One mom's rant: Maybe those darn neurotypical kids should meet our ADHD kids halfway when it comes to improving social skills.
by Kay Marner
Someone please explain to me why our kids, the kids with ADHD or other neurological differences, always have to be the ones who change. Yes, our kids are the ones with a diagnosed problem, "difference," or disorder. But many of the “normal” kids who surround them each day could use a little self-improvement too, if you ask me.
The ADHD kids are the ones targeted for interventions, meds, therapy, social skills groups, behavioral programs. Shouldn’t the neurotypical kids be expected to meet our kids at least halfway on the learning curve?
As in my last post, I’m referring to the problems our kids tend to have with social situations. My daughter, Natalie, certainly does. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that her biggest problem area at this time is not hyperactivity or inattention or deficits in executive function. The thing that interferes most with Nat’s academic success, and her quality of life in general, are those darn normals.
I’ve said before that I understand why it might be hard to be Natalie’s friend. Kids with ADHD tend to mature more slowly than their same-age peers, have trouble reading social cues, and will make social blunders. But where is the tolerance, guys? And forgiveness? Leadership anyone?
I’m working hard. Natalie is working hard. Her psychologist is working hard. Her psychiatrist is working hard. Even her neurofeedback provider is working hard to make whatever gains possible for Natalie in learning social niceties. So who will meet us halfway? Which parents will teach their normal kids tolerance? What children will be role models for their classmates by playing with a neurodiverse kid at recess?
I’m seriously thinking about resorting to bribery (uh, I mean providing an incentive) in an effort to encourage that to happen. I’m also considering a talk with Natalie’s school principal about a kindness project. I’d love to hear your feedback about that idea.
And I think there’s a book in the making, for tweens and teens, on this topic. I’d like to sit down with Natalie’s one neurotypical and true friend, Emme, and pick her brain. What is hard about this friendship? What makes it worthwhile? And I want to talk to Emme’s mom, Chris. What in the world did she say and do to raise such a fabulous child?
Natalie is kind and thoughtful of others. She’s outgoing, and funny. She loves dogs and doing anything active. So why should the “normal” 5th grader who lives across the street be the gold standard of social skills for Natalie to live up to? Maybe the girl across the street, and all the “normals” like her, could—should — learn a thing or two from a fun, likeable kid with ADHD.