Unlocking ADHD writer Constance Thum explores the social problems faced by children with ADHD, and the benefits and potential challenges of using peer group intervention to treat such issues.
Conflicts, disagreements, and tension are parts of life. However, children with ADHD may face persistent and/or worsening social problems. ADHDers can have problems with their siblings. ADHD can also impair children’s relationships with their peers. Early intervention is important to deal with the social problems that ADHD children encounter. This can help them to acquire strategies and social skills that foster a more harmonious environment for all.
Social Problems Faced by ADHD Children
Impairments to the brain’s executive function may result in inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These traits may cause ADHD children to have dysfunctional social skills. Consequently, they may face social problems that include (but are not limited to):
- Difficulty making friends and forming long-term relationships
- Reading difficulties
- Missing social cues
- Inappropriate and disruptive social behaviour at home, in school etc
- Inability to keep up with or sustain conversations due to constant distractions
- Being easily overwhelmed
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Being prone to emotional outbursts
- Being bullied or being the bully
Peer Group Intervention for ADHD Children
Peer groups would be effective for ADHD children who face social problems and maladjustments. Peer groups entail ADHD children meeting other ADHD individuals around their age. In peer group settings, ADHD children may be more willing to open up and discuss their problems in a candid, relatable manner.
When ADHD children attend peer groups, they are likely to benefit in many ways. Benefits include (but are not limited to):
- An emotional outlet for self-expression
- Deriving a sense of comfort and feeling less isolated or alone in their struggles
- Making friends and bonding over similarities
- Receiving age-appropriate advice for managing social problems
- Learning social cues and communication skills
- Learning life management and self-care tips
- Exposure to new perspectives and issues faced by children with different severity levels of ADHD, social backgrounds etc
Some ADHD children may refuse to attend such peer groups, despite the fact that this intervention strategy is useful and appreciated by other ADHD children. Furthermore, some ADHD children may face challenges such as continued behavioural issues with little improvement (despite attending peer group sessions), and lack of friendships with non-ADHD peers.
To resolve such issues, adults may consider therapy and counselling for ADHD children to find out if there are other root causes or triggers. This could help pinpoint the reasons for their unwillingness to attend peer group sessions. Therapy could also help to identify and address the reasons for a lack of improvement after peer group sessions.
By identifying root causes or triggers, adults can help ADHD children to resolve or manage their social problems in a more effective and sustainable way. ADHD children may also be prescribed medication by their psychiatrist or pediatrician. A holistic approach can help ADHD children with their executive functioning skills. Improved executive function may improve their social problems.
For ADHD children who desire friendships with non-ADHD peers, parents and educators could consider setting up supervised play dates or interactions with non-ADHD children in safe, controlled environments. Parents and educators could also work together to raise awareness on ADHD and reduce the associated stigma. This may make others more empathetic and understanding towards the social problems of ADHD children.