ADHD & Social Emotional Needs

Lifelong struggles with attention, distraction, and/or impulsivity can negatively impact a person’s social and emotional well being and can interfere with learning.

The following are common social-emotional needs of individuals with ADHD and Learning Disabilities.

Low self esteem and fear of failure

It is very common for someone with ADHD or LD to have negative thoughts about themselves and their abilities. These thoughts can limit the learner’s willingness to try in learning situations. Negative reactions of others in response to ADHD symptoms and more frequent experiences of failure can lead to a “fear of failure” and an avoidance of new situations. We could call it ‘the little engine that can’t’ because learners are often saying to themselves “I know I can’t; I know I can’t”.

Learned helplessness

Students with ADHD and Learning Disabilities are more likely to find external reasons for both success and failure than their peers. When they experience success, they attribute it to luck or the teacher marking easily – they do not attribute success to their own efforts or ability. Repeated failure and these attributions often result in “learned helplessness” where the individual stops trying because they think that their efforts are useless. LD and ADHD students begin to doubt their own abilities, leading them to doubt that they can do anything to overcome their school difficulties.

Emotional sensitivity, anxious feelings

Individuals with ADHD and LD experience many fears and ongoing emotional stress. They often fear failure and fear being exposed – that is, they fear others finding out that they struggle to attend and learn. Many struggle financially, with employment and in relationships. This stress may lead to anxiety and depression and these emotions interfere with learning.

Acting out

Another possible response is to ‘act out’ to avoid situations where they might feel embarrassed or to avoid admitting when they do not understand something because they do not want to feel ‘stupid’ or have others think they are ‘stupid’.