Many children with Attention Deficit Disorder are natural born charmers with friends in every setting. They are outgoing, creative, and have never met a stranger. However, some kids, especially those who have been having difficulties in school, have few friends. Sometimes they don’t even have one good buddy to hang out with. It’s enough to break a parent’s heart…or to energize that parent to help build social networks for their child.
A social network for a child with ADD is a way for that child to have many naturalistic opportunities to interact with other children. It moves the child beyond peers in the classroom and the neighborhood. Social networks are built using community resources.
Check the newspapers for activities that your child will enjoy. The entertainment section is a good place to start. Museums list programs for young people. There are often listings for arts venues. It may be time for your child to use his artistic talents in drama or crafts.
Libraries frequently have programming for children. At our local libraries there are computer classes. They also have book talks and story times. Several times a year they have professional story tellers or historical re-enactors make presentations. These are good places for children to meet other like-minded children.
If your community has a science center, they also have classes. Planetariums have programs for children. When your community has an astronomical society, star parties are usually open to the public. These parties, where everybody gets a chance to look through telescopes, are a chance for a family to do an activity together and meet other families who have children about the same age.
Community colleges, along with city and county parks and recreation centers, all have courses for both adults and children. The diversity of children’s classes is amazing. They have art classes. These include art appreciation, textiles, painting, clay, and light sculpture. Science is explored through art. Native American arts and legends are examined. Many social studies types of courses are available. Sports are also explored in these non-credit courses. There are baseball, soccer, and basketball camps for boys and girls. Track and field, golf, and tennis are also taught. Science exploration courses, including CSI type courses are offered. There are so many courses available for children; it would take two articles to list all of them! These are excellent chances for children to meet others with like interests. When kids have like interests, it is more probable that they will form lasting bonds.
Check your local Boy Scout or Girl Scout office for a troop near you. Visit several troops and see how they fit your family’s needs. Some mothers want to be involved in scouting. Many Boy Scout troops encourage female participation. Others don’t. Know that in most cases you will need to be active in this scouting for your child to progress. If you love camping as a family, this may be a chance to have your child camp with others, too. Make sure that you get registered as an adult leader and go along to see what the tone of the troop is like. Some troops have leadership that stands for absolutely no bullying. Others have a “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls” attitude, regardless of what the national group says.
Churches regularly have activities for children. There are youth groups. Like scouting, make sure that the youth groups are supervised, so that your child does not become a target for bullies. Some churches have retreats for youth. A church that we belonged to had a large youth choir that toured nationally every summer. Our children saw large cities, small rural towns, and sang in baseball stadiums. The tours were a chance for them to venture away from home. Our youngest son has several lifelong friends that he met in choir.
Don’t forget national organizations like C.H.A.D.D. Our area has a local group, The Joshua Center, that helps people with neurological differences. Organizations can offer educational events to help the whole family understand ADD. They give social skills classes. Sometimes they sponsor special social events. Joshua Center has both day and overnight camping experiences.
Another option is starting your own social group. This works better with younger children. Get children together to go to a movie, laser tag, or a local park. Let the children choose the places. Parents are responsible for their own children. This eliminates the whole problem with children not being picked up on time.
Building a natural social support network for your child who has ADD is time consuming, but it can lead to large rewards. Many people feel that they shouldn’t have to help their child socialize. In most cases this is true. However, a lone child can be a lonely child. Lonely, isolated children are more prone to depression. Natural social networks can help alleviate this problem and help your child develop his natural talents.
When a child does not understand the "hidden curriculum," it can lead to social problems. This book has been invaluable to several children that I know who have ADD by helping them learn to successfully deal with social situations.
The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated Rules in Social Situations
This is a how-to book that offers practical suggestions to help teach your child how to make friends.
The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends