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Friendship Clinic: Psychologist Helps Children With ADHD Make Friends

Many children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder suffer through a range of problems, from poor grades to poor relations with parents and teachers. //But more than half of these children also have serious problems making friends. Too often they live lonely lives, never learning to develop the social skills they need to make friends as children or as adults.

“Children with ADHD often are peer-rejected, and their difficulties multiply as they grow to adulthood,” said Amori Yee Mikami, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and principal investigator for a new clinical study designed to help children with ADHD become better at making friends.

“Children with ADHD often grow up with depression and relationship problems, some may develop criminal behavior and substance abuse problems,” Mikami said. “There can be a spiral of failure that is partly the result of not having learned to make and keep friends as children.”

About 5 percent of school-age children are affected by ADHD. Symptoms include a short attention span, poor organization, excessive talking, disruptive and aggressive behavior, restlessness and irritability. Children with ADHD often are uncooperative and may make their own rules.

“These symptoms get in the way of making and keeping friends,” Mikami said. “The child with ADHD can become stigmatized, known as ‘the bad kid,’ and this can lead to more inappropriate behavior. It can become a vicious cycle resulting in more social isolation.”

Treatment for ADHD usually involves medication and counseling designed to help the children improve their attention spans and control impulses. But little intervention is focused on helping children with ADHD to become better at developing and maintaining good relationships with their peers.

Mikami is working to change that. Through her new “Friendship Clinic,” she is developing new methods to help parents help their childr
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