Square Peg in a Round Hole: Learning How to Fit In

While it may be possible to compensate for, and accommodate a wide range of learning and attentional problems that children and youth experience, there is no way to compensate for, or accommodate problems in making and maintaining friends. And a child's skills in this regard will play a significant role in the quality of his or her daily life, as well as the quality of life years down the road.

During this presentation, we will review various evidence based programs and practices designed to improve children's skills in making and keeping friends, and in getting along better with others. We will also address some of the more common barriers to better social skills, including problems that some children experience in generalizing their newly learned skills to social situations at school, at home and on the playground. In addition, we will review ways in which educators, clinicians and parents are successfully addressing the problem of "reputational bias," where children fail to see or accept a child's newly learned social skills, and instead maintain and reinforce earlier impressions they formed about the child's behaviors, qualities and abilities. Finally, we will review promising programs and practices designed to alter a school's social climate. Research suggests that these programs and practices can potentially improve all children's social skills, address the needs of children with specific problems in making and maintaining friends, and also provide a mechanism for viewing individual differences in a positive light, rather than as a source of shame and blame.