Sunday, December 28, 2008

ADD and Friends

I actually wrote this about 4 months ago and it got lost in draft land. I would guess that I wasn't done, got interrupted, had every intention of finishing it later, and promptly forgot. So I give it to you now. Enjoy.

Today another parent asked me if my ADD child had trouble making friends. Of course she does. ADD and social awkwardness go hand in hand. That was an easy question to answer. She then asked me what I did to help her. Not so easy. Not that there aren't a bunch of things I do daily to try to help my daughter make (and keep) friends, just that it was hard to come up with them on the fly like that.

The summer before 1st grade we moved to Arizona, my daughter was diagnosed with ADD, and began taking medication. Her teacher expressed concern that she didn't play with the other kids and preferred to spend recess on her own hunting for bugs. Her teacher also wasn't too thrilled that she liked to bring the bugs to class after recess was over. I will never forget the day she came home and told me she had made a friend. I was thrilled. My joy was cut short by the words that followed. She said "she takes pills too, so we play together so we won't make anyone else sick". We had a long talk that night about ADD not being catchy, that her pills weren't like the kind you take when you are sick, and that they just helped her pay attention better.

One thing that has contributed to her trouble making friends is her lack of ability to read non verbal cues. Kids with ADD see the world very black and white. Concepts like sarcasm are hard for them to grasp. Why anyone would say the opposite of what they mean confuses her. She also isn't good at reading body language and frequently misses clues that the kids she is talking to are bored with what they she is telling them, or are getting annoyed by her actions. So we work on communication skills. How to say what you are feeling, how to express when you are annoyed, and how to tell how tell when others are annoyed with you.

Groups are another thing kids with ADD have trouble with. It's very hard for them to keep up with a conversation with more than one person at a time. It's total sensory overload. Either they shut down and the other kids think they are ignoring them or don't care, or they blurt out something at an inappropriate time. If the group is talking about tv shows, the ADD child may get lost in her own thoughts about her favorite episode of Sponge Bob. By the time she blurts out "wasn't it funny that time Sponge Bob did..... " the group has moved on to talking about the coolest new shoes at the mall. They don't realize that her Sponge Bob comment has to do with the tv discussion of 10 minutes ago, and she can't understand why they are all looking at her like she just landed from Mars. So I explain to her why this happens and try to practice listening skills.

When working or playing in a group she always tries to take over. She wants to pick the game, and make the rules. It's not that she is pushy or bossy, it's just that she needs structure so desperately that she will try to impose her own if none exists. Learning someone elses game or rules is too hard for her to process quickly enough to be able to participate. We talk about how everyone likes to have a turn being the leader and how she can play someone elses game if she takes the time to learn it. I coach her on how to feel confident enough to say "I didn't understand the rules, can you explain them to me again" rather than getting frustrated and walking away.

Even if they all agree to play a game everyone knows like tag or hide and seek problems can occur if the child leading plays differently from the way the ADD child learned the game. I can't tell you how many times my daughter has come to me accusing some other kid of cheating because they learned the game differently. Something as simple as counting to 10 instead of 20 can lead to total melt down. There aren't many kids who will repeatedly come back to play with a kid who constantly accuses them of cheating, so I explain to her that sometimes people learned different ways to play, they aren't cheating, and how to be flexible and play even if they only count to 10.


LenaLoo said...

Oh, so that was my problem, huh? Some of the things that are so typical to me surprise me that it is an ADD thing... I still do some of those things and it is hard to keep friends even still... Maybe once I start taking pills I will be better at it...

Cheryl Ann said...

What a great momma you are! How cool to actually work with your child to help her understand social cues. She's lucky to have you!

Joy said...

Big kudos to you for being involved, present and aware of how to help your daughter cope and learn. Nothing can compare to a supportive parent. God bless you and thank you for stopping by my blog. :o)

Alicia said...

Stopping by from SITS....this is a good post. I'm a 2nd grade teacher and happen to have a lot of students that this applies to you also. As teachers and parents we really have to work hard with these kids to teach them social skills and also to teach other kids to accept and understand them.