15 years ago, I developed an interest in the topic of social learning (improving social skills) because of my son's social learning challenges.
When he first came to me (You can read about my story at adhddude.com) I recognized he needed help with social skills, so I began doing my research, which was easy for me to do given I worked in the special education field. As I spoke to the mental health professionals who ran these groups, I knew they would never work and my son would probably not fit in given that these groups were primarily comprised of kids with varying autism profiles.
This was the point when I realized the mental health field really wasn't going to teach me what I needed and opened my eyes to the Speech-Language pathology field, which has had the greater influence in developing the ADHD Dude methodology.
Helping kids with ADHD who struggle socially is a topic that is poorly understood by professionals. Psychologists, School Counselors, Pediatricians, Psychiatrists, etc. constantly refer kids with ADHD to social skills groups, which as many of you have learned through your son/daughter's experience are not helpful. Research data has also shown that these traditional social skills groups are inconclusive regarding their efficacy for kids with ADHD.
What most parents don’t know when they are referred to social skills groups:
-There are no requirements to run social skills groups and most people who run them have no specific training or education in "teaching social".
-The way kids organically develop social skills is through unstructured play/"hanging out", where adults are not directing things, prompting, etc.
-The vast majority of participants in social skills groups are boys and the vast majority of people who facilitate social skills groups are women who understandably were never part of a male peer group growing up and have not invested the time in learning how boys form friendships. This had led to teaching boys overly formal etiquette and social communication skills that are not organic to the way boys communicate with each other.
I created How to Hang Out because I wanted to create a natural environment for the guys I work with to "learn social" in a way that felt natural, and more importantly was fun for them. My friend Stephen (a middle school special education teacher) and I created the program in 2016 (along with "Guy Stuff", my puberty education program taught from a social learning perspective).
The way How to Hang Out works is that I spend about 40 minutes teaching concepts that focus on learning how to think in a social context, showing interest in similar-age kids and learning how to move friendships beyond "school/activity" friends. After that, we do an activity, make food (I incorporate executive function strategies into the cooking part) and I hang back as much as possible, only intervening when I think there's an important teachable moment.
To my knowledge How to Hang Out is the only social learning program in the USA, specifically for kids with ADHD. To my knowledge I’m the only person in the world right now who focuses on social learning for males. My first book (and upcoming membership site webinar) will be about teaching parents of sons with ADHD how to improve their social competency.
After a 2-year break I re-started How to Hang Out two weeks ago. I forgot how much I missed doing it. Below are some pictures/video from the first session.