Improving communication skills for ADHD


People with attention deficit disorder are less able to consider the perspective of their conversational partner. According to findings from the University of Waterloo, this may lead to new remediation that can improve the way individuals with the disorder interact and communicate with others.

Adopting the perspective of the other

“In conversation, individuals need to pay attention to the knowledge and perspective of one another,” explained Professor Elizabeth Nilsen, co-author of the new study. “The ability to see the perspective of the other is essential for successful communication, allowing each speaker to modify their response or reaction accordingly.”

Two new studies show difficulty with perspective

For one study, researchers looked at children both with and without ADHD diagnoses. In the other study undergraduate students with varying levels of ADHD symptoms participated. They had to follow instructions on how to move objects in a display case based on direction from another person who had an obstructed view of some of the items. Videocameras captured the eye movement of the participants as they heard the instructions. The tape revealed that the participants with ADHD made more errors interpreting which items they were asked to move based on their partner’s limited view of the objects. “These studies suggest the more severe ADHD symptoms individuals have, the less they use the perspective of the speaker to guide their interpretation of basic statements,” stated Prof. Nilsen.

The ability to understand another’s perspective requires cognitive resources such as retaining information for a temporary period and the ability to suppress a response. These skills are weaker for people with ADHD. This may be why their conversations are more egocentric.

New remedial strategies

“Our findings are important because they allow us to think about possible remediation strategies,” said Prodf. Nilsen. “Social skills training programs for children with ADHD often don’t show substantial benefits when children return to their social environments, and if we have a better sense of what is causing the difficulties in communication and then target remediation at these particular skills, intervention programs may be able to achieve more beneficial outcomes.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

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