How Symptoms of ADHD Can Hurt a Kid’s Social Life

There are three identifying symptoms of ADHD:

  • Distractibility,
  • Impulsivity
  • Inattentiveness or Hyperactivity

All these symptoms have a significant impact on the development of social skills.  Many of those who are ADHD remember the pre-school years as happy years with few memories of feeling different or lonely, but certainly by fifth grade an awareness of negative responses from others becomes part of their self-history.

ADHD Social Examples

When someone does not have control of focus or response inhibition, social cues are frequently missed or misinterpreted.  Taking command of a group conversation by changing topics or not appearing to pay attention when a friend is speaking usually creates tension, which may be perceived as rejection by the kid with ADHD.

Another example of the interrupted development of social skills is when a hyperactive child may not be sensitive to the universally understood perimeter of personal space.  Getting in someone’s face to talk, having a compulsion to physically touch another person, or just the constant physical movement by the hyperactive ADHD kid can discourage the evolution of a friendship.  Peers often feel uncomfortable when the kid with ADHD does not observe expected social patterns. Usually the kid who is ADHD has either not observed and/or not remembered the social format for this type of interaction, and he/she has no idea that a social code has been breached.

The Unfortunate News of Social Skills

As Michele Novotni, Ph.D. explains in her book What does everybody else know that I don’t?:

 “Social skills are not officially taught in school, yet they’re expected and often required of us all. Punishments are harsh for those who violate these social expectations.  People who lack social skills often end up dismissed, rejected, but never knowing what they did wrong.”  

Unfortunately the result of unpredictable social skills creates a basic message of not being “good” or “liked” by others that begins to replay in self-talk and leads to the feelings of being outside of social circles.

 Guidance and Knowledge For ADHD

Nothing is more painful for those who love someone who is ADHD than watching the hurt and disappointment experienced when the awaited call, invitation, or inclusive gesture never comes.  Some of these hurts cannot be avoided but with guidance, knowledge, and self-awareness kids with ADHD can develop social skills that are very effective.

 Recognizing that these social codes may not have grown as expected is the first step in building satisfying interpersonal behaviors.  With intentional efforts and continued communication with parents, teachers, and other significant adults who accept the responsibility to strengthen the social skills of the  ADHD kid, social behaviors will result in positive interactions with others.

For well over 20 years, Life Tree Counseling has been a, “soft place to land” for so many people. We’d like to help you, too. You can call us right now at 972-234-6634, and we promise to return your call within 60 minutes. Or, visit our website to schedule a time that’s convenient for you, with one of our counselors.

Kathleen Mills

Kathleen is a creative and gifted therapist who has extensive experience in helping children, adolescents, and adults with a variety of issues.