How to have a successful playdate?

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annotated_alice
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28 Mar 2008, 9:53 am

Both my sons teachers and the therapist have suggested to us that we have more playdates for our sons in order to give them more opportunities to learn social skills. I used to arrange lots of playdates for them in our old neighbourhood (we moved about a year ago), but haven't arranged as many in the past while. This is partly because they play with our neighbour's children more often (especially in the summer), but it is also partly because the playdates were seeming like a bit of a waste of time.

It seems that either I am so involved in the play that the visiting child spends more time interacting and bonding with me than my sons, and while my elementary school social skills are coming along nicely, I'm not the one who needs the practice! :lol: :roll: Or I back off and there are so many arguments and so much upset that no one has a good time. Or the visiting child has a great time and loves coming here (because we have fun toys etc.) but that doesn't seem to carry over into strengthening a friendship at school.

So I'd like to know how others facilitate playdates? How much do you intervene/direct the play? Do you plan specific activities etc.? And how often do you do them (my sons really love the idea of a playdate in theory, but then quite often find it exhausting/upsetting in practise)?



kd
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28 Mar 2008, 10:01 am

I still haven't figured out playdates. With my AS son I alsays end up "hovering" and it ends up annoying the other parents. With my NT son it seems to work ok because he just runs off and plays.



rachel46
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28 Mar 2008, 10:33 am

Maybe the social interaction could "just happen" instead of trying to "plan" and strategize social skills opportunities (believe me- btdt!) If you plan it of course you're going to monitor the situation (hover) and like me stand at the top of the stairs and listen to the kids every word while they're in the basement and wonder "Should I go down there and correct him?" "Should I go help him be more accepting and hospitable to his guest?" "Should I go down there and tell him to quit being so bossy?"

Like the other poster said ,I haven't figured playdates out either. We had my son in a once a week group therapy which basically was 4 boys with Aspergers interacting for 1 hour- so we basically paid for him to "play". We decided it didn't make sense and we would just let him live his life and let the opportunites for social interaction happen on his timeline - not at 5:30 every Tuesday night. Ok- time to go be social for an hour whether you feel like it or not.

I have changed many of my expectations and beliefs about socialization as I learn more about my son (he's 11). Every kid is different and my son is comfortable having social interaction in certain settings, with certain kids and with certain activities. You don't tell my son "Just go play!" He doesn't know how to do it - but if you tell him he can play Heroscape with his friend for 2 hours he can do it.



ouinon
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28 Mar 2008, 10:35 am

It turns out to be very simple; when they get on it's great, when they don't it isn't. ! ! :wink: :lol: :)

When he likes someone my son will play three hours almost non-stop, no problem. When he doesn't fighting and/or crying starts.

And it is unpredictable. A very "sweet" ( i suspected he was "too" sweet ), boy, from a street away, whose mother I liked, ( but that has exploded since sons didn't hit it off, she thinks her son is an angel) came round and it degenerated into fighting and yelling. It seems the boy behaved as if all the toys were his to command.

Obviously it would be handy if my son got on with the boys who live nearby, but sod's law being what it is, he doesn't, but instead hits it off wonderfully with a boy who lives 20 min drive away from here, so they only meet at weekends.

I have discovered that supervising is only necessary when the children are not on the same wavelength. In which case it's a waste of time anyway, as you say.

8)



DW_a_mom
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28 Mar 2008, 11:25 am

I think the arguments are part of the process, unfortunately. Not so much that we have to force our children to become friends with incompatible children, but because they need to make decisions about how important certain friendships are to them, who they want as friends, etc. They can only get the information they need for making these decisions by testing the friendships out.

Over time, my son has worked out his issues with the children with which he is most compatible. He has some very true friends, now at age 10, that I never have to help him negotiate.

Other children, he has concluded aren't worth the trouble, or has accepted that it will always be on-again, off-again. His choice.

But, at your stage .... I think it is very important to make it all an on-going dialogue with your son. Who would he like to invite over, and why? What would he like to happen on the playdate? Then allow them to play on their own, until you are needed to negotiate an argument. Use that opportunity to teach the children the skills they will need to negotiate on their own.

When setting up playdates with children that your son does want to maintain friendships with, but argues frequently with, I definitely recommend going someplace, having a planned activity, and giving the entire playdate structure. Sometimes you have to recognize that a pair of children aren't compatible enough for free play, and help them find a way to enjoy each other without the conflict. We've done this with one of my son's friends, inviting him for very specific and defined outings. Those two children are night and day, and long run I think that friendship will fall by the wayside (we're already down to maybe 2 outings a year, when they used to get together twice a week), but as long as they wish to remain friendly, we may as well keep it as stress free for both children as possible.

There is no magic answer here. Just whatever ends up working.

I think, btw, that it is great your son has such free and comfortable friendships with the neighboring children. These are "playdates," just informal, last minute ones.


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katrine
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28 Mar 2008, 1:14 pm

My son is HFA, so maybe this doesn't apply, but:

We plan playdates for my son, and also plan the activity, which is usually something structured like computer / UNO / scrabble. This way freestyle talking isn't the main thing, there is something concrete to talk about.

However, my son has a really good friend, and when they play at the park we leave them to their own devices and they are WILD running up and down hills and talking. It's great!



Smelena
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28 Mar 2008, 4:34 pm

Quote:
This is partly because they play with our neighbour's children more often (especially in the summer), but it is also partly because the playdates were seeming like a bit of a waste of time.


If they're happy playing with the neighbours .... great! If playdates area waste of time .... don't bother!

My 3 sons (2 diagnosed Asperger's) play with our neighbours all the time. There are 4 children next door (2 boys and 2 girls) and they practically live at our house.

The neighbours think our sons are fantastic and are very forgiving of my sons' meltdowns.

Also, the neighbours know that when my sons go to their room and shut their door to leave them in peace. My sons came out when they're ready to play again.

Last year we took 2 of the neighbours to my sons' psychologist because they wanted to learn more about Asperger's.

It was good for me to hear them talk to the psychologist. They told her that my sons come up with the most amazing new games. They told how that my sons are the smartest people they know.

Helen



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28 Mar 2008, 4:52 pm

Well, my parents didn't arrange playdates down that specifically. One thing I wish they did do, though, was tell me or find out about how many people were at social gatherings where my best friend happened to be. One time I went to a birthday party at my best friend's house, and saw a bunch of of other kids there that I didn't even know or anticipate being there. That kind of caught me off guard, and I sat in a quiet corner the whole time. Didn't even feel comfortable socializing with my best friend like I normally would.



DW_a_mom
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28 Mar 2008, 5:37 pm

CRACK wrote:
Well, my parents didn't arrange playdates down that specifically. One thing I wish they did do, though, was tell me or find out about how many people were at social gatherings where my best friend happened to be. One time I went to a birthday party at my best friend's house, and saw a bunch of of other kids there that I didn't even know or anticipate being there. That kind of caught me off guard, and I sat in a quiet corner the whole time. Didn't even feel comfortable socializing with my best friend like I normally would.


Thanks for pointing that out. It is easy for parents to forget how many little things can fall into the "expectations" arena.


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annotated_alice
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29 Mar 2008, 11:53 am

So much good advice. Thanks. :)

They do play with the neighbours a great deal in the summer time (they swim together almost every day), but in the winter time we don't see that much of them. They are older than my sons (10 and 12 year old boys) and have been good playmates in the sense that they set really good examples for my sons (both have excellent social skills), but they attend a different school and aren't always interested in playing with younger kids. So I do want to help my sons cultivate friendships in their own classes at school.

I think I might need to try really structuring the playdates. I have been trying to just let them play, but my sons seem to have a really difficult time relaxing and getting along with another child in their own territories (they get possessive over belongings, or feel extremely anxious that the child likes and enjoys everything in our home and feel rejected if they don't or want to control every aspect of the play). I like the suggestion of taking the children on an outing.

And thanks for the reminder that social skills can develop outside of a planned time and occasion. I've been really encouraged to see them both making buddies at Karate, even though the children just interact for a few minutes at the beginning and end of class. They are almost more successful at being friendly in short bursts than for 2 hours of intense one on one during a playdate.