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Common Social Faux Pas by Children with Special Needs


It is not uncommon for kids with special needs to have social issues as well. Children with ADHD, learning differences, and Asperger’s may become socially isolated, have problems interacting appropriately with peers, and be socially imperceptive. Parents can help students who struggle socially by learning to recognize common challenges and empowering students with the tools they need to become socially competent.

Identifying Cognitive and Performance Deficits

Before parents can help, it’s necessary to identify the root cause of the problem. Social issues may occur because the children lack knowledge regarding how to behave or respond to a particular social situation. This is known as a cognitive deficit. For example, a child might not know that it’s inappropriate to go behind the counter when waiting on line at a retail store. Other children do know what is expected of them, but they are unable to apply their social skills. This is known as a performance deficit. For example, children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may know that they are supposed to remain seated in the classroom. However, ADHD commonly includes being excessively fidgety. Children may leave their desks at inappropriate times or shout out an answer without raising their hands. Other common social missteps include the following:

  • Difficulty recognizing and understanding the emotional states of others
  • Difficulty interpreting social cues
  • Inability to display empathy for others
  • Inability to make friends
  • Challenges with initiating, maintaining, and appropriately ending a conversation

Developing Social Competence Skills

Parents of children with cognitive deficits in social skills can help these kids learn to differentiate between socially acceptable and inappropriate behaviors. One useful tool is social stories, which is commonly used for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). These are visual or written guides that describe common situations and behavior expectations. A social story may depict children going to a playground, informing children that they must wear their seat belt in the car, hold a parent’s hand while walking, and waiting their turn to go down the slide. Other helpful tools may include role playing scenarios with children. These include giving and receiving compliments, initiating and maintaining a conversation, and accepting constructive criticism.

Promoting Social Competence in the Classroom

Social competence in the classroom is particularly important for children with special needs, since behavioral challenges and social skill deficits can inhibit academic progress. Children with special needs are entitled to receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is a legal document that describes their needs and explains how the school will meet those needs. Parents can include information in the IEP to guide teachers in understanding the children’s social difficulties and implementing effective interventions.

If your child struggles to fit into peer groups socially, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about the Brain Balance Program.

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