Monday, August 18, 2008

Let's Talk Social Skills

Let’s talk Social Skills…

My son, Nick, has Asperger Syndrome (or mild autism), and as a child with AS, he has a very difficult time in social settings, or better yet, he avoids social situations like the plague. It is actually excruciatingly painful (figuratively speaking) to watch him NOT socialize or run away from a peer who approaches him to say hi. One day we were at our local pond for a swim and a boy from his class called out to him and came running over to say Hi. I was all smiles and thinking: It’s a boy, a real boy coming to talk to him! But Nick practically ran into the woods to avoid a conversation. Arghhh!

I’ve tried two different social skills classes to help him improve his skills, because let's face it, running away from a nice boy who wants to play, is not a boy skilled in social behavior. The latest social skills class was for an entire year and mostly one-on-one learning/coaching from the teacher, something that she felt he needed; the class prior to that one had more kids participating, but Nick didn’t apply any of the skills he learned from either of the two classes to everyday life. Hence, running in the woods when a boy says Hi.

Last year I had him take track (7th grade)—something that I knew he liked, and he did great. I showed up for all of the meets (but he didn’t need me, Yay!) and he enjoyed himself and was happy (enough) and comfortable (enough); however, he didn’t chat with anyone but the coach—and even she had to pry anything out of him.

I’ve talked to him about this issue and I’ve told him that it’s rude not to say hello to someone he knows and who says hello to him, like in the halls at school or at the mall (seen that one too) because that kid would get his feelings hurt. His reply to my attempt to appeal to his “softer side” or conscience was that he would still prefer not to say hello: “It's too hard and I’m too shy, I can’t do it.” He would say.

I know, of course, the reason he avoids talking or making conversation is because he knows that he is not talented in this area. But practice, we do…when we have people over for dinner or other social events, we do encourage the kids to sit with the adults and have them listen and participate, and by having guests and outside family members encourage Nick to participate (in a fun and humorous way) usually does the trick; he eventually opens up.

So I’m hoping that he will outgrow this “shy stage” during the next few years, like other things he has outgrown—like hugging his mom, for one.

Learn more about Asperger Syndrome (AS) Here.

Does anyone relate to this problem and can offer some advice?

No comments: