By Susan Mixon Harrell, Executive Director
One of the comorbid factors for some students with attention and learning issues is that social relationships can be quite a challenge. Their brains process the subtleties of the “give and take” of friendships differently from a neurotypical child. They may miss body language and verbal cues and thus do not learn how to interact socially as they mature. Poor judgement, impulse control, bossiness, and low frustration tolerance lead to difficult relationships. Communication is a sophisticated process of listening and sharing; empathy must be developed. For our students, this delicate dance can be a huge struggle.
From a recent blogpost in the online resource ADDitude: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of friendships …. Having close childhood friends can make ‘the difference between things going well, or becoming a hard-to-manage teen, dropping out, abusing substances, and being in trouble with the law.”’ Experts say that having positive social relations in childhood is a better predictor of adult happiness than is I.Q. or academic achievement.”
Students with learning differences may be the subject of teasing and bullying because of perceived weaknesses. Parents and teachers can model appropriate behavior to help students develop the language they need to respond. Many students at The Hill School of Wilmington who struggle with social skills can find that their small instructional groups can provide good modeling and support. Our students know what it is like to feel “less than” and that can create a common empathy. Whether direct instruction is in school or at home, effective social behaviors can be developed with practice.