HomeHealth & BehaviorSocial Skills

Learning difficulties and social skills: What's the connection?

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By Kristin Stanberry

Teaching social skills: How parents can help

If you realize your child's learning difficulty is hampering his social interactions, there are many ways you can guide him toward better social skills. Try practicing the three R's: Provide social skills instruction that is relevant, deals with real-life, and delivered in real-time. That means watching for teachable moments to coach your child in his interactions with others and doing so right away (or soon after). Focus on specific behaviors. Offer prompts before your child acts, and praise him for positive interactions. Additional suggestions:

  • Model appropriate behavior when you interact with your child and other people.
  • Encourage role playing. Help your child rehearse his behavior in "pretend" situations. With your guidance, he can practice and improve specific social skills. He'll then be better prepared to apply those skills in real-life situations.
  • Promote generalization. Help your child learn how and when to apply specific social skills to different situations. For example, once he learns to take turns playing a game with his sister, help him relate that to waiting his turn in line at the ice cream store.

Social competence builds confidence

Kids with learning problems are at risk for low self-esteem. Helping them become socially competent can go a long way to bolster their self confidence. Furthermore, a child with good social skills will have an easier time advocating for himself - whether he's asking a teacher for specific help or deflecting teasing from a classmate. We all face social situations around the clock - at home, school, and in other settings. Helping your child overcome his social challenges is a gift he will benefit from throughout his life.

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.


Comments from readers

"Great article! Thanks for breaking this down into such easy-to-understand language and giving examples. My son does have social deficits and even attends a Social Thinking and Perspective Taking group (with therapists to facilitate new social skill learning) every week. We love what it has done for him; I would highly encourage any parent who feels like they can't do it alone, to search for a good social skills group!"
"I'm an adult with a learning disability, It has been just brought to my attention that I have interpersonal skill problem and lack in social skills, reading and reacting appropriately. I have alot of friends, but I do have problems in a working environment. I also have problems picking the right male companion. Can I change this, who can I see for help and what book can I read. It's very important to me to change because I am on disability because of it. And It scares me that I won't be able to work again because of it."