Social outcasts

8th October 2004 at 01:00
Professor Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley hospital and senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London

"We think of social skills as something people have or don't have. But in psychiatry we see social skills as something people can learn. They are rarely taught in schools, but in cases such as this I would definitely introduce social skills training. For example, using role play you could create a drama about what makes some people popular and not others. It's helping children to see what makes some people rewarding to be with. Giving people attention, praising them and being interested in their lives is one skill others find rewarding, but this girl wasn't paying others much attention, so this is one way in which she could be helped.

"You could get pupils to think of a popular TV soap and go through some of the main characters, saying why some are popular and others not. But you also have to talk about the dangers of trying too hard to be liked, the dangers of peer group pressure, about the necessity sometimes of being able to tolerate unpopularity to do the right thing."

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