Unable to practice social skills

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foobabe
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12 Feb 2011, 3:04 pm

How can a child develop their social skills when there are no opportunities to mix with other kids (other than school)
My pair are both frightened of the "outside", won't try groups or activities and are becoming increasingly isolated. We have no nieces or nephews or neighbours with similar aged children. Aside from school they don't/won't/can't interact with other kids. The school offers 30 mins training once a month but thats face to face with an adult. Is it possible to develop these skills are home? They are both so uncomfortable in their own skin and stand out more and more as they get older. We have used model me dvds but I'm not sure how effective they are?
Any advice?



robh
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12 Feb 2011, 3:32 pm

Twitter is a very good place to start, and WrongPlanet of course.

In the real world, look for social groups discussing things that are of interest to your child.



aurea
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12 Feb 2011, 3:48 pm

If it were up to my son he wouldn't leave the house at all. He does go to school thank goodness and I do have to force him to go other places with me, shopping, the zoo, walking the dog, etc.
We are fortunate enough that I have a younger nephew that my son interacts with most weekends (it's a reluctant interaction on my sons part mostly;) )

Even when my son doesn't want to leave the house i tell him we have to. We do it in very small does, a quick trip to the shops, so he can see other people, if he does talk to the checkout girl/guy this is a great opportunity to model and teach appropriate small talk and polite social behavior. My boy can be extremely honest and will tell people exactly what he thinks of them or their place of business, as you can imagine what he says is not always polite. I take these times as teaching times, both for my boy and sometimes for the general public (they can be rude and intolerant to).
I have taken my son to the park (almost kicking and screaming, lots of bribes etc) I only do this when I know it's not going to be overly crowded, (I want a successful day not a failure with overload) I take his nintendo ds, we sit near the playground. If he wants to interact he can, if he doesn't that's ok to, he is out and there are opportunities available to him if he chooses. We will often have at least one child approach to see what game he is playing, this is a great time again to teach him and to model the desired behaviors. My son will look up from his ds and watch the other kids playing from time to time.
You also need to enlist the help of your school. Are your kids playing or showing an interest in any other child at school, perhaps you could invite that child home or have a play date. If there is no interest even at school, what are they doing about it, apart from the once a month unrealistic therapy session?
My theory is my son doesn't have to be best friends with everyone he meets, he just needs to learn how to get by in the world without getting himself into trouble.



Avengilante
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12 Feb 2011, 4:46 pm

Do they go to church? Churches usually offer all sorts of opportunities for young people to get together and interact socially.


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13 Feb 2011, 4:13 am

Places we go for community trips:
Library (reading hour, craft time, etc are good opportunities)
Playland at fast food places
Parks
Toy stores
bookstore kid section


At first we worked on tolerating the new place. Then we played together and had fun. Then worked on saying hi to kids in the area if opportunity came up. Then worked on playing next to them. Then worked on playing with them.

He used to either not notice other children, or completely ignore/avoid them. After a while he got used to it. It takes persistence and practice. Don't be afraid to get in there and play and show him how to play and what is expected at certain places.



monsterland
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13 Feb 2011, 6:16 am

foobabe wrote:
How can a child develop their social skills when there are no opportunities to mix with other kids (other than school)
My pair are both frightened of the "outside", won't try groups or activities and are becoming increasingly isolated. We have no nieces or nephews or neighbours with similar aged children. Aside from school they don't/won't/can't interact with other kids. The school offers 30 mins training once a month but thats face to face with an adult. Is it possible to develop these skills are home? They are both so uncomfortable in their own skin and stand out more and more as they get older. We have used model me dvds but I'm not sure how effective they are?
Any advice?


Join a Japanese martial arts school. Let me explain why this is better than "interacting with other kids" in the yard or whatever.

Classical Japanese martial arts like Karate and Aikido have a very structured environment, with specific, predictable rituals. Interactions are limited, binary, and their outcome is a predictable pattern. This is very comforting to an AS person.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, one of the rules is commonly "no talking on the mat".

This means, your kid is surrounded by other kids, yes, but they're not getting bombarded with social stimula which causes confusion and frustration. They're going through structured practice (such as kata, partnered or not), with other people around their age, making some physical contact, in ways that are completely predictable, and therefore, OKAY.

They don't have to go anywhere with others after class; they can just go home, and keep their dojo interactions on a superficial level. However, the very practice of physical movement that requires dynamic sensitivity to your training partner, eventually, will start improving their ability to read social intent. And being among others, without "instantly failing at social interaction" like they would in school, will help validate them in the long run. Build, instead of destroying.

They will, with time, feel more comfortable around others, and also read body language better, instead of just deriving all the meaning from words alone.

They will definitely learn to carry themselves better and walk more naturally, because such arts are strict on proper posture, which is usually quite straight, stable and healthy.



annotated_alice
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13 Feb 2011, 12:08 pm

If your child is attending regular brick and mortar schools they are already getting hours upon hours of social exposure every week. That may be just about all the social they can tolerate.

If not, activities, church etc. can all be good, for practicing social skills. My sons do archery once a week (on the weekend). It is very quiet and non competitive, but while they are there even though they are in a group of children they will very rarely choose to interact with the other kids. They mostly keep to themselves and talk to the instructors a little, and that's OK. You could try to find or create a group of kids that share your child's interest (at one point we helped the school arrange a Lego club that met at recess during school hours as a way to help our sons socially). But I am not sure that mixing with a group of kids their own age is in fact the best way for most ASD kids to learn social skills. It is just too hard and overwhelming! And kids can be so mean, especially in a herd.

Some kids find it easier to practice social skills with adults. A safe adult they are comfortable with (aunt, uncle, tutor, instructor, pastor etc) may be easier to talk to than kids their own age. Or they may benefit from structured one on one time with just one other kid, like a playdate, provided you have another kid who is willing.

Simple things like sitting down for a family dinner together, playing a board game or a tabletop RPG, working on a collaborative family project, and answering the phone and taking a message will all exercise those social muscles. So will going out into the world (the zoo, museum, restaurant etc), and trying things like buying their own ticket, ordering from the server or purchasing something themselves and interacting with the cashier. You could also do social stories and role playing for a social situation that they find particularly challenging, this will allow you to teach and practice at home in a low stress environment. There are books too, like the one below, that can be very helpful too.

The Hidden Curriculum

Joining online groups or forums, or playing online MMORPGs can also give social practice in a less demanding context (depending on the age of the kid, of course), and there are often social skills groups through various psychologists or ASD organizations that you can join too, where the interactions are structured and monitored.



angelbear
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13 Feb 2011, 9:30 pm

I really have nothing further to add, as we are in the same boat. I just do my best and try to take him to all the kid friendly places and let him interact at whatever level he is comfortable. Some days that is not very much. Yesterday I took him to a little party at a bookstore, and he said "Mom, I don't like kids" LOL! Anyway, I too feel that my son is so isolated, and sometimes it breaks my heart. But, he does enjoy going to all of the places and he will interact with adults, so I am trying not to let it get me down too much. As long as he is happy, then that should be okay.



AS_mom
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14 Feb 2011, 12:07 am

I home school my son with AS and I work on the social skills as part of the curriculum when I can, there's lots of social skills books or social stories to use, I also take as many opportunities when issues arise to teach what was appropriate or expected in a given situation. My son has been resistant many times to my 'coaching' him but he is now starting to accept it more as he understands that it does help. We went yesterday to pickup something from a local home business and he tried to interact with the business owner which is a huge step for him. :)

The psychiatrist told me last week I needed to go out and get him interested in other things as he was too isolated, it showed a total lack of understanding on her part as I have tried many things over the last few years. She thinks he should be doing team sports, LOL, but he is interested only in skiing and computers. So try to direct your children in the path of their interests and work in social skills when you can, it may be with other adults and not friends, but we can only do so much. I have success too with scripting stuff and having my son feel successful with some social encounters even if it is only between my daughter and her friend, both 12.



Aspie1
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14 Feb 2011, 8:50 am

AS_mom wrote:
The psychiatrist told me last week I needed to go out and get him interested in other things as he was too isolated, it showed a total lack of understanding on her part as I have tried many things over the last few years. She thinks he should be doing team sports, LOL, but he is interested only in skiing and computers.

I got into skiing just this month, and feel the need to contribute. While skiing (by the way, are you talking about cross-country or downhill?) is an individual sport, it still helps you learn important social interactions: observing lift etiquette, following rules because it's for safety, being understanding toward a beginner skier, yielding the right-of-way to an advanced skier going too fast to stop, dealing with the largely good-natured rivalry with snowboarders (which used to be bad-natured), and asking a downed skier if he/she needs help unlocking the foot bindings. He can easily practice those skills with other skiers. Since interactions are very transient, social faux pas won't matter much.

By the way, I had a stereotypical scenario where I wiped out pretty badly, and a good-looking woman came to me and asked me "are you OK?". (I got up unharmed.) Nothing wrong with preparing your son for that kind of situation when he's an adult :).



angelbear
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14 Feb 2011, 11:19 am

That just bugs me that a psychiatrist of all people would think your son would be interested in team sports! I agree that our children need to interact, but the world will not come to an end if they don't play soccer or football!



doeintheheadlights
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14 Feb 2011, 11:30 am

foobabe wrote:
How can a child develop their social skills when there are no opportunities to mix with other kids (other than school)
My pair are both frightened of the "outside", won't try groups or activities and are becoming increasingly isolated. We have no nieces or nephews or neighbours with similar aged children. Aside from school they don't/won't/can't interact with other kids. The school offers 30 mins training once a month but thats face to face with an adult. Is it possible to develop these skills are home? They are both so uncomfortable in their own skin and stand out more and more as they get older. We have used model me dvds but I'm not sure how effective they are?
Any advice?


Maybe use your kid's special interests to plan group outings? So if they like animals, a trip to the zoo, or if they like painting then an after school art class- stuff like that. They also have extra curricular activities and groups for just about anything these days, so it probably wouldn't be too hard to find some sort of group activity involving something that your kids enjoy.

And to go off what another poster said about taking outings to the library or toy shop, make those outings fun by having them pick out a small toy or a book at the end so that you make the outing a positive experience. The problem with those sort of outings though is that you don't really have a structured atmosphere which could make it harder to approach other children and interact with them. I would focus on trying to find a structured after school activity that your kids will enjoy.

How do things go at school? Do they have friends and do they interact well with their peers?



foobabe
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14 Feb 2011, 12:12 pm

Some great comments guys Thankyou for all your advice :D

They are 12 so I don't think they could really handle internet social networking type things just yet. May be when they are older.

They talk about classmates in school but I know there isn't much interaction in the playground, my son watches the other boys play footie but can't and won't join in. I have tried to get him to join a small scout group but he literally had a panic attack at the door (our door before we even got out of the house !) Its not like their school friends want to visit or phone them, the last party they were invited too was when they were 5 :(

Their ABA therapist said social skills need lots of practice and they need to practice this with NT kids. Thats easier said than done.

Will look into structured after school clubs again and the martial arts classes.



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14 Feb 2011, 1:10 pm

Maybe see if there are any somewhat older kids that you could find to spend some time with you and your kids - maybe highschool kids that are looking for volunteer work or who would be interested in being a mentor or something (kind of like Big Brothers Big Sisters - I know some highschool kids around here are interested in doing stuff like this). An older teenager may be someone who they would look up to and would be more sympathetic and less likely to give them a hard time for social missteps. While this isn't interation with a same aged peer, it is still interaction with a young person closer to their age which may be a little more helpful than interaction solely with adults.

My little guy generally could take it or leave it when it comes to his peers - he's almost 5. He's in his second year at preschool and he still chooses to interact with the adults far more than he does with the other kids. Thankfully, being around the kids doesn't overwhelm him as much this year as it did last year.



doeintheheadlights
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14 Feb 2011, 4:20 pm

Bombaloo wrote:
Maybe see if there are any somewhat older kids that you could find to spend some time with you and your kids - maybe highschool kids that are looking for volunteer work or who would be interested in being a mentor or something (kind of like Big Brothers Big Sisters - I know some highschool kids around here are interested in doing stuff like this). An older teenager may be someone who they would look up to and would be more sympathetic and less likely to give them a hard time for social missteps. While this isn't interation with a same aged peer, it is still interaction with a young person closer to their age which may be a little more helpful than interaction solely with adults.


This is a great idea. My mom did this with my brother who has bipolar, and I know many people who have children with Downs Syndrome who get high school students to come after school a couple days a week just to hang out and be a friend for their children. Many high schools now require students to do a certain number of community service hours per semester, so you may not even have to pay them if you spin it as community service and write a letter for their school or something. That way you could get an older kid who understands and is able to work with your kid's social problems but at the same time isn't so much older than them so that it seems like they're just hanging out with adults. I know my brother absolutely loved hanging out with a "cool high schooler" and because the student was older than him and was there to work with his problems and be his friend, it made him feel safer knowing that this kid wasn't going to tease him.