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How do I teach social skills to a 6 year old?

Hi,

My six year old has ADHD and is very impulsive.  Socially, he is just a mess.  We were at his brother’s baseball game tonight and I was so proud of him for approaching two girls and asking if he could play soccer with them. They said yes, but he just didn’t get the idea they weren’t playing a real game and kept stealing the ball, running away with it and saying how much better he is than them.  Once they finally said they didn’t want to play with him anymore, he would walk away and go back to “surprise” them and jump out at them.  It was painful to watch.  I finally convinced him to come sit and watch his brother play and I gave him a blanket since it was cold and he took it, then scooted over to two older boys who go to his school and asked them of they were cold and wanted to snuggle.  It was heartbreaking to watch them laugh at him.  His intentions were so good, but just so off.  When we got home, he was going over what happened and kept saying he was just too good, too fast, or maybe he’s just mean.  I told him he’s not mean and I hope he doesn’t think that and he said the girls told him he was mean and kids tell him that all of the time.  How do you teach social skills?  I had him in an OT social group, but he placed out of it.  Sadly, they said his social skills were to advanced for th group. 

He’s in kindergarten and doesn’t get recess so when his teacher says he does well socially, I think she is saying he does well in a structured setting. I can’t even imagine what will happen next year when he has unstructured play time. 

Any ideas?  Any social stories anyone knows of?  I hate to see him feeling so bad about himself and it’s so hard to watch him in these social situations.  He wants to have friends so badly, but is just not successful.  I keep hoping he’ll meet that one child at school or maybe at camp this summer who will just get him.  I just want him to have be friend.  My ideas?

Also, he sees the social worker at school, but again, it’s very structured and he gets to bring a different friend every week, but the social worker guides the play.

Replies

When you take him to the park play with him briefly and start introductions with other kids . He is still young so you can’t expect so much from him there are adults that don’t play well with others lol. Try to set up play dates and when you see him playing well with others praise him

Posted by Anthony18Mommy on May 08, 2014 at 4:53pm

My son didn’t socialize well either at that age it was scary to take him to parks and dreading phone calls from school. He is 9 now and makes friends because they can relate more and have things in common. Don’t worry he will come around but I suggest you try some of the things I put up in my previous post

Posted by Anthony18Mommy on May 08, 2014 at 4:54pm

I’ve experienced the broken heart you speak of many times. My son is now 11 and still struggles with “socially acceptable behavior.” He is all the time doing something nice (like sharing the blanket), that ends up being the wrong thing socially. He still can’t read body language or tone of voice.

There are a lot of opportunities to teach social skills though:
1) start working with a therapist—they will help him learn acceptable social decorum (like not hogging the ball or being overtly self-assured and proud).
2) there are board games that help build social skills. Here’s a list on amazon: http://smile.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=social skills board games&sprefix=social+skills+boa,aps&rh=i:aps,k:social skills board games
3) many other toys can aid in building social skills. a friend of mine has a great toy review website, http://ToysAreTools.com, and she notes the toys that can help with social skills and how they help.

There are some further suggestions in this article on Helping Children with ADHD with social skills on ADDitudeMag.com: http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1495.html.

Typically, kids with ADHD improve with social skills as they mature. My son is still struggle immensely with social cues and clues at nearly 12, so we are having him evaluated for high-functioning autism as well.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on May 08, 2014 at 5:47pm

The other posters’ ideas are great, and I would try all of them.  I would just like to add that you might want to consider finding some younger playmates for him, maybe younger pre-school age.  Dr. Russell Barkley, a psychiatrist who has studied and treated ADHD for many years, states that kids with ADHD are, socially and emotionally, about three years behind their peers.  So if you have a 6 year old, he will self-regulate and be at the social level of approximately a 3-4 year old child.  Playing with younger children will be less stressing and they will probably not notice quirky or age inappropriate behaviors as much.  My 10 year old only child plays with our 6 and 7 year old neighbors, and they have a great time together.  At first, I was a little worried about this, but then read that this is an excellent way for ADHD kids to practice social skills with kids who are more on their level.  If there are some younger cousins or neighbors, you might encourage some friendships there.

Posted by debhib on May 09, 2014 at 10:11pm

Thank you for the replies.  I like the idea of him playing with younger children.  He definitely does better with younger kids.  It’s just hard to find younger kids, except at thr park, and it doesn’t help him at school since he’s the youngest and they separate all of the playground time by grade. 

It’s just so hard to watch him fail socially over and over again.  Thanks again.

Posted by Sporty on May 09, 2014 at 11:02pm

Start by using puppets to role play social situations. He needs to know what the rules are of the game the children are playing. He need to know that game rules may change throughout and he needs to be flexible.
Find out what games the Social Worker is teaching him and practice at home.
Try non competitive activities such as swimming or kite flying. If he is willing to share bring something interesting to the park such as a remote control car.  Other children will approach him.
Praise him for all positive peer interactions and build on this. Social cues are not easy and being impulsive makes it more of a challenge. Be patient and practice.

Posted by Caring Counsellor on May 10, 2014 at 6:59am

While my child is 12 now, I can relate to the fact that she had a difficult time being accepted by her peers and understanding social cue’s. I was not so aware of what I could do as my child was officially diagnosed only when she was in 5th grade. From what I read and hear from other parents it is important to “teach” social skills as it can become an issue later in life. While my daughter does have friends in schools, she is still being perceived as hyper, different, weird etc. There are through therapists playgroups that help children learn social skills.
Good luck with your son. It seems to me that you are on the right track helping him do well and giving him the skills.

Posted by angel22 on May 10, 2014 at 3:04pm

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