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The Importance of Social Rules

June 18, 2012

Children who present with ADHD, central auditory processing, high functioning autism, and language and learning disabilities tend to have issues with social skills (pragmatic language). They want to interact, join in, play, converse, and have friends. However, many times they are isolated and ostracized by their peers because they miss social cues. They may not use eye contact appropriately or nod their head to show understanding or interest. Choosing appropriate questions for a topic and maintaining the conversation may be very difficult and cause for social anxiety. The topics they do initiate can be limited with either excessive verbiage or limited output, and their peers find it odd. Imagine the ramifications in a classroom when these students answer completely off topic in oral and written language. Their peers may laugh, and the teacher may become angry because it is thought to be poor behavior.

These children do best when given direct assistance in knowing the social rules. Once they understand the social rules they begin to make progress. Imagine the child who runs up to her friends at recess to play. She comes into the circle and stands too close to them. They become uncomfortable and the social group disperses, leaving her behind. When she understands “proximity” and how people feel about entering their personal space, she can be successful in her stance the next time. Imagine the boy who is so excited when a peer comes up to him and tells him that doughnuts are being sold in the girl’s bathroom. He is literal and does not believe that a ‘friend” would lie, so he goes in and gets in trouble. Once he understands about rumors, he can make changes. Most children can navigate their playground at school and understand the subtle, implied rules. Children with pragmatic language delay (social language issues) make progress when they are given these rules directly.