Social Anxiety and group activities, parties, etc.

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misstippy
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04 Aug 2013, 11:10 am

I'm interested in some opinions on this:

I have a 7 year old boy and 4 year old girl both who are on the spectrum.

My son can do pretty well in group situations. He may not join in, but he doesn't express too much angst over going to a group function. OR, if he does, he kind of sucks it up and goes along.

My daughter has extreme anxiety in group situations. She often doesn't want to attend birthday parties or other group activities. She is usually worried it will be too loud (we have headphones we use for her) or if the people will have dogs (she's terrified of dogs).


How often do you allow your Aspie kids influence you on when you will attend a party/function? I obviously will work through issues with the kids to push them to go to things we HAVE to go to... like an open house at school or something, but what about a birthday party for a kid from school or another party with families at someone's house?

We have an ice cream party we were invited to today and neither one of my kids want to go. I'm inclined to let them turn down the invite, but I also know that at least my older child will have fun. My younger one will have fun MAYBE after an hour of clinging to me and obsessing over where the dog is being kept. The house is so awesome for sensory kids.. they have a trampoline, sandbox, fabric swing in the middle of the livingroom. They would have fun. But, there WILL be a lot of people there. It WILL be loud and there WILL be a dog.

I want to make sure they understand that the way you make friends is by accepting invitations and showing up. On the other hand, smaller playdates and one on one interactions are so much easierfor them. I DO provide them those opportunities.

Any thoughts are welcome!



Willard
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04 Aug 2013, 3:13 pm

I wasn't diagnosed until my late 40s, so when I was a child, there was no quarter given. My folks were well aware I did not function well socially and I made my anxieties abundantly clear, but they were determined to make a "normal" kid out of me, so I had no choice in the matter, if they decided I was going, I went.

It did not make me into a "normal" kid. It made me traumatized and anxiety-ridden. It constantly ate away at whatever self-esteem I may have had, because it was an eternal reminder of just how inept I was. There was NEVER a crowded social gathering at which I felt comfortable, even for a minute, much less enjoyed and it always left me physically exhausted and psychologically drained and depressed.

That is not to say I could never have a good time in any social setting. Small groups (a half-dozen or less), consisting mostly of people I already knew, were not so bad. I did have a handful of friends I was comfortable playing with one on one (though in threes it always seems two end up ganging up on the third). Places like Sunday School didn't bother me, because not only did I know most everyone, it was quieter and more controlled than an open 'party'.

When very young (say 4 to 7yo), I tried making up for my inability to make personal connections by acting up, being the wild and silly class clown, which did get me attention, but didn't particularly help me make individual friends. Other than a couple of same-age cousins I saw at my Grandmother's every week, I didn't make a single close personal friend until the year before Junior High. After that, not again until the last half of High School.

Point being, you cannot force things to be what you think they should be. "Behavior Modification Therapy" is just a clinical name for psychological torture. Making a child go through the motions does nothing to alter their neurology. Their brain is what it is and it works the way it works. They don't need to be 'fixed' they need to be accepted for who they are.

I'm in my 50s now and still decline most social invitations. The anxiety just makes me tired and there's almost never a benefit. :?



ASDMommyASDKid
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04 Aug 2013, 6:38 pm

This is probably a dumb question but is it for a family friend or is it someone connected to one child more than the other. If you think your son would enjoy it and it really is not helpful for your daughter, then maybe you could have someone take your son, and you stay with your daughter or visa versa?

That said, there are things we mandate and things we do not. I have never mandated birthday parties for classmates, and the family ones we go to are either at places my son feels very comfortable, or have escape routes so he doesn't actually have to socialize with anyone. If he does not want to socialize (most of the time, though that has changed a bit) then we go to the playground equipment and it is literally the same as any day at the park.



CocoUKKraut
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10 Aug 2013, 3:00 pm

Hi, there are times when my son doesn't want to go either but we have a deal, sometimes he wants to do things that I don't want to do and visaversa. If I know he is dreading something (something that I would really like to do because my friends are there for instance), I tell the people up front that we would love to come but mention that we can't stay long (white lie perhaps, docs appt/relative visit/birthday party etc) and keep it short. I stick to the time and try to 'paint a picture of what to expect'

Show your children how to deal with dogs, (putting your hand down to the dog, from the front, stroking them the way the fur goes, using a nice high pitched kind voice etc) perhaps you can go for a walk with the neighbours and get the kids to come or something, they can walk behind you to start with. Dogs are wonderful for calming children and can offer a friendship that our kids find hard with kids of the same age. Responsible dog owners are normally very happy to eliminate any fears. If it helps to read about it first (helps my son) get yourself a childrens dog care book.

Usborne have one called Looking after Dogs and Puppies, which my son learned a lot from.



misstippy
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11 Aug 2013, 10:30 am

Thanks for the replies! It was a friend of mine who is not super close, but we are friendly. Our kids have played together a few times.... but my kids would not have known any of the other kids there.

I decided not to go, but then the kids regretted not going and started begging to go after it was too late. I might have to push them harder next time.

I agree, too, that I have to teach them how to interact with dogs... I really DO do that already, but my daughter goes berserk when she sees them and then fixates on it if she knows there will be a dog somewhere.