Social Awkwardness

by statia on September 2, 2011

First things first, Gromit is getting his “toeectomy” on Tuesday.  He’ll most likely be fine.  I have my surgery four days later, so what’s cool, is that we’ll be all down for the count together.  And hopefully high as kites together too.  I can’t think of a better, squishier companion for that part.

Ok, so.

I struggle when talking about the Mini and his delays anymore.  He’s getting older now.  I try to respect his privacy.   I want to chronicle his life, and I want to help others, and find a common ground.   Hell, I can’t even talk to his therapists in front of him.  I won’t, unless he’s distracted by his girlfriend/future wife du jour, or is out of hearing range.   He’s way too perceptive.  He knows we’re discussing him, and his issues, and I’m getting to that point now, where he realizes his own awkwardness, and while he hasn’t questioned it yet, I can see it coming.

He wants so badly to have friends now.  He starts pre-K next week.  It’s nearly a full day, and he knows all of the kids.  He’ll say hi to them, and have very short brief conversations with them, but his conversational skills with kids his age are just…painful to watch.  He’s better with us, but I’m not going to lie, it’s still a bit tedious.  With kids his own age, unless he’s very very comfortable with them  (Such as my children from another mother, the BFF), he’s not there yet.  He wants to be.  He wants friends now.  He wants to be out in the neighborhood, playing with the other kids, but he can’t get past “hi.”  He’ll say hi, and then launch into some diatribe about something that makes absolutely no sense.  And when he realizes this, he’ll say he played with so and so, but what he really did was watch from afar, and make nervous conversation with himself.  Echoing rote phrases or a coping gibberish.   The kids will go off and play with each other.   I realize that boys tend to develop their interactive playing later than girls.  The girls in his class were already excited to see their friends at orientation, already cliquey and going off, leaving a trail of high pitched squeals in their wake.  The boys?  All parallel playing.  I think it’s a dude thing.  But the Mini is a little different. He’s absorbed in his own  little world of cars.   Perhaps this is because he’s so comfortable with his classmates.

At home, it’s such a different story.   There’s a family with a gaggle of kids down the street.  The kids are all kind of dicks.   I hate to say it.   They range in age from 11-ish, to the youngest being four.  The two younger kids, four and five, walk past our house a lot, to go pick the older ones up from the bus stop.   The Mini will always say hi, and ALL of the kids just stare at him.  I don’t think they’ve ever once said hi to him.  The five year old now whizzes by on his bike multiple times a day while we play out front, and I want to throw a stick in front of his bike and scream “WOULD IT FUCKING KILL YOU TO SAY HI TO THE KID, JUST ONCE?”  But I can’t do that.  The Mini hasn’t asked.  He doesn’t feel personally offended by it (yet), but I told him, if you’ve said hi to the kids repeatedly, and they ignore you, they’re just not nice kids and there are probably plenty of kids your age in the ‘hood, we just need to take more walks during the day.

I know he’s getting bored with his built in playmates.   He idolizes this dick kid now, to the point of trying really hard to learn to ride his bike, just so that he can go over there and they can ride together.  And I see that rejection coming.   It’s like watching your own childhood all over again.  And I can’t intervene, or try to dissuade him from going over there.  It would go against everything we’re trying to do to help his social skills develop.   I just don’t want to watch him come home in tears, or feel that pain.  I have to let him experience it, but I don’t want to.  He’s such a cautious kid.  It takes him forever to do anything.  He’s had his bike since Christmas, and it’s sat in the garage, largely unused, because he’s so anxiety riddled of falling or careening out of control.   But that kid, the one kid who will reject him is his incentive for practicing on his bike.

And the only thing I can do is encourage him to keep practicing.  To tell him how proud I am of him for trying so hard to ride his bike with confidence.


river September 2, 2011 at 6:55 am

Social awkwardness is such a hard thing to grow out of, I still haven’t managed it. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for someone on the spectrum. The rejections will hit hard when they happen, and I hope your little mini manages to cope okay. With your help, he’ll get there.

Wombat Central September 2, 2011 at 7:59 am

Mean kids are assholes. I’m so sorry your little guy is going through this. I hope he finds some good buds in the ‘hood soon.

Fawn September 7, 2011 at 11:05 am

When my son started Kindergarten last year I had a similar experience at the bus stop. I’m the only mom down there with about 15 kids and all of them are young enough that I think their parents are lazy bastards for not walking downstairs and standing on the corner for 5 mins in the morning…just too much to ask apparently. My son was so excited to be around kids his own age he was just saying hi to everyone and they were all giving him dirty looks. I never wanted to kick a kid into the street before that day but instead I just said loudly, if they don’t answer you and you know they heard you, don’t waste your time speaking to them again.

lynne September 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I totally understand, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

I’ve heard of people having success with social skills classes. Our area is rural so we don’t have a lot of those options. But we do have a truly fabulous school psychologist that has filled that space for us. She started in kindergarten taking G on his own and playing board games, having G practice asking her to play a game, negotiating and compromising on which game, taking turns and good losing (our biggest issue.)

The next year they selected one boy from his class that they thought would be a good match to attend these weekly sessions with G. They became best friends – the other boy truly likes G. The third year, G had sort of exhausted this boy because he hadn’t made any other friends on his own. So the psychologist expanded the group by adding an additional student. Then gradually had the original boy sit out every now and then so G was with two new students.

Four years later, G does a pretty good job at approaching and playing appropriately. We still have to watch him like a hawk (he hits when frustrated) but the difference from K-now has been huge. Like everything with autism, progress has been slow, but it’s progress all the same.

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