also have social benefits. Most successful pairing is done with adequate preparation of the paired student, planning meetings with the pair to set expectations, and with parental permission. Pairing expectations and time commitments should be fairly limited in scope to increase the opportunity for success and lessen the constraints on the paired students.

  • In conversations ADD ADHD students often ramble and say embarrassing things to peers.

  • Students with ADD ADHD tend to do well in the cooperative group instructional format. Small student groupings of three to five members, in which the students “sink or swim” together to complete assignments/projects, encourage students to share organizational ideas and responsibilities, and gives an ideal setting for processing interpersonal skills on a regular basis.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D. MFTImproving Social Skills in Teens with ADHD