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ADHD in Boys

Help with behavior issues

My 10 year old son has a diagnosis of ADHD and when he went to his 1st therapist 4 years ago, she hesitantly referred to him as possibly having a mild form of asbergers.  Anyway, he’s been taking 10 mg of Focalin XR and this has helped tremendously with his school work.  The problem we are left with is his behavior and lack of social skills. When he gets together with other children, he is overly excited and becomes extremely loud, bossy, and just bounces all over the place.  The boys that are even 2 years younger than him do not like his behavior and do not come back or call him.  He cannot keep a friend for longer than 1 or 2 weeks.  He’s in sports year round and a very good athlete all around.  He’s admired by fellow teammates but once they leave the field, they just ignore him.  I’ve checked in my area and no one offers any type of program or group counseling that I can get him involved in. Does anyone know of any books, CDs, etc. that we could try using to work with his problem?  I’ve tried supervising his play time and calling him aside and reminding him of his inappropriate behavior, but it never works.  When he sits at home all weekend and I know other boys are going to parties and getting together to play, I actually shield my son from seeing them together.  He is so hard on himself, crying in his room and saying he’s such a bad kid that no one likes him.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Replies

Hi Machelle B, your post sounds virtually like I could have written it !
My son is now 11 and was diagnosed with ADHD 2 years ago and very quickly after with Aspergers. My son also had social skills issues (he isn’t into team sports which I really wish was different as kids like ours gain SO much from team activities). It was heartbreaking to see all the other kids playing together and him being left out. Party invites were VERY rare!
Where are you based? We are in the UK. My son did a social skills course run by the NAS (National Autistic Society). He is also a member of what I believe is the only ADHD charity in the UK ‘The Studio’ where he participates in excellent team building activities.
I did the same as you do, interrupting his play and ‘coaching’ behaviour constantly. It’s a tiresome task and I believe the social skills issues really relate to Aspergers, the excitement is probably connected to ADHD.
One thing that I would say is my son changed school in year 4 and made some good friends. He has now started Secondary school and it has allowed him to be part of a bigger group where he has found like minded friends and seems to have really fitted in. He is a social butterfly and I am continuously dropping him here there and everywhere and to be quite honest I am delighted. I did think he would move away from friends he had in his second primary school (year 4) but he has continued those friendships and created others. I do still have to point things out to him and always put it into the context of ‘how would you feel if someone did that to you’.
One thing I would say, is don’t look for his negative behaviour when he is with friends. When I lay off of him (from the advice of my Mum) he seemed to settle. I don’t know if he was enjoying the attention of me interrupting his play, or was relying on my advice rather than making his own decisions – who knows. If you intensely watch another child without a diagnosis I am sure there are many things they do that you wouldn’t consider acceptable – and their parents probably don’t notice. I think we can become too homed in on their behaviour.
It is hard work but we parents have to fight for our kids and it sounds like you are doing everything you can.
Sorry that my advice isn’t more but I wanted you to know that you are not alone.
Good luck x

Posted by Flossydrop on Nov 12, 2012 at 6:27pm

what about school counselors?

Posted by faye on Nov 12, 2012 at 11:13pm

Flossy drop makes a very sound suggestion of “..don’t look for negative behaviour when he is with friends.”

Boys usually see this as embarrassing and the dynamic is not around better behaviour but of reasserting independence. Even good advice given with the best of intentions is often received with resentment.

What are those thongs which makes him feel a sense of competence and/or belonging? Those are good to build on.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Nov 13, 2012 at 5:11am

My son has also had social issues (the school insists he is on the spectrum). He’s 8 and has come a long way in this regard (I don’t think he’s on the spectrum, so he may not be faced with the same challenges… we have an ASD assessment pending).

Anyway, what’s worked for us is one-on-one play dates with me close by to intervene. As soon as he gets worked up I pull him aside and talk him down, and then I talk to the other child. With his sister I intervene less so that he has a chance to learn resolution on his own.

It’s worked for us. He’s come a LONG way. He has a small group of kids who’ve been his friends since kindergarten. I’ve noticed a dramatic difference in his social behaviour and I think it’s due to the fact that I used the outbursts and overexcitabilities as teaching moments (also I’d intervene before the other kids were put off by him). Now because of this learned experience he’s able to self-regulate much better.

Posted by OopsForgotAgain on Nov 13, 2012 at 7:57pm

Question - when you pull your son aside to remind him of his inappropriate behaviour, do you ever use consequences? For example, “if you raise your voice again, I’ll take away your Wii for 2 days”  etc.  This was part of my strategy with my son. Sometimes just the consequence of “if you yell, your friends won’t like it” isn’t enough, and you have to up the ante, so to speak. This creates a situation where they’re really motivated to behave better, which helps them learn that behaving better makes play dates more fun.

Posted by OopsForgotAgain on Nov 13, 2012 at 8:02pm

Thanks everyone who responded to my post. When I pull my son away to point out his behavior, I use excuses like, “please come help me get some snacks for you & your friend” and then I will point out if he’s getting bossy, loud, or if he’s being well behaved I’ll give him a verbal pat on the back for that as well.  I have to be very careful because he can be so hard on himself, calling himself the “worst kid ever” and talks about running away because we deserve a better son than he is.The problem is, he’s getting even more frustrated with his lack of friends and spends so much time alone.  He has no siblings.  I’ve been thinking about moving so he can change schools and get a fresh start.  The funny thing is, he considers his classmates “friends” and gets upset about moving.  We live in NE Ohio area and I’m thinking the only way we might find group therapy is by going to Cleveland or Pittsburgh. It might be a sacrifice I have to make for his well being.  I’m at a loss.

Posted by Machelle B on Nov 14, 2012 at 5:13pm

My son is 10 and was diagnosed at age 5.  We struggled through pre-school and elementary school with the same problems.  An assessment sugested that he lacked social skills and recommended a “social skills class” which no one in the area seemed to know anything about.  Finally this year, we have moved him to a school that specializes in ADHD / learning disabilities.  It was a hard decision to make - leaving behind everything that was routine for him, but it was the best decision we have ever made.  The school only works with kids like mine and no only is he getting an education, he’s learning the social skills he so desperately lacked.  The goal of the school is to help the kids re-enter mainstream school, but not force it if that’s not a decision the parents want to make. 

This is way more than the help you asked for, but I’m just so overjoyed at the progress that’s been made in both education and the understanding and betterment of my son as a whole person.

Posted by KaRoach80 on Nov 14, 2012 at 8:13pm

There is a great program for kids with executive function difficulties (like ADHD) developed by a speech pathologist Michelle Garcia Winner

http://www.socialthinking.com/

Look for the comic books about SuperFlex

Posted by krtsinohio on Nov 14, 2012 at 10:14pm

My son is 17 and has the same problems. I sit and watch him become so depressed because no one will associate with him.  He is bullied so badly that we had to pull him out of public school. Presently, we are checking into a residentual environment that might offer friendships and social training.  Wish we lived where there was a school just for kids like ours.

Posted by LeeLee on Nov 14, 2012 at 10:23pm

The best advice I can give you based on my own experience as middle school teacher AND a parent of a 10 year old with ADHD (most likely aspergers too).

1. Accept your child for who they are and focus on the positives. If you focus on and say things about having friends your child will feel depressed, anxious, etc.
(keep in mind ADHD, Aspergers, etc usually run comorbid with other diagnosis such as depression, OCD, ODD, etc.) Treat the whole child not just the symptoms.

2. Ask your pedicatrician if they know of any social groups in your area in addition to a psychologist who specialized in ADHD/Aspergers. another resource may be the school guidance counselor.

3. Know that you are NOT the only parent out there with a child like this, you are NOT alone.

4.Just love your son and again accept him for who he is and try to keep in mind that children can be resilient if WE don’t dwell. In fact they learn better coping skills then most and will thrive in the future because of what some people may cause disabilities.

Posted by Freeskimom on Nov 15, 2012 at 12:04am

I’m so sorry you and your son are struggling.  I know how hard that is for a parent to see!  Those were some heart-breaking years when my son was younger, and I can feel your pain.

Many kids (and adults) with ADHD struggle with social skills.  Their ADHD symptoms often interfere with them learning appropriate social behaviors, picking up on subtle social cues, and having effective self-monitoring skills (like realizing when they’re getting wound up, etc.). 

Medication can help them pay attention to learn new skills, but many of them need to play “catch-up” and learn the social skills their peers learned earlier on.

If you can find social skills programs through school, community organization, or even pediatric outpatient facilities (such as pediatric occupational therapy or other facilities), they can be really helpful. 

If you can find an ADD Coach in your area who specializes in working with children to work directly with him to build those skills, that may be hugely beneficial—to both of you!  You can search the ACO website (http://www.adhdcoaches.org) for by location and by specialty for properly trained ADHD coaches.  (For a young child who needs social skills help, I would suggest someone local he can meet with in person rather than over the phone or internet). 

Also, Richard Lavoie has done a lot of work and written some good books/articles on social skills and kids with learning disabilities that may be helpful.  His version of the “social autopsy” technique was really helpful with my son when he was younger.  I’ll still use it from time to time as I see things even now that he’s 17.

I hope there’s something in here that helps!  I know how this is for both of you, but it can get better!

Hang in there and keep us posted on what you find!

Lynne Edris, ACG
Life & ADD Coach
http://www.CoachingADDvantages.com

Posted by ADD_Coach_Lynne on Nov 15, 2012 at 12:59am

I have two sons, one with ADD and one with Aspergers.  Our Aspie son has had many, many of the problems that you talk about.  It’s been heartbreaking at times.  We had him tested at school and he qualified for an IEP based on his lack of social skills (it is a category).  He is fully mainstreamed except for a Social Skills class (he’s now in 8th grade, in middle school).  What helped the most when he was younger (and they didn’t have a Social Skills class) was occupational therapy—they literally taught him how to recognize a ‘mad face’ versus a ‘confused face’ versus other facial expresssions It’s instinctual to most of us but not to Aspies.  He also had to learn idioms one-by-one.  They still don’t come easily to him. But these two remedies helped IMMENSELY with him being accepted in school and in the neighborhood.  Getting to middle school helps.  He still gets bullied a little (he’s an easy target)  but he now has a circle of friends who share his current passion (BMX biking).

Hope this helps.

Posted by ElaineK on Nov 15, 2012 at 9:16am

This feels so much like my son’s situation. He is almost 8, been diagnosed ADHD for a year and he struggles making and keeping friends. The kids his age in our neighborhood avoid him and won’t include him which causes him to have a meltdown and lash out. So the kids avoid him even more. It’s so frustrating. There is a social skills group that meets at his school and he has been attending that a bit but I hear word that the occupational therapist doesn’t think it is benefitting my son. He is up for reevaluation on his iep and the school keeps saying he won’t qualify based on his good grades. His iep originally was for developmental delay and we need to adjust it for adhd. I feel trapped and I just want my son to have someone accept him. He did have a friend coming over to play over the summer but we haven’t seen him in awhile.

Posted by Buggamom on Nov 15, 2012 at 11:11am

It’s too bad that all everyone seems concerned with are grades and if they are disrupting the classroom. Don’t they realize the bullying factor that can arise with many of these children because they act “different” ?  I even called his pediatrician to see if maybe adding a non XR dose of his med for the afternoon might help him with some of the issue.  His recomendation was to give him 2 doses of his current med & see what happens! I’m so frustrated.  I really do believe the only way I’m going to find someone who will treat the “whole” person is do go outside the area we live in. I wish all your children the best. At least our kids have family who love and support them.

Posted by Machelle B on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:31pm

This is such an good topic! I was and still am like your sons! I get excited about people I want to be friends fast and I didn’t and still don’t understand why others don’t want to be my friend! I listen to him, stand up for them, give them if I have something! When I was growing up, my mother had me do LOT of VOLUMTEER work! As I grew up I started to pick volunteer activities on my own and it did help with my social skills! I’m still not perfect and there are a lot of time I feel like an puppy who has been pushed aside, but every day is an work in progress! Your children will make it, it’s just that they and me have to find our own ways of controlling our needs!

Posted by Jjingram on Nov 16, 2012 at 8:51am

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