What We KnoW
Social SkillS in adultS with ad/hd
60 percent o children with AD/HD have diculty with peer relationships.
Over 25 percent o Americansexperience chronic loneliness.
One can only speculatethat the gure is much higher or adults with AD/HD.o interact eectively with others, an individual mustbe attentive, responsible and able to control impulsivebehaviors.
Adults with AD/HD are oen inattentiveand orgetul and typically lack impulse control. BecauseAD/HD is an “invisible disability,” oen unrecognized by those who may be unamiliar with the disorder, socially inappropriate behaviors that are the result o AD/HDsymptoms are oen attributed to other causes. Tat is,people oen perceive these behaviors and the individualwho commits them as rude, sel-centered, irresponsible,lazy, ill-mannered, and a host o other negativepersonality attributes. Over time, such negative labelslead to social rejection o the individual withAD/HD. Social rejection causes emotional pain inthe lives o many o the children and adults who haveAD/HD and can create havoc and lower sel-esteemthroughout the lie span. In relationships and marriages,the inappropriate social behavior may anger the partneror spouse without AD/HD, who may eventually “burnout” and give up on the relationship or marriage.Educating individuals with AD/HD, their signicantothers, and their riends about AD/HD and the ways inwhich it aects social skills and interpersonal behaviorscan help alleviate much o the confict and blame. At thesame time, the individual with AD/HD needs to learnstrategies to become as procient as possible in the areao social skills. With proper assessment, treatment andeducation, individuals with AD/HD can learn to interactwith others eectively in a way that enhances theirsocial lie.
AD/HD AND THE AcquISITION OfSOcIAl SKIllS
Social skills are generally acquired through incidentallearning: watching people, copying the behavior o others,practicing, and getting eedback. Most people start thisprocess during early childhood. Social skills are practicedand honed by “playing grown-up” and through otherchildhood activities. Te ner points o social interactionsare sharpened by observation and peer eedback.Children with AD/HD oen miss these details. Tey may pick up bits and pieces o what is appropriate butlack an overall view o social expectations. Unortunately,as adults, they oen realize “something” is missing butare never quite sure what that “something” may be.Social acceptance can be viewed as a spiral going up ordown. Individuals who exhibit appropriate social skillsare rewarded with more acceptance rom those withwhom they interact and are encouraged to develop evenbetter social skills. For those with AD/HD, the spiraloen goes downward. Teir lack o social skills leads topeer rejection, which then limits opportunities to learnsocial skills, which leads to more rejection, and so on.Social punishment includes rejection, avoidance, andother, less subtle means o exhibiting one’s disapprovaltowards another person.It is important to note that people do not oen let theoending individual know the nature o the social violation. Pointing out that a social skill error is beingcommitted is oen considered socially inappropriate.Tus, people are oen le on their own to try to improvetheir social skills without understanding exactly whatareas need improvement.
rESEArcH ON cHIlDrEN WITH AD/HDAND SOcIAl SKIllS
Researchers have ound that the social challenges o children with AD/HD include disturbed relationshipswith their peers, diculty making and keeping riends,and deciencies in appropriate social behavior.
Long-term outcome studies suggest that these problemscontinue into adolescence and adulthood and impedethe social adjustment o adults with AD/HD.
At rst, these diculties o children with AD/HD wereconceptualized as a decit in appropriate social skills,such that the children had not acquired the appropriatesocial behaviors. Based upon this model, social skillstraining, which is commonly conducted with groups
“Because AD/HD is an “invisibledisability,” … socially inappropriatebehaviors that are the result o AD/HD symptoms are oten attributed toother causes.”