Social Skills Issues

Prior to learning about adults who have learning disabilities and  social skills deficits, I had an image of an adult like Gavin Newsom, who is a politician and has dyslexia. The image consists of a suave “people-person” shaking hands, picking up on social cues from others, and hanging out with friends or even strangers on any given day. The non-disabled adults have no idea Gavin Newsom has a disability because his social skills are outstanding; he’s able to interact with people normally and no one can know about his disability in adulthood unless he chooses to self-disclose. Or, I have friends and family that have AD/HD and operate just fine in social situations. On the other hand, those adults who have social LD lack social perception and cognition; therefore, he or she cannot make sense of social cues (like picking up on facial expressions, tone of voice, or body language). If one cannot make sense of the social cues, then he or she may have a strange response that doesn’t fit the situation. After last night’s class, I now think having social LD may be the most difficult type of learning disability (if you had to rank them) because our society is built on relationships – businesses, education, employment, community programs, friendship circles, marriage & family, etc. There’s not much a person can do without needing to involve social communication. Dr. Gerber mentioned in class that “no one talks in slow motion” and communication is a very dynamic process. An adult who has a hard time processing nonverbal elements of social interaction may not understand what the other person is trying to say or have trouble expressing what he or she means (Reiff, 1999). The invisibility concept is gone when it comes to a person who has social LD because it’s quickly apparent when someone acts peculiar or doesn’t seem quite right. As a result, these types of adults are often left isolated and have limited social circles, which saddens me. I’m such a extrovert and feed off social interaction that I can’t imagine feeling alone, confused, or uncomfortable about fitting in or developing relationships with others. Luckily, there are coping mechanisms and support groups available to help adults with social skills deficits.  Now that I’m educated on adults with social disabilities, I can be more sensitive to others who may seem “off” socially and not immediately “write them off” after an awkward encounter. Also, from a parent perspective, last night’s class allowed me the opportunity think about ways I’m explaining basic social norms to my daughter. She’s only a toddler,  but she can definitely understand a lot more than she speaks. I like the idea of parents or mentors doing “social autopsies” on their children with social perception and cognition issues. It’s important to break down the very basics to a child or adult with social LD, so she or she can understand what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong in any given situation. In other words, those with social LD aren’t simply going to pick up on the nonverbal cues from parents, instructors, mentors, etc. Thus, sensitive and objective feedback is paramount (Reiff, 1999).

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