Overcast   45.0F  |  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

Starry Nights and Snowman Fun: Winter Crafts with Olaf, More

Starry Nights and Snowman Fun: Winter Crafts with Olaf, More

Turn a white sock or marshmallows into everyone's favorite goofball from Frozen or gear up for snowy evenings with a constellation lightbox and table runner.

Kids and Indoor Exercise During Cooler Temperatures

Kids and Indoor Exercise During Cooler Temperatures

Keep your kids off the couch this winter and get them active and healthy with these family-friendly fitness tips from the community program director at the Macomb Family YMCA.

Sage Yet Strange 1920s Baby-Naming Advice

Sage Yet Strange 1920s Baby-Naming Advice

Modern flapper era mamas had plenty of progressive advice. But when it came to baby name tips, it was a mixed bag. (And especially tough for poor Lenora!)

Dessert Pizzas Recipes That Kids Will Love

Dessert Pizzas Recipes That Kids Will Love

Slice into sweetness with these kid-friendly ideas – thanks to Betty Crocker, Taste of Home and more – that transform pizza into something oh-so-sweet!

Rustic Pumpkin Lunch Bag Halloween Craft for Kids

Rustic Pumpkin Lunch Bag Halloween Craft for Kids

Lunch surprises can brighten kids' day at school. As October rolls along, try something fun and new with this sweet, not-scary jack-o'-lantern sack.

Mom Transforms into 'Annabelle' Doll for Creepy Photo Shoot

Mom Transforms into 'Annabelle' Doll for Creepy Photo Shoot

One suburban mom embraced horror movie season when she dressed up as an evil doll for a photo shoot – an artistic expression that is drawing mixed reactions.

Hello Kitty Crochet and Craft Books, Hobby Holster Tool, More

Hello Kitty Crochet and Craft Books, Hobby Holster Tool, More

Craft roundup! Quirk Books has a cool new crochet book, while Barron's offers projects for Rainbow Loom lovers. Check out a clever hot glue holder, too.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement