Social skills issues

Why Does My Child Have Trouble Reading Body Language?

By Mark Griffin

Why does my child have trouble reading body language?

Mark Griffin

Founding Headmaster, Eagle Hill School

Many kids with learning and attention issues have trouble reading body language. Some researchers think the difficulty may come from brain differences. Maybe the right side of your child’s brain isn’t doing what it should. Or perhaps the left side isn’t picking up on the signals the right side is sending. These are some of the leading theories.

Whatever the cause is, failure to pick up on nonverbal signals can make it hard for your child to navigate all sorts of social situations. People use facial expressions, tone of voice and other nonverbal cues to convey a lot of information. In fact, one study found that more than 70 percent of children’s perceptions come from the looks they see on people’s faces.

Sometimes kids with learning issues try so hard to understand the words a classmate is saying that they miss the more subtle messages the child is expressing through body language or tone of voice. This can make it challenging to develop good relationships with peers. Some kids struggle with things like:

  • Knowing the difference between a sincere comment and an insincere one
  • Misinterpreting friendly joking as unfriendly criticism
  • Standing uncomfortably close or staying too long
  • Responding inappropriately to others’ feelings or not responding at all

Fortunately, there are ways to help your child get better at understanding body language and other nonverbal cues. You may also want to explore Parenting Coach for advice on helping kids learn to fit in and other topics.

About the Author

Portrait of Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin

Mark Griffin, Ph.D., was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a Connecticut boarding and day school for children with specific learning disabilities.

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