Nonverbal Learning Disabilities and Social Functioning by Stephen Rothenberg, Psy.D. Dyslexia is a well-known term that describes an impaired ability to read. Less known is another "reading disability" which can be at least as disabling. Nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) are often associated with difficulty reading and responding to social information, particularly nonverbal cues or "body language." Verbal language alone will often not convey all the information needed to understand a given social situation. Approximately 65 percent of the communication in an average conversation is believed to be nonverbal. This means that the child with nonverbal learning problems has to rely on approximately 35 percent of the communication in order to discern what is being communicated and how to respond. Earliest nonverbal information comes from a child's learning to process visual information from a parent's face. The child begins to associate various internal feeling states with the configuration of the face of the parent. When happy inside (feeling) matches happy outside (parent's smile) this feeling interaction becomes associated in the infant's social/emotional system. A template begins when nonverbal signals and their associated feeling states are internalized as patterns of relating. There is also a congruence of affects that is an organizing force in the young child's life. When moods and signals match, this results in a congruence of feeling and a sense of well being in the child. Children who have difficulty processing visual spatial information will have difficulty internalizing these visual templates. Consequently, they may not have the same congruence of feeling. The resultant development and social/emotional organization will then be delayed. If these missed cues continue through early childhood, they will affect the child's peer relationships. When the child becomes more interactive with others (around 4 to 5 years old) he/she may misread cues about when to join in, when to stay back, what someone might be feeling (difficulty with development of empathy) and how to respond to others. For example: Johnny sees Jimmy playing with a toy. As he gets closer he doesn't notice that Jimmy begins to turn his body away. Johnny continues to move closer and reaches for the toy. Jimmy, interpreting this as a threat, hits Johnny. Johnny, experiencing this as an unprovoked attack, hits him back. In this case, missing the nonverbal cues led to an inappropriate approach on Jimmy's part. Johnny reacted to this as if Jimmy was ignoring his feelings and reacted aggressively. Jimmy is left confused about why he received such an angry response, not knowing what to expect from his interpersonal interactions. As the world of social relationships becomes more complex, the child with NVLD may become more confused and often more withdrawn. Not only do they have difficulty discerning the nonverbal social cues, they also struggle with organizing all of the information into a meaningful whole. Since they feel incompetent within the social arena, they will stay away from that area of incompetence, thereby depriving themselves of further practice. Children with NVLD will struggle with picture puzzles and how the pieces fit together. Social information is more abstract and quickly changing than pulling together puzzles. If a child has great difficulty arranging the static pieces of a puzzle, imagine how difficult it is to assemble all of the quick paced and changing "pieces" of social information. Lacking the ability to form this information into meaningful patterns, the child's sense of self and other is concrete and fragmented. Stanley Greenspan, MD (1) hypothesizes that "visual spatial processing is related more to the perception of the intensity of affect than its meaning." He feels that children with NVLD may be able to discern the meaning of social communications but miss the emotional strength of these communications. These children struggle with managing the intensity of their own feelings and with judging the intensity of the feelings of others. They can be easily overwhelmed by their feelings and then, in turn, easily overwhelm others. They are "sensitive" and overreactive children as they lack self-organization and the ability to self soothe. They are a challenge for parents, teachers, and others who are often confused as to how to respond, resulting in the child feeling more alone and confused. Because of their reactivity, they are frequent targets of teasing by bullies. So, with all this information in mind (and probably feeling overwhelmed ourselves), how can we help? Dr. Stanley Greenspan writes "the optimal environment balances a sense of empathy (the difficult test of feeling the distress of the out of control child when he is excessively excited) with the firm and consistent setting of limits." We, as parents, teachers, and others helping children with NVLD need to be calm in the face of the storm of the child's intensity. We need to provide the organizing and calming forces when the child is unable to provide them for himself. When emotions are running high and we are coping with our own stress, this is no easy task. The optimal environment for a child with NVLD to learn social skills involves minimal stimulation. Just as limiting the amount of written material on a page helps the child to focus, limiting the amount of visual (and other) stimulation helps the child to focus and be focused on social cues. Some children will become overloaded by too much facial information. Someone who is very expressive may overwhelm the child with a nonverbal learning disability, as it is too much to process all at once. Therefore, when communicating with children with nonverbal learning problems it is helpful to do so in a quiet, straightforward manner without too many facial gestures or feelings all at once. It is also important to "check in" verbally to ascertain whether the child has interpreted the meaning of the communication and gesture appropriately. It is important to overuse the verbal channel in order to aid the development of the visual channel as well as self-organization in general. Talking and playing through various situations will help a child develop visual-verbal associations and increase the complexity of their feeling vocabulary. Most children start out with the three basic feelings: happy, mad, sad. Children with NVLD will tend to stay with the three basic feelings longer than other children. We need to help them to learn to verbalize gradations of feelings, e.g. "a little happy," "very sad." Processing social interactions with the child, breaking them down into understandable parts, can help the child with nonverbal learning problems. Watching television sitcoms can be very instructive. Asking a child what is happening in their favorite television show while watching it with them can be helpful in discovering where the child misinterprets social communication. I am often surprised by the interpretations I get when I ask. It can be even more fun when you turn the sound off on the television set, relying only on the nonverbal cues available. This allows the child and adults to learn about nonverbal communication in a playful manner. For older children, this could even be practical at the local mall. "People watching" provides a wonderful opportunity to guess about what others might be feeling or talking about. After a child has been involved in a peer interaction, adults can sit down with him and break down the components of communication such as asking "what do you think he was feeling then?" and "what about his body language told you that he was feeling that way?" Social skills group psychotherapy, focusing on pragmatic social skills, is often quite helpful for the child with nonverbal learning problems. The group affords the child and therapist an opportunity to work on misperceptions and learn appropriate social behavior in the "here and now." The therapist helps the children use the interactions that arise with the group to learn about how they come across to others and to interpret correctly how others come across to them. In group therapy, we often like to play "Name That Feeling." In the game, children take turns at acting out a feeling. It gives the child a chance to practice portraying the appropriate nonverbal gestures, and the children who are guessing a chance to hone their interpretive skills. Children with NVLD will often have trouble with proxemics. They may not know how close or far away to stand from others. Whenever possible, a concrete rule can be very helpful. In this case we usually use the "arm's length" rule: in regular conversations we should always stand about an arm's length from the other person. They respond well to the structure of rote, concrete rules as they make the confusing social world feel a little more under control. I know one boy whom I see who spends a lot of time watching other children. He looks and tries to find patterns that will make it all make a little more sense. The social world does not have to be a confusing and frustrating place. Children with nonverbal learning problems need to be taught how to understand and respond to a complex array of social communication. We need to help them to see patterns and to see that there is some sense to be made of all of this. With firm and understanding teaching, the children can learn to better interpret the world of social communication. (1) Greenspan, S. I. (1996) Developmentally Based Psychotherapy. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. ~~~~~~~~~~ © 1998, Learning Disabilities Association of Massachusetts. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in two parts, in the October and November, 1998, issues of the Gazette, the Journal of the Learning Disabilities Association of Massachusetts (LDAM). The article is posted on NLD on the Web! with the express permission of the Editor, Teresa Allissa Citro, and the author. Reproduction of this material in any form other than for individual educational purposes, without the express written permission of the LDAM, is prohibited. About the author - Stephen Rothenberg, PsyD, is a graduate of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. He completed a postdoctoral practicum in Child Neuropsychology at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. Dr. Rothenberg specializes in learning and attentional disorders, and relationship difficulties. He has 22 years of psychotherapy experience.
Taming the Tiger: Helping Children with Anger Control by Stephen Rothenberg, PsyD Many children with learning disabilities and attentional problems also struggle with modulating their feelings. They can feel easily overwhelmed by emotions and can sometimes act out impulsively. This, in turn, can affect their feelings about themselves. Children build their sense of self-esteem from mastery of their environments and themselves. If they find that they often cannot control themselves, they may feel quite bad about that. Impulsively acting upon feelings, particularly anger, can quickly affect peer relationships in a very negative manner. This can result in a downward, negative spiral. The child may feel bad about him or herself, act negatively in relationships, and worsen their self-esteem. If a child is more stressed, he or she will be less likely to be able to respond in a constructive manner to negative feelings. "Language Problems" Children with expressive language problems may not have the facility with language to be able to express what they need to quickly enough. As a result, they may end up acting out their feelings instead. Interestingly, children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder appear to have a "language problems" themselves. these children often do not have the inner language that would enable them to delay acting on feelings, that "inner voice" that enables many children to stop and think and consider their behavior and the consequences before they act. Outside/Inside Many children (whether they have learning disabilities, attentional problems, or autistic spectrum disorders) also have problems with sensory integration. This means that they have difficulty organizing sensations and stimulation from outside and/or within. It can be very difficult to put together and make sense of all of the sensory information that is coming at them. It can also be very difficult organizing and understanding the sensory information that is occurring within them. For these reasons, it can be easy to misinterpret social information from outside and emotional information from inside. This may then result in an inappropriate response to the situation at hand. Giant Steps It is easy for us to forget all the steps involved in managing feelings. Think about it - we need to identify and organize feelings within ourselves, identify and interpret social information from outside, integrate that information into something meaningful, and then formulate the appropriate response in a controlled, socially acceptable manner. This is difficult enough for adults without learning or attentional difficulties. It is extremely difficult for a child who DOES have learning and attentional difficulties. Identifying Feelings In social skills therapy, whether individual or in a group, we attempt to help the child learn to appropriately organize and interpret cues from outside and identify, organize and express emotions from the inside. The first task for some children is to learn to pair the physiological response from inside them with the label of "angry." Some children need to know that tightness in their muscles, or that feeling that their head is about to blow off, is what we call "angry" or "mad." (This may sound like something that you would do with a younger child. Since children with learning and/or attention problems may experience some delays in their cognitive development, they also tend to experience some delays in their emotional development.) Putting the Puzzle Together Once a child is able to identify his or her own feelings, they can begin to work on identifying the feelings of others. In order to accurately identify what other people are feeling, a child needs to be cognizant of body language, facial cues, tone of voice, and context. Much like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, a child needs to assemble all information into an emotional picture that makes sense. If the puzzle is put together incorrectly, it will result in an inappropriate response. Children with language processing problems may actually be quite aware of the non-verbal cues but may have trouble with comprehending the spoken message. Children who have non-verbal learning disabilities have great difficulty synthesizing body language and visual cues, as it requires the ability to utilize "right brain", perceptual-organization functions. Those who are more impulsive, without the processing difficulties, may get the whole picture but selectively attend only to isolated details. They may also tend to just go with what they want at the moment, rather than what the situation calls for. Taming the Tiger For younger children, helping them to get some distance on their anger can help them maintain positive feelings about themselves. Helping a child to "tame the tiger" or calm down their "angry monster" helps a child to work on the feelings without experiencing a loss of self-esteem. Help the child identify what he/she is feeling. Help them be aware of the signals they receive from their bodies that tell them "I am mad", "I am happy", etc. "You know when he took that toy you like and you hit him? You were feeling mad." Help your child to identify what others are feeling. Point out the various cues that are available and help the child put them together into a meaningful puzzle. "See when his eyebrows went down and his face scrunched together like that? I think he was mad." Help your child to communicate anger in an effective manner. This depends upon their developmental abilities. Some children need to find ways to discharge their anger appropriately, as they are not yet able to use inner language to delay their actions. They may need to learn to break something (something safe in a supervised setting, like having balloons ready to pop) before they are able to say, or have you help them label, what they are feeling. In individual and group therapy, we attempt to help children build in a "delay mechanism" using the Stop Light Technique. When they identify that they are feeling angry, they: STOP (picture a stop sign in their heads) and take three deep breaths or count to 40, THINK (Think about what is making them angry so they can make a plan. This includes thinking about what the other person intended. "Did she do that on purpose?"), and GO (go ahead with the plan and see how it works). Taming the tiger depends a lot upon "language." Reading non-verbal cues, processing nuances of spoken words, and developing an inner voice. For many children, developing this ability is akin to learning a foreign language. It takes time and patience, but is a very worthwhile enterprise if it can result in improvements in a child's relationships and self-esteem. ~~~~~~~~~~ © 1997, Learning Disabilities Association of Massachusetts. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in the November 1997 issue of the Gazette, the Journal of the Learning Disabilities Association of Massachusetts (LDAM), and is posted on NLD on the Web! with the express permission of the Editor, Teresa Allissa Citro. Reproduction of this material in any form other than for individual educational purposes, without the express written permission of the LDAM, is prohibited. About the author - Stephen Rothenberg, PsyD, is a graduate of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. He completed a postdoctoral practicum in Child Neuropsychology at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. Dr. Rothenberg specializes in learning and attentional disorders, and relationship difficulties. He has over 35 years of psychotherapy experience.
Playing with Self Esteem: The Importance of Social Skills Stephen Rothenberg, Psy.D. Calvin ( a fictional name) is 9 years old, creative and full of great ideas. He is always making up games and wants the other kids to play with him. Unfortunately, Calvin’s game are so complex that only he can understand what to do and he can’t understand why the others are reluctant to play with him. Sharon is 13 years old and is really excited about going on a ski trip with her school. When they arrive she is in such a rush to get on the lift that she impulsively pushes ahead of the other kids. She doesn’t really understand why they are angry with her. Charlie Brown (real name) always tries his best to be optimistic and make friends but, due to his low opinion of himself and past experiences of failure, he fails. A woman you know at the office is a very nice person but she tends to always stand a little too close (both to the men and women) and makes you somewhat uncomfortable. You are speaking with someone on the phone and they only want to tell you their news, neglecting to ask about what is happening in your life. All of the above are examples of unsuccessful social interactions. But when do they become actual problems? This depends upon 2 factors. First, we must take into account where the child is developmentally. We might expect that a 3 year old child would grab a toy from another child without asking. This would not cause most people to get on the phone and start schedulling therapy appointments. However, if you have an 8 year old child who is consistently grabbing the video controller from his playmates and they are consistently getting angry and don’t want to play with him, then this constitutes a problem. This then brings us to the second factor, the severity and duration of the behavior. Most children will do some things every once in a while that are not appropriate for their age. But, if this is a consistent occurrence, then it may warrant concern. If the problem is not developmentally appropriate, persists over time and is severe enough that a child is having difficulty making and keeping friends, then it is time for intervention. · What are social skills? These are the cognitive, behavioral and communication skills necessary to have successful interpersonal interactions. They can be broken down into input, organization, output and self monitoring skills. A child needs to be able to accuratelty perceive the verbal and non-verbal behavior and feelings of him/herself and others (Input). *He needs to be able to "read" and attend to the cues that are given. He/she then needs to be able to organize the input that is received into something that is meaningful within the given context. Based upon this, the child then decides on what the appropriate response is to the cues that he/she has received (Output). Following the response, it is necessary to self monitor and evaluate how the interaction went. · How important are social skills? As the child moves from relating primarily to the immediate family in their younger years to the expanding world of peers in elementary school, social interactions take on great importance. A child’s feelings about himself, his "self esteem", is mainly based upon his perceptions of how his parents react to him, his accomplishments and necessary failures in his earliest years. In the years of early childhood and elementary school, his "self esteem network" broadens to include teachers and peers as important "mirrors". If things are going well in the expanded network, the child will feel accepted and acceptable and this will buoy him in his efforts. If the child is or believes he is receiving messages that he is not accepted or acceptable, then all efforts may become struggles without a good sense of self upon which to fall back. Whether child or adult, we are dependent upon our relationships to provide us with a sense of well being and to support us in our times of need. When these relationships fail us or when our behavior or difficulties become obstacles to obtaining the gratification we need, then we are without an important lifeline necessary for emotional survival. Children who are experiencing difficulties interacting with peers and subsequent rejection may develop physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches, and exhibit anxiety, depression, low self esteem and school avoidance. There have been a number of studies documenting how peer rejection and early social adjustment affect later adjustment (1). Children who have significant early social difficulties have been shown to be at risk for later social and psychological maladjustment, including substance abuse and depressive disorders (2). Children with learning and attentional problems appear to be particularly at risk, although the research is equivocal (3). There is no clear cause and effect as to whether social problems are secondary to learning and attentional difficulties, whether they share similar portions of the brain or whether they are entirely separate entities. It makes logical sense that children with learning and attention problems would be more susceptible since learning disabilities and attention disorders involve difficulties in the processing and organization of verbal and/or non-verbal information. To some children, "reading" social situations is as difficult as reading books. Non-verbal types of learning problems can result in difficulty perceiving and organizing the non-verbal cues or "body language"(particularly facial expressions) inherent in social communication. Due to visual-spatial problems they can be the ones who stand a little too close to others. These children tend to have difficulties with the so-called right hemisphere functions of the brain. On the other side of the brain are the children who have language difficulties. These children may take longer to process a conversation that is going on and, by the time they are ready to respond, the other children have moved on to another topic. They may also have formulation and/or word finding problems and are unable to come up with the "snappy comeback" the stock in trade of middle school age boys. Of course, if auditory discrimination problems are involved, a child cannot respond appropriately if he is not hearing things as they are spoken. Attentional problems can affect social competence in that children may direct their attention to irrelevant social cues. Many children in the groups that I run tend to latch on to one facet of something someone is saying and run with it, leaving the child who "had the floor" in the dust. They might also be so involved with their own interesting thoughts that they have great difficulty sustaining attention to others. Due to a tendency to boredom, they might tire quickly of a particular interaction and go onto something else. Organizational difficulties may make it difficult for others to follow the child’s narrative as he finds it difficult to put his ideas into a logical sequence. Short-term memory problems can also lead to children interrupting out of fear that they will forget what they had to say. Another subgroup of children that I see in group tend to have difficulties with being overreactive and impulsive in their social interactions. These children definitely have trouble "stopping and thinking". Some become so flooded with what they are feeling and reacting to that it renders them unable to respond appropriately. They also can struggle with making transitions from one activity to another. Others, due to their impulsivity, have great difficulty taking turns in games, interrupt frequently or may be overly aggressive.Aggressive behavior has been strongly linked with social rejection (4). · What therapies are available for social skills problems? Individual approaches: Children may be seen in individual therapy where the therapist helps the child to cognitively think through and problem-solve social situations that arise outside of the session. The therapist may help the child to see his part in the interactions and to strategize what to do in similar situations through modelling, role play or storytelling and other play therapy techniques (particularly for younger children). If the child tends to be overreactive or anxious, the cognitive training may be paired with relaxation training to enable him to calm down enough to be able to uutilize the cognitive strategies. If low self esteem is part of the picture, individual therapy can be helpful in getting the child to look at himself differently and to feel more competent in different areas. Social Skills Group Therapy: Clinical/Office Based Groups: I have found that individual therapy is a second choice to group therapy. Often children will not bring their problematic social situations into the session with the therapist. The individual sessions also tend to be more abstract and removed from the problems. Since these children are usually living more in the ‘here and now’, group therapy affords children the opportunity to work on social difficulties as they arise in the group. It is in the here and now when intervention can be the most relevant, powerful and helpful. Peer feedback can also be more easily ‘heard’ than the adult feedback that the child is so used to getting about his or her performance. Many learn to tune this grown up feedback out as they expect it to be negative and a reminder of failure. We all have a predisposition toward interpreting current social situations through the lens of past social experiences. Children who expect rejection, failure or who use aggressive solutions and expect aggression in return usually have their expectations confirmed. Through peer group therapy we work on changing those "social scripts" so that a quite different outcome can be obtained. When the children bring their customary ways of relating into the group we get the chance to show them where they are ineffective and how they can be more effective in a non-judgemental atmosphere. Children quickly develop strong bonds in the groups and group day can become a focal point of their week. By participating in this accepting atmosphere, by being with children with similar problems, and by feeling that there is something active that he can do, there is often an increase in the child’s self esteem as well. One valid criticism of social skills groups has been that there is a problem generalizing the gains made in the group to the world outside. This is why it is important that parents and teachers and others involved in helping the child develop prosocial behaviors all be operating in concert with one another. In our groups we try to communicate weekly with parents so that they can reinforce what is happening in the groups and so that they can share what is happening socially "out there." When time permits, monthly parent group meetings are helpful to promote generalization. Periodic contacts with the teacher and/or counselor are also helpful in communicating in both directions what is happening. Even making sure that all are using the same language in labelling behavior and cuing the child will help increase the chances of the child becoming more self aware and applying the skills. School Based Groups: Of course, the closer one can get to replicating the actual circumstances that the child has to deal with, the more effective the intervention will be. This is why I am always glad to see social skills groups that are run within the schools that the children attend. In this way staff have first hand knowledge of the situations that are problematic and can aid the child in coping with them and with the children from their community with whom the interact day-to-day. Social Skills Suggestions for the Schools: The Playground: In the school environment there is a critical and overlooked area for intervention-the playground. As most educators, parents and clinicians know, the playground is one of the places that children and particularly children with learning and attentional problems, encounter social difficulties. The playground is unstructured time and these more ambiguous circumstances can lead to greater misinterpretation and more impulsive and inappropriate responding. School personnel could capitalize upon this opportunity to intervene and help children to negotiate the "playground jungle." Children might actually prepare ahead of time(a good exercise for increasing planning skills) as to what they will play and how they might include others. They can also negotiate with each other about what the activities will be and in what order they will occur (sequencing). This may require an investment of more time and input from school staff but may also pay off bigger dividends in less playground incidents and greater self esteem. The Classroom: Children can gain a great deal from office based and school based social skills groups. It is often easier to help the children change their social behavior and feelings about themselves than it is to change how their peers are used to viewing them. A child may increase his self esteem and social skills only to find that he is rejected or neglected the same as always. Other children are much better at picking out and picking on the negative behaviors that they notice rather than the positive ones. It is up to the teacher to develop an atmosphere of acceptance in the classroom. Teachers can "set the tone" by highlighting and complimenting students upon their areas of strength. They can make children’s talents more visible to the others who may be blind to them. As is already happening in many schools, social skills and problem solving can be incorporated into the curriculum for everyone, not just those with learning and attention problems. Social Skills Suggestions for the Home: Arrange for successful social encounters: Choose a child with whom your child has had some positive experiences. Try to choose a neutral territory for their meeting. In this way you may avoid either child feeling he has to protect his "turf". Limit the amount of time of their first playdate to 1 hour or 1 ½ hours maximum, even if it is going well. The goal for the first time is for them to both go away feeling good about their time together. After the other child has left, the parent can comment on the things the child did well and those that might need some more work. Then, continue to build upon this. The next time might involve some structured activity at home. As things progress, supervision may be gradually withdrawn. Set up successful play experiences at home with a parent: Arrange for "special time" together doing an activity that both parent and child enjoy. When the parent "catches" the child doing something socially "good" give him generous praise. Make the praise quite specific, i.e, "I really liked it when you were able to wait your turn just then". Model positive self-talk: The parents can demonstrate for the child some inner dialogue that may not come naturally for many children with learning and attention difficulties. This requires the parent to "think out loud", for example, "Gee, it’s hard for me to wait, but if I can, people won’t get mad and I’ll have a better time". Use dinner time to work on conversation skills: Parents can work on talking about feelings, eye contact, voice modulation, listening and taking turns. Feedback can be given "in the moment" as long as it is offered constructively and in a non-critical manner. If the child reports some positive experiences with peers, offer genuine praise. If the child reports some negative experiences, question what happened (again in a non-judgemental manner. These kids are having to answer for their actions all the time!) and offer possible explanations and/or do some problem solving about how to handle the situation next time. Watching T.V: Besides being an opportunity to just be together, watching T.V. with your child affords parents the opportunity to see how their child is interpreting what is happening on their favorite shows. Sitcoms particularly tend to be fairly predictable and sequential and lend themselves to questions like "What do you think is going on", "What is she feeling right now?", "What do you think is going to happen next?". Children with difficulty processing language or non-verbal cues may misinterpret what they are hearing and seeing. Problems with social skills can lead to rejection by peers, self esteem problems and can make academic struggles even harder. The good news is that there are many things that can be done to assist children so that they get a chance to have more satisfying social relationships and feel better about themselves. Stephen Rothenberg, Psy.D. is a graduate of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. He completed a postdoctoral practicum in Child Neuropsychology at Mass. Mental Health Center. Dr. Rothenberg specializes in learning and attentional disorders, and relationship difficulties. He has 22 years of psychotherapy experience. "Playing Wtih Self Esteem: The Importance of Social Skills" is printed by permission of the author. The author retrains the rights to this article. Please contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org for any use of it other than for individual educational purposes. Dr. Rothenberg has a new video on social skills which you can access through our site (PRODUCTS - VIDEOS feature) or through his own website: www.erols.com/drsteve1/. If you are another website linking to this article, please credit NLDline so that your readers can access the other information available here. References: (1) Parker, J.G. & Asher, S.R. (1987) Peer relations and later social adjustment: Are low accepted children at risk? Psychological Bulletin, 102, 357-389. Roff,M. Sells, S.B., Golden, M.M. (1972) Social Adjustment and personality development in children. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minn. Press. Cowen, E.L., Pederson, A., Babigian, H., Izzo, L.D., Trost, M.A. (1973) Long-term follow-up of early detected vulnerable children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 41, 438-466. Janes, C.,Hesselbrock, V., Myers, D., Penniman, J. (1979) Problem boys in young adulthood: Teacher’s ratings and twelve year follow-up. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 8, 453-472. (2) Madan-Swain, A. and Zentall, S. (1990) Behavioral Comparisons of Liked and Disliked Hyperactive Children in Play Contexts and the Behavioral Accomodations by their Classmates. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Vol. 58, No. 2, 197-209. (3) Little, S. (1993) Non-verbal learning disabilities and Socioemotional Functioning: A Review of Recent Literature. Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 26, Number 10, 653-665. Rourke, B.P. (1988) Socioemotional Disturbances of Learning Disabled Children. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology. Vol. 56, Number 6, 801-810. (4) Dodge, K.A. (1983) Behavioral Antecedents of peer social status. Child Development, 54, 1386-1399. Dodge, Coie & Brakke (1982) Behavior patterns of socially rejected and neglected preadolescents: The roles of social approach and aggression. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 10, 389-409. Rubin, K.H. , Daniels-Beirness, T. & Hayvren, M. (1982) Correlates of peeracceptance and rejection in early childhood. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Sciences, 14, 338-349. Selected Bibliography: King, C.A. & Kirschenbaum, D.S. Helping Young Children Develop Social Skills. (1992) Brooks/Cole Publishing. Pacific Grove, CA. McGinnis, E & Goldstein, A.P., Skillstreaming the Elementary School Child. (1984) Research Press. Champaign, IL. Nowicki, S., & Duke, M. Helping the Child who Doesn’t Fit In. (1992) Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta. Pincus, D. & Stetson, H. Interactions: More Effective Communications Among Parents, Students and Teachers. (1988) Good Apple, Inc. Carthage, IL. Sameroff, A.J., & Emde, R. Relationship Disturbances in Early Childhood. (1989) Bantam Books. New York. Webster-Doyle, T. Why Is Everybody Always picking On Me?: A Guide To Handling Bullies. (1991) Atrium Society Publications. Middlebury, VT. Weiss,G & Hechtman, L. Hyperactive Children Grown Up, 2nd Edition. (1993) Guilford Press, New York
Now, more than ever, it is necessary, urgent, to teach our children that respect and kindness trump bullying. We have entered an election year when politicians think it is permissible to belittle one another with cruel mockery and personal insults. It seems rare to hear anyone stand up and say what I have witnessed in my 35 years as a clinical psychologist: that name-calling and rants against peoples character and appearance hurts and destroys.
How do we expect children to respect one another and show lovingkindness when the politicians who wish to be leaders and role models are vicious to one another? I am certain that, when the name-calling makes the news, most of us are transported back to their early days in elementary or middle school when we were dealing with bullies who tried to make our lives miserable. How did we manage the cruelty? Some of us didn't. Some of us managed to get through it with the hope that it would disappear as we got older. Most of us are still haunted by the memories that surface when we turn on the news and hear the politicians making fun of peoples' appearances and trading verbal insults.
Studies have shown that children subjected to repeated bullying have lower self-esteem, and are more likely to develop anxiety and depression.
We must push back against the meanness. We must urge the politicians to stop setting poor examples for our children. If we want kind, well-adjusted children with their self-esteem intact, we must also show kindness and respect for one another. And that goes not only for the politicians but for all of those individuals who think nothing of tossing out cruel, hurtful comments. This is often seen on the internet. The anonymity of the net allows people to feel that they can say anything they wish about others, without considering the sometimes dire consequences for those affected. If all of us do not pay attention to this now, there will be a huge price to pay later.
Rigby, K. (2003). Consequences of bullying in schools. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48,583-590.10. Slee, P. T. (1994). Situational and interpersonal correlates of anxiety associated with peer victimization. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 25,
Slee, P. T. (1994). Situational and interpersonal correlates of anxiety associated with peer victimization. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 25, 91-107. doi: 10.1007/BF02253289
Swearer, S. M., Siebecker, A. B., Johnsen-Frerichs, L. A. & Wang, C. (2010). Assessment of bullying/victimization: The problem of comparability across studies. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer and D. L. Espelage, (Eds.), Handbook of bullying in schools: An international perspective (pp. 305-328).New York, NY: Routledge.
Jan 18, 2016, 1:56 PM
Social media can be a useful tool, helping people connect with friends from the past, sharing information, and updating people on one's recent experiences. But online connections can also camoflage the importance of developing and nurturing real relationships. And for those who have difficulty with social skills, it can fool people into believing they have a large number of friends, while enduring the pain of loneliness and isolation.Starting as early as pre-school, the emphasis is on the development of social relationships and nurturing social skills, so that as one negotiates the elementary, middle, and high school years, one begins to form deep and meaningful friendships.
In my clinical work, I meet many people who are “connected”, spending numerous hours on phone, tablet and computers. But most of these people are still left longing for genuine human contact. Often, they do not consciously realize how much is lost through online connection. Approximately 80% of our communication is non-verbal. The best emojis do not make up for tone of voice, a certain look or a gentle touch.
All of us try to make connections. We all want to get along with work colleagues. We want closeness with family. We want people we can share our thoughts with and with whom we can have positive experiences. What we need to let our children know is it is not the number of friends we acquire, but rather the qualities in the people we call our friends.We look for attributes in people. It takes time and effort to nurture close and lasting friendships. We select our friends with tremendous care. Some may be there for us more than others. We need to let our children know that all they need are a few people who care, that the number is not important, but the qualities do matter.
Feb 17, 2016, 9:58 AM
We are human. Humans make mistakes. We learn, even as children, from our mistakes so that hopefully we dont repeat them. We make bad choices, say hurtful things from time to time, don’t always think for ourselves and follow the crowd, but most of us know the difference between right and wrong. The people who can’t distinguish between right and wrong, who cant step back and evaluate their part, are the ones with which we need to be very concerned.
A good many of us are acutely aware of the mistakes we make and can also be our harshest critics. Not only do we make some bad choices, but we make ourselves feel terrible about making them. Often, this can be a consequence of harsh parenting during childhood and sometimes we just come about this naturally due to temperament with which we are born. In my clinical practice, I see this all too often- people are quick to berate themselves for mistakes or falling short of expectations of self or others. It is a much more challenging task to view ourselves with understanding and compassion rather than self-hatred. We must learn to be empathic with ourselves so that we may learn from our shortcomings and therefore grow and become the selves we aspire to. Understanding and empathy promotes growth. Derision and anger only destroy our progress.
Most of us need to learn to forgive ourselves after doing something unacceptable. We need to learn that we are not bad, that one can do something wrong and not turn into a bad person. By accepting ourselves, we are accepting the good AND the bad parts. When we make a mistake, it doesnt make us all bad. Feeling badly helps us see different sides of ourselves, that we are not perfect.
We make mistakes, we learn, we grow. Forgiving oneself takes courage and promotes healing. As Bill Gates said: it is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.
Apr 16, 2016, 5:02 PM