Learning Disabilities and Assistive Technologies Guide: Chapter 8 - Social

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SOCIAL SKILLS DISABILITIES

Problem: Daily living and social skills are often disregarded as an element of learning disabilities. Some people have more difficulty than others in environments less structured than school and work.

Some persons with learning disabilities face challenges in their day-to-day activities besides the more familiar writing, reading, and math problems. These highly documented academic problems clearly permeate the lives of persons with LD and have a significant impact on daily living. But there are challenges which will arise within the course of daily living and in social interaction.

Daily living requires the fulfillment of many tasks like conceptualizing directions; reading maps, signs, and menus; dialing phone numbers; filling out job applications; playing board games and cards; telling time; staying abreast of current news; managing personal information; staying on task; purchasing retail items; managing time; scheduling and keeping appointments; and, in general, organizing their lives.

The absence of social skills is also a disability. Everyone from time to time experiences deep discomfort in social situations, especially persons with LD. This discomfort often arises from the individual’s low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. For example, Jonathan’s reluctance to raise his hand in class or confront a disruptive co-worker could be a direct result of his struggles growing up as a person with LD. He thinks that he is not smart enough or capable of asking a question or expressing himself in a stressful work situation.

But there is another level which may be affecting Jonathan, one in which lack of social skills is based not only on low self-esteem or confidence, but also on neurological impairments which affect social skills. For example, Mary has trouble getting a job. During her interviews she speaks too loudly and avoids eye contact; she asks personal questions of the interviewer, rambles about her own personal life, and strays far afield when she is asked a direct question. To Mary her behavior appears appropriate and her disability prevents her from recognizing her inappropriate social behavior.

Common manifestations of this social disability may include the following:clumsiness; lack of eye contact; asking inappropriate or blunt questions and giving the same type of responses; inability to control voice volume and tone; failure to “take turns” in conversation, to initiate conversations, to form healthy relationships with family and friends, to date, to maintain personal hygiene, to dress appropriately for the occasion, and many others.

These characteristics are listed under "Social Skills" and include:

  • Social/Interpersonal
  • Self-Concept
  • Coordination/Motor Functions
  • Attention/Impulsivity


Social/Interpersonal

The Individual:

☐demonstrates difficulty with social skills;

☐blames self for poor social skills or may be unaware of inappropriate social behaviors;

☐is noticeably out of place in group settings;

☐interacts inappropriately with peers;

☐has difficulty in establishing meaningful friendships;

☐has trouble responding to nonverbal cues;

☐lacks awareness of one’s personal space;

☐has difficulty working in close proximity to another;

☐is untidy or disorderly in appearance;

☐is most comfortable with familiar, unchanging settings;

☐appears rigid (difficulty with new people and situations);

☐displays rigidity when an established routine changes;

☐has ineffective eye contact;

☐may be overly aggressive or assertive;

☐lacks awareness of consequences;

☐talks excessively;

☐uses language inappropriate to the situation;

☐shares intimate information inappropriately;

☐may be excessively shy and withdrawn;

☐has trouble following “the rules”;

☐has problems accepting criticism;

☐experiences low self-confidence.


Self-Concept

The individual:

☐has a poor self-concept, feelings of inadequacy;

☐displays lack of motivation or extreme drive to complete tasks;

☐resists attempting new or difficult tasks;

☐lacks self-reliance;

☐often says “I can’t” or uses excuses;

☐may be untidy or disorderly in appearance;

☐can’t describe successes;

☐demonstrates indifference or a self-defeating attitude.

Coordination/Motor Functions

The individual:

☐experiences late development of gross or fine motor skills (used in handwriting, needle work);

☐displays poor motor coordination (appears clumsy or poorly coordinated, has difficulty manipulating fingers on a keyboard, filling in bubbles on answer sheets, copying from books and off chalkboards);

☐is accident prone;

☐has poor handwriting (letter formation inconsistent);

☐confuses right and left;

☐has difficulty keeping balance;

☐has slow reaction time;

☐shows limited endurance.

Attention/Impulsivity

The individual:

☐has difficulty concentrating/focusing;

☐has a short attention span (easily distracted by sounds, movement, or other visual stimuli);

☐displays off-task behavior;

☐fidgets;

☐is impatient; does not wait his or her turn;

☐rambles verbally;

☐responds without thinking;

☐appears not to listen;

☐has trouble staying on task;

☐interrupts;

☐takes big risks;

☐wanders mentally;

☐is in perpetual motion;

☐has difficulty following through;

☐has problems working alone;

☐is unorganized;

☐is extremely restless;

☐is highly impulsive.

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