Jordan breezed up to his best friend and gave him a slap on the back, saying, “Hey Shawn, let’s go to the park for some batting practice.” Clearly down in the dumps, Shawn replied half-heartedly, “Okay, I guess.”
“Well, go get your bat!” Jordan practically yelled, itching to get to the baseball field. “I need some extra practice, with the tournament this weekend.” “You know, I don’t really feel like it,” said Shawn, getting to his feet to head home. “What’s his problem?” Jordan wondered as he walked toward home, his bat dragging in the dust, feeling discouraged at his friend’s lack of enthusiasm.
“What’s Shawn’s problem, anyway?” Jordan asked his mom when he had told her what happened. “He doesn’t care about helping me at all!” Jordan’s mom explained that Shawn’s dad had lost his job that morning, and Shawn was probably worrying about how the family would manage. “That’s awful! Why didn’t he just tell me? I could understand that,” Jordan said, truly perplexed.
Children with a language-based learning disability like Jordan, sometimes have difficulty interpreting body language and visual cues that can telegraph a person’s feelings. Their demeanor may not match the circumstances, and they can seem insensitive and uncaring to others. They can feel misunderstood themselves, too – Jordan felt that Shawn didn’t care about his need to prepare for the tournament.
Jordan could benefit from intentional instruction about body language and social cues. One easy way to practice is to watch a sitcom on television with the sound turned off. Jordan’s parents could ask him to guess what the characters are saying, or what they’re feeling.
Another way to help children with this issue is to intentionally practice with them – what would our faces look like if we had just won tickets to Disney World? If we’d just found out our best friend was moving away? If we were thinking hard about something? If we were confused? Activities like this can help children tune in to the feelings of others, smoothing the path for successful social interactions.