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Questions + Answers

Behavior & Social Skills

Frequent questions

  • Question 1: What can I do about a child with LD who has begun to act out?
  • Question 2: How can people with learning disabilities improve their social skills?
  • Question 3: What can I do about a student with LD and horrible behavior problems?
  • Question 4: My child's reading and math skills are above average, but he has difficulty relating to other children (following rules, taking turns). How can I help him?
  • Question 5: My daughter is easily distracted in the classroom and is impulsive in social situations. The teacher says that she doesn't mind, but I know she does! How can I help her control her behavior?

Expert answers

1) What can I do about a child with LD who has begun to act out?

The most effective way of dealing with this problem is for you to work with your child's teachers and speech therapist. You and the professionals at your child's school spend the most time with your child and know her best. Home and school working together on this issue will help send a clear message to your child of consistency and support throughout her day. Ask to have a meeting with her teachers and speech therapist and together, brainstorm possible reasons for why your child is acting out so dramatically. There is always a reason behind negative behavior and if you can determine the cause, it will be easier to find a solution. Some things to consider: is she facing any new or increased stressors at home or school? Is she receiving enough attention? Has she become frustrated with her limited ability to communicate her needs? The key is to figure out why she is feeling so desperate for power and how to channel that need into something positive.

The best solution will address her need and reward the desired behavior (perhaps through a sticker chart that will lead to a reward that is meaningful to her). The idea is to teach her new skills and socially appropriate ways of expressing herself. By rewarding her when she behaves appropriately, you are giving her incentive to replace her old behaviors with ones that everyone can live with. There should be carry-over between home and school so that she realizes that all of these important adults in her life are working toward the same goal. This could be as simple as notes back and forth that are read aloud to your child in which her appropriate behavior is praised, or as elaborate as a reward chart that is used both at home and at school. It is likely that the professionals at your child's school have had experience implementing behavior management plans and that they will be able to assist you.

The following articles provide insight into potential reasons why students with learning challenges misbehave and helpful advice on reducing these behaviors:

You may also want to consider whether the type and level of services your child is receiving is appropriate and if her qualifying label is sufficient. You may need to convene an IEP meeting to discuss addending her IEP and pursuing further testing, if appropriate.

2) How can people with learning disabilities improve their social skills?

LD OnLine is a good source of information on this topic. Here is a selection of articles from the Behavior/Social Skills section of LD Topics.

You also might want to visit LD OnLine’s online forums to share ideas and experiences on this topic. Another resource is the LD OnLine Store, which offers books and videos about social skills.

3) What can I do about a student with LD and horrible behavior problems?

Behavior problems generally surface when students are over-challenged or under-challenged. If this student feels he is not keeping up with classmates, he may be attempting to draw attention away from his learning difficulties by acting out. The following articles provide insight into potential reasons why students with learning challenges misbehave and helpful advice on reducing these behaviors:

It may be helpful to reconsider the type and level of services he is receiving to make sure it is sufficiently engaging but not overwhelming. You could also convene an IEP meeting to discuss adjusting his IEP or pursuing further testing, if appropriate.

4) My child's reading and math skills are above average, but he has difficulty relating to other children (following rules, taking turns). How can I help him?

Some children have difficulty learning social skills. In more severe cases, these children are diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disability such as Aspergers or Autism because of their inability to understand or respond to social cues. Here is a link to our section on nonverbal learning disabilities.

You may also want to peruse our section on behavior and social skills.

If this is becoming a problem for your child at home and in peer groups, you may want to request a free educational evaluation through your public school. This will give you a better sense of your child's skills and deficits, and where you can find help addressing his issues. Here is information on who can diagnose learning disabilities.

5) My daughter is easily distracted in the classroom and is impulsive in social situations. The teacher says that she doesn't mind, but I know she does! How can I help her control her behavior?

The first step in helping your daughter is to determine the cause of her challenging behaviors so you can then decide the best ways to address them. You may want to visit the ADHD Basics for more information on dealing with impulsive behaviors.

This may give you a better understanding of the characteristics that children with ADHD exhibit and help you determine if you see some of these same characteristics in your own child. If so, you may wish to request a free educational evaluation for your daughter through your local public school.

In the meantime, it would be in your child's best interest if home and school worked together to develop a behavior management plan to encourage appropriate behaviors. Young children do care and do want to please. Your child needs structure in her environment to help her control her impulses so that school can be a positive experience. Here is an example of behavior management plans:

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