Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a number of symptoms including impulsivity, risky behavior, cognitive challenges, and attention impairment. These traits can make it especially hard for children with ADHD to be readily accepted by their peers. The erratic behaviors that are exhibited by ADHD children tend to create an environment of isolation and even ridicule. The culminating effect of these circumstances can lead ADHD children to develop negative coping strategies that are manifested externally and internally. Substance misuse, risky sexual behavior, oppositional attitudes, depression, and anxiety are among some of the psychological issues that often co-occur with ADHD.
Because socialization and peer acceptance are critical to self-esteem and identity formation, Amori Yee Mikami of the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia in Canada wanted to see if focusing on this area of impairment could help ADHD children improve their overall sense of well-being. Mikami recently led a study that compared two peer interventions, Making Socially Accepting Inclusive Classrooms (MOSAIC) and contingency management training (COMET). Both approaches aim to improve socially appropriate behavior in ADHD children, but MOSAIC also teaches peers how to be more accepting of ADHD kids. Mikami randomly assigned 24 ADHD children and 113 peer control participants, all ranging in age from 6 to 9, to one of the two 1-day programs.
At the end of the program, Mikami discovered that although both programs resulted in similar behavior changes for the ADHD children, MOSAIC provided tools that enabled the ADHD children and peers to develop reciprocating friendships. This was one facet of socialization that was lacking prior to MOSAIC. The elements of MOSAIC that teach tolerance and acceptance by focusing on positive character traits helps peers recognize the value of the ADHD children and reduces social stigma for the ADHD children themselves. These conditions serve to boost self-esteem and can protect children at risk, and in this case, children with ADHD, from turning to maladaptive coping strategies in the future. Mikami added, “This result highlights the continued need for novel treatment strategies to reduce peer impairment among children with ADHD.”
Mikami, A. Y., Griggs, M. S., Lerner, M. D., Emeh, C. C., Reuland, M. M., Jack, A., et al. (2012). A randomized trial of a classroom intervention to increase peers’ social inclusion of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029654
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