Getting Past APD - Job Interviewing, Social Skills & Self-Esteem

Ellen writes...

Hi Jeff, I came across your page looking for advice and help in regards to my son. I am looking for help for him. First I just wanted to tell you that he is wonderful young man. However, I am so worried about him and his future. He is entering is senior year in college next month. Although he struggle in the early grades at school he has done well with a grade point average of 3.4. He is lacking in social skills and interviewing skills. He has poor listening skills following more 1 or 2 instructions and he gets lost. He is having such a hard time getting an internship for media graphics. He has been called for many interviews but never gets the internships. I am having him reevaluate this week for his APD as he had one many years ago. I am so worried about his low self esteem and negative image due to his APD. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Hi Ellen.

I took a little time to think about how to reply to you. So many things that your son is experiencing I did too.

By the way, I still get lost sometimes when I hear more than 1 - 2 instructions at a time. I can memorize a dictionary, but instructions can flummox me. I've learned to write everything down.

Socially, growing up I was super shy. Quiet as a mouse. That was the main reason my parents took me to see if something was wrong.

I had auditory training when I was in the 3rd - 5th grades. After that, it stopped. I had accomplished a lot and felt better about myself, but, what nobody realized is that each new stage in life brings new experiences & new interactions. So as I entered my teens and 20's, there were a lot of times that I just either didn't understand a situation or felt unsure of what was going on around me. Looking back, I definitely could have used either more auditory training or counseling/therapy at each stage.

The best advice I can give your son is to practice life situations. From job interviews to social interactions, practice and repetition can help him feel more at ease. A social counselor with a background in learning disabilities will help a lot.

Uncertainty, which is what APD causes a lot of, is scary. When a girl walks up to you and you are unsure of what she is talking about, that's embarrassing. When a job interviewer asks you a question, and you are unsure of what he/she means, it's unnerving. It causes self-esteem issues and introvertedness.

One problem I had is that I was afraid to ask questions. Why? Because I was fearful it would be either a stupid question or a question that was off-topic or unrelated to what was being discussed. When you are unsure of what you hear, you become afraid of how to respond or ask a question of your own. After all, you don't want to look bad.

When I was very young, I wouldn't even answer questions I knew the answer to! Why? Because I was afraid I didn't hear the question right and would answer it completely wrong and embarrass myself. So, I just shrugged my shoulders. It made me look worse (in hindsight).

Second. It took me until my mid 30's to do this myself. When your son doesn't understand what someone says, he needs to say "hey, I didn't quite get that. That reached my brain like scrambled eggs. I've got APD and occasionally I miss what people say." Opening up to people (especially to a girl that likes him...hint...hint) can open up doors for him. He may be very surprised at how positive most people will respond. Being open in general about APD, and not insecure about it, is life changing. He's got to lose the internal stigma of APD. Getting over that hump is huge for him.

Third. A really good way to build his self-esteem is to follow his passion. You mentioned media graphics. Funny, I chose visual media too. Stayed away from auditory. I suggest he create a website or social media account specifically for this. His goal will be to improve his skills & talents, show off examples of his work and prove to himself he is good at something. If he can offer to do free work to build more of a portfolio, that would help his social interactions too. Experience in his area of interest will help him, and not only as an intern or employee.

When I was applying for jobs out of college, I was turned down left and right (job market wasn't easy then either). I had great grades, etc. but it wasn't easy for me especially with APD. As a side project, I had created a simple mail order product, an advertisement and placed ads in a local paper. It didn't do well, but I put it on my resume. I called myself a "mail order entrepreneur." One day, I had an interview with a marketing company and the CEO asked to see my product. I showed it to him and said it wasn't doing as well as I had hoped. He said to my face, "you took initiative and risk and that is what we want here. I want to hire you today." Only job I ever had. Quit 2 years later with a wealth of knowledge and started my internet business.

Your son needs to put himself out there with media graphics. Take initiative and build on it. He'll feel better about himself and he will stand out from a crowded job market.

Lastly. Your son should practice reading body language. He has and will encounter many situations where what people say isn't what their body is saying. He will find comfort in believing and understanding body language over the spoken word as a more accurate indicator of an interaction.

I hope this helps!

Both you and your son are welcome to email me.

Enjoy your day.


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