Social Skills Disorders

Autism, Asperser’s Syndrome, and ADD/ADHD are three of the most commonly diagnosed social skill deficits. Often these deficits cause a child to be overly anxious due to the negative interactions they have with their peers and adults that arise from their deficits.

Autism is a developmental disorder of the human brain that presents as impaired social interaction, communication, and restrictive, self-stimulating behaviors such as rocking, shaking, or difficulty interpreting facial expressions. People with autism often crave order and logic to all situations and often feel most comfortable when participating in ritualistic, repetitive behavior.

Generally speaking, Asperger’s Syndrome is a condition on the autism spectrum commonly referred to as high functioning autism (HFA). Characteristics of people with AS present similar social behaviors to those with autism, but the remainder of their cognitive ability functions normally. Like autism, AS also positively impact peoples’ lives, in that often it is coupled with improved memory, ability to focus, and intuitive understanding of logical systems.

ADD/ADHD (attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children and adults. It is characterized by the inability to focus, sit still or inhibit behavior, organize, control impulses, and delay gratification.

Treatments for social deficit disorders include teaching communication, organization, anger management, and step-by-step problem solving. However, success scarce because their success is usually short lived or limited to the testing facility itself; treatments usually work best when administered in real-life situations.

As teachers whose students present some of these tendencies with more or less severity, there are a number of things we can do to encourage positive social emotional learning for all our students. They include –
• Encourage students to identify and explain their feelings, and recognize others’.
• Model positive relationships with students, colleagues, and friends/family.
• Explore point of view, and how someone’s life experiences impact their perception.
• Reflect on conflicts and practice problem-solving.
• Be available to students and celebrate their successes with them.
• Teach students how to be good listeners.

Created by: Kristen Holtschlag

Footnote: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, July 2007. http://www.add-adhd.org/ADHD_attention-deficit.html

NYU Child Study Center: Changing the Face of Child Mental Health, January 2006. www.aboutourkids.org/aboutour/publications/csc_newsletters_monthly/2006/january.pdf