Overcast   47.0F  |  Forecast »

Social Skills Tips for Kids with Learning Disabilities

Relating can be difficult for children with these special needs. Here are tips on how parents can help give their LD kids the tools they need to thrive with peers in school.

Keeping children with learning disabilities and on top of schoolwork can be a headache. But hearing how they struggle in the schoolyard can be enough to break your heart. There's a social dimension to every learning disability; some kids can't read body language or grasp the rules of new games, others simply won't stop butting in on conversations.

Fortunately, just as LD kids can be tutored in the three Rs, they also can be taught explicitly how to shine in social situations. These guidelines can help.

Reflecting your child's behavior

School-age kids can be cruel to those they see as different. Physically, children with learning disabilities look like other kids, but quirky behaviors can make them stand out – and, often, they don't realize it.

Showing your child these behaviors can help, says Diane Nancarrow, a speech language pathologist with Kaufman Children's Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor and Social Connections in West Bloomfield. She's taken snapshots of children in social situations and made photo albums to show the kids what they look like when they're practicing good social skills.

"See, you don't lie on the floor with your legs flung over your head when you're being a good listener!" You can add captions like "Sharing well with my brother" or "Being a good sport at soccer." These can give your child a powerful visual reminder of how she looked at times when she was getting it right socially – and can be reviewed often to reinforce the skills your child needs to get along.

You can video record your child at play, too, and later talk over how he is interacting with playmates. Help him pick up on things, such as standing too close to others, and highlight what he does well. Without reprimanding, just point out the relationship between your child's behaviors and his friends' responses.

Focus on poise, too – a natural bully repellent. Nancarrow recommends kids learn to walk tall between classes and be shown the type of body language that gives the impression of confidence. Yoga, drama or dance classes and more "individual" sports like martial arts – as well as parental words of encouragement and praise – can all help your child.

Identifying face and body cues

Many kids with LD have trouble recognizing how others are feeling. Some are excellent verbally but struggle to read the facial expressions and body language. Nancarrow recommends a step-by-step process for helping children.

Begin by doodling happy-face-type images, gradually adding new emotions like anger, fear, anxiety, distraction. When your child is familiar with expressions in line-drawn form, look at storybooks and magazines together to identify expressions in photos. By looking at the faces of individuals of a wide range of ages and cultural backgrounds, your child can learn to generalize many cues.

Next, discreetly discuss the expressions of people around you in real-life situations: "The bus driver was frowning when you were speaking very loudly; he looked annoyed," or "Sean's mom smiled when you thanked her for driving you home from school. How do you think she was feeling?"

When it comes to other's body language, help your child become a keen observer; even watching how characters interact on TV shows can help him pick up on cause-and-effect relationships. As an advanced version, watch with the sound turned down have kids guessing what's happening by reading body language.

A direct approach with peers

As your child gets older, working with her teacher and putting together a presentation on her specific LD for classmates might be an option – depending on her comfort level, notes special needs educator Richard Lavoie in his book It's So Much Work to Be Your Friend.

Rather than shifting focus away from the problem, children can acknowledge it directly and give their classmates an idea of why they sometimes seem different.

Consider getting disability awareness packs from your local school board or online, too. Nancarrow notes that practical activities in these packs are designed so parent volunteers can go into schools for a whole day and give kids without LD a taste of what it's like to experience the world differently.

In the vast majority of cases, this greatly increases levels of compassion for classmates with learning disabilities, and intolerance drops dramatically.

Handling incidents

Sometimes, your child will be called upon to explain an incident at school with another child. Often, kids with learning disabilities end up taking the flak when there's a fight. Even if they're responding to another kid's provocation, they tend to do so loudly and indiscreetly, perhaps pushing back. Also, their emotions are written all over their faces, whereas kids without LD may have more success staying calm and talking themselves out of trouble.

Connecting and articulating the sequence of events are challenges. So, when time permits – and for more serious incidents – Nancarrow suggests kids be allowed to draw out what happened frame-by-frame, almost like a film storyboard.

Making bigger connections

On top of that, Lavoie swears by social skills autopsy. "Perhaps Johnny said something that embarrassed his grandmother," he explains. "Without judging or scolding, you just say 'Johnny, let's take a look at what you said, let's take a look at how grandma reacted to that, let's think about what you could have done, what you should have done."

This technique is effective because it pinpoints exactly what went wrong and involves your child in figuring out more appropriate ways to behave. To make a real difference, teach your child's other caregivers how to do it, too – so, on any given day, the child might have seven or eight social autopsies.

It's also a good idea, as new situations arise, to help your child relate them to similar occasions from the recent past. "This is just like that time at Aunt Marion's wedding when you were so good about leaving your Game Boy in the car so you could join in the celebration." Generalizing rules of social behaviors doesn't always happens naturally for children with LD, so it's up to the child's caregivers to help her know how to behave – even in novel situations.

Jan 19, 2013 10:25 pm
 Posted by  russell.greenstone

I love these tips.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

DIY Leaf Press Fall Fun Family Craft Project

DIY Leaf Press Fall Fun Family Craft Project

Harness a bit of autumn for your kids' next creative venture by making this handy contraption. Note that a drill is required, so be sure mom or dad helps.

Teal Pumpkins Raise Food Allergy Awareness on Halloween

Teal Pumpkins Raise Food Allergy Awareness on Halloween

Kids allergic to nuts, milk and more can look for pumpkins painted blue-green to find homes giving safe, non-edible treats, thanks to The Teal Pumpkin Project.

Pumpkin Jars, Plates and Juice Box Cover Halloween Crafts

Pumpkin Jars, Plates and Juice Box Cover Halloween Crafts

So simple they're scary! Check out these three orange DIY projects in time for fright night – plus a cool Frankenstein handprint craft for good measure.

Roperti's Turkey Farm Sells Wild Turkeys for Thanksgiving

Roperti's Turkey Farm Sells Wild Turkeys for Thanksgiving

This Livonia landmark offers an alternative to the grocery store, selling 4,000 turkeys in just four days. Peek at our chat with the 'turkey lady'.

Holiday Baby Survival Guide

Holiday Baby Survival Guide

Does your due date correspond with the holiday season? Here are some wise ways to enjoy the season with your newborn – and avoid unnecessary stress.

Parents Use Online Rating Sites to Choose Doctors, Study Finds

Parents Use Online Rating Sites to Choose Doctors, Study Finds

Parents are using online ratings to pick a pediatrician for their child. But are these sites fair and accurate?

10 Ways to Ban the Word 'Bossy'

10 Ways to Ban the Word 'Bossy'

Avoid using this label and be more conscious of what you call your daughter. We've got some ways to help you ban this word from your vocabulary!

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement