Problems with Social Skills

When medication is failing to make a child "available to learn," an adjustment or change may be called for.
My seven-year-old son has ADHD and LD and is developmentally delayed. He didn't say his first word until he was three. He has problems socially. He builds things and tries to do things other kids do, but it frustrates him. He's on Prozac® and Ritalin®. He can have major mood swings and says hurtful things. I have problems getting him to do anything, from taking a bath to doing homework. I've talked to his doctor and he says be patient -- he'll grow out of it. Well, it's been four years!

He's not responding well to special education. Last school year he behaved better and was never suspended. He did everything he was told at school until this year. What should I do?

First of all, if the medication is not making a substantial difference in his being "available to learn," then an adjustment or change may be called for. Is your doctor monitoring your son's response to medication on a regular basis? This is critical for any child, but particularly for a child your son's age.

Second, your child would probably benefit from social-skills training as part of a larger treatment plan beyond simply giving him medication. This training involves educating kids about social skills and teaching them to use these skills in their social interactions. Two excellent resources about social-skills training are Susan M. Sheridan's The Tough Kid Social Skills Book and Skillstreaming the Elementary School Child by Dr. Ellen McGinnis and Dr. Arnold P. Goldstein. An important component to social-skills training that has often been missing is helping kids to generalize what they have learned in training to real-life situations. McGinnis and Goldstein's program in particular provides training for parents as well as kids. Also, try calling the national toll-free number for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD) at 1-800-233-4050 or go to their website. Many branches of CHADD across the country have social-skills programs for kids and their parents or can recommend one. Good luck!

For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

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