difficult child's social skills, how on earth is he so uneven

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by SuZir, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Help me find some rhyme and reason to this. It's something that has always bothered me. I get that uneven performance profiles are typical for special needs kids. And my son is that even though no one has ever been able to pinpoint what exactly is wrong in his hard wiring.

    difficult child certainly has social skill defects. He isn't likeable and he has hard time making and keeping friends. He is obvious to certain social cues. He doesn't always notice when something he does annoys others and he may interpret someone's polite friendliness as more than it is and has embarrassed himself often with that. He isn't good at thinking how his actions influence others. One very typical example would be not using headphones when using laptop (while looking something that keeps noise) in full bus there some even try to sleep. These type of things I see very typical Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) issues.

    But there is another side. In some ways he is in fact very tuned to other people feelings. He has always been our family's atmosphere barometer. If I and husband had a row, even if he was somewhere else, the moment he got home you could bet he would start to squeak. He understands well some rather complex social and feeling nets in our extended family. Same with his teams and at school. He always seemed to know how other people's relationship games were going. At times it seems that he is anything but obvious as long as he isn't a participant. He often surprises me with very astute assessment of people, their feelings and relationships.

    He also does surprisingly well in public. If you would hear the interviews he gives and things like that, you would never think he has social skills issues. He knows right things to say better than many. Same with for example social media. When he started his Twitter account I certainly shuddered. So did husband, difficult child's agent and his then positional coach. Okay, we probably all had a long talk with him about the rules with that and also his team has quite clear rules. But in reality he does great with it. Better than most of his team mates even. He is appropriate, positive, says the right things, never lets his frustration show, understands well difference between the critique he shouldn't give in that forum and on the other hand that kind of whining that is appropriate (in other words, no criticizing his team mates, coaches, team in public, but it is okay to whine, if someone stole his parking space or train is late) etc. There has been only one screw up and that wasn't bad. It was, again, that he overintepreted someone's politeness to be a sign of wishing for a closer contact (i.e. he tried to make a friend and keep contact with the person who had just been polite to him.)

    And at times he can even be quite clever with it. Which is that made me think about this topic once again. He has lately been doing little better in his sport after awful fall and recently he had a great game. He was a best player in field. And he managed to comment that in Twitter very cleverly so that he didn't mention his own performance at all, but just thanked audience and congratulated his team mates for great effort. But he did it so, that he managed to sneak in the information that makes everyone who knows his sport to notice that he did great. Small thing of course, but made me again wonder, how he can be so oblivious with some social things and so very savvy with others.

    Is it that when he is outsider and has time to think, he gets it, but when he is in it, he doesn't understand himself as a part of the picture? I really don't know.
  2. HaoZi

    HaoZi CD Hall of Fame

    Tony Attwood's The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome can give you a good idea how this happens, see if your library has it. I get it, because I kind of still do the same thing to some degree (still improving, even now), but I can't really explain it except to say that a lot of it depends on how connected he feels to the people involved. Does that make sense?
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    ASDers are horrible reading social cues and "getting" social norms unless they try hard to learn them (Sonic has). Your son is not socializing when he is giving an interview. He is just explaining something. He has a lot of time to think and isn't reading faces when he is on Twitter. ASDers are VERY sensitive to moods. My son can smell when there is tension. That has nothing to do with socializing. These people tend to be sensory sensitive, which is a whole other ballgame. Sonic often shocks me too with his keen insights. He can see things that he can't always do himself. Confusing, I know.
  4. HaoZi

    HaoZi CD Hall of Fame

    Let me try one more way of explaining things how I work. If I'm not talking to you, connected to you in some way, you're either annoying me or you're furniture to me. There's really no in-between with me. That's just how I'm wired.
  5. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    MWM: But part of giving a good interview is to read interviewer's non-verbal cues. Often the actual questions are not the greatest (we are talking about the sport reporters after all ;)) and he has to get and answer the unasked question, or work his way around it, if it is something he better say nothing about. But noticing implications is very important, if you don't want to sound dufus and that difficult child does well.

    Also understanding other people's relationships games, pecking order, things like that, requires reading non-verbal social cues. And our culture is not too expressive and we are quite anti-confrontational, which means that we don't usually for example tell when we don't like something someone says. We show it non-verbally and our non-verbal expression is very unobtrusive, many people from other cultures tend to think we don't have any non-verbal communication at all and just stare stupid and don't react at all. And still difficult child gets those very small non-verbal cues well as long as they are not aimed to him. If he can just observe he seems to know everything. He for example always knows the gossips better than anyone, often even before they are gossip.
  6. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    HaoZi: Thanks for book tip. I have to look if I can find that somewhere.

    Your second post brought something to my mind. I remember that when difficult child was younger I few times watched him watch people and I was thinking that it looked like some mad scientist observing psychological rat experiment or territorial behaviour of cockroaches...
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Well, Suzir, you made some great points. I would then have to jump to MY unlikeable child, my oldest son who has never been diagnosed as Aspie, but is chock full of Aspie traits yet can sell sand to the arabs and figure people out really well, but he can't make/keep a friend to save his life. He doesn't even know how to be a friend. He is, like your son, a higher IQ kid, which I think matters. Maybe they watch a lot...watch so much that it is like a puzzle to them to them that they can figure out when it is somebody else...but they can't apply it to themselves??? Just guessing here. Sonic, my younger son, who is far more affected, is a really nice person and everyone loves him, so maybe it's not the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)...but just that both of our older sons aren't nice so they don't try to figure out other people's feelings??? Another guess.
  8. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    MWM: Hmm... somewhere near Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but not quite there, high IQ, ability to compensate so much that can not be diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Ability to observe and figure things and 'rules' out by themselves and learn that way. You may well be onto something.

    Especially when with my difficult child it seems to be also anxiety thing. When he has that space and peace he can figure things out. When he is middle of it, anxious, somewhat overwhelmed with social demands and tensed by sensory things (my difficult child is certainly having sensory issues), he just can't do it any more. I mean if it's intellectual thing that demands effort and concentration from him, it is clear he does worse when he is tired or overwhelmed or distracted. That could be.
  9. HaoZi

    HaoZi CD Hall of Fame

    The book does good at explaining how we can compensate intellectually what many do reading people at instinctual levels (which is why we often can't do it under pressure or at certain times).
  10. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    MWM: One thing that is different between your unlikeable child and mine. Mine probably couldn't sell water well in Sahara or central heating to Eskimos. He is often that obnoxious to strangers outside of certain situations like interviews. could of course be lack of effort. And he does have some very good relationships. Many just not friends exactly. But for example he and easy child have a good relationship mostly. There are some sibling rivalry and jealousy issues, but they do rely on each other and their relationship is warm and loving (oh and how they would hate me putting it like that ;)) difficult child also has good relationships to his cousins and some of the bit older players in his team. He even does have few (very few) same age friends, they just happen to be all over the world.

    It is also curious how while he does have these clear Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)-spectrum traits, some he doesn't have at all. Of course every aspie is different, but still most tend to have certain clusters of traits. And for example difficult child has never had language related asperger traits. His language development was always very typical, he has always talked local dialect and didn't even copy the more general language from books like many kids do, when they are read a lot. Still he has never had a problem to turn on the 'general speak' either in writing or talking. And he does this in both of his main languages. He has never had problems with taking things too literal and has always understood idioms, metaphors etc. in age appropriate level.

    While he has had deep interests, they have not been 'aspie-level', there has always been many of them going on same time and they have been broader than special interests often are. Okay, he was two when he decided he wants to do what he does now and that sport and that position was his favourite from then on. But he liked a lot about the other competitive sports too, he never got obsessed with any thin sector of his sport, and it was always more about doing the sport than for example knowing stats, probabilities etc. Those have really started to get his attention only when his coaches have started to demand his attention to them. And other wise he is mathematically inclined, so it isn't that he wouldn't like math. Some of his other interests were maybe more 'typical aspie' like knowing all and everything about dinosaurs when he was five or six and magic tricks later. But then again with the dinosaurs, so was every other boy at that time. They were a huge hit with boys back then. And he doesn't have that on/off attitude to interests I have understood is rather typical to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). For example he dutifully went to piano and music theory classes at music school for nine years just because I made him to do so. And did sing at the choir, because that too was required. Didn't really ever have a passion, at times liked it okay, at times wasn't too thrilled, but played every day that 20 minutes he was required to practise without too much whining. Netiher has he ever have a habit of talking about his special interests in depth to others. When he for example talks about his sport, he usually talks rather generally and only talks in depth about what he does with coach, other players playing the same position and with me at times (I have seen too much of his positional training, I could probably coach some juniors by myself by now ;)) And he knows how and to whom to talk for example about his game in very general way (in those interviews), with little bit more depth (with his dad or easy child for example) and with a lot of depth (with his coach, with other same position players or to me at times.) He does have that filter, always has had.

    And of course while he has a load of sensory issues he is and never was clumsy or had any problems with motor coordination. Both his gross motor skills and fine motor skills have always been better than average.

    So certainly a mixed bag.
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Suz, I think some issues are just always going to be question marks. I can't figure out my older son either. He is clearly, if an Aspie, high functioning too...he also never had any obsessions other than videogames, which it seems all the boys had, and he had friends, although he wasn't always very nice to them. On top of that, without a doubt my son has a mood disorder so that throws a kink in there. I mean...sometimes I don't even care what my son has. I just wish he was a genuinely nice person. Seems like most of the time, when he is nice, it is done deliberately to make somebody like him. For example, he likes this young woman who has a diabetic cat and when she said she couldn't see him because her cat was sick and she was afraid to leave him, my son was all compassion and understanding. But it wasn't because he was actually feeling compassion, if you know what I mean. He just knew it would make this young woman like him more, which it did. As he explained it to me, "The strategy really worked." In fact, this particular son doesn't like animals at all and didn't really understand why this girl was so worried about her cat. He thought s he was being overly silly, but also thought indulging it would put him in her favor. Know what I mean??
    Stuff like that...defies labeling.
  12. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    MWM: Yes, with my difficult child there will always be some unanswered whys. He just doesn't fit nicely to any box, but will always be a mixed bag. I do know many young adults who have had difficult time fitting in as kids feel very relieved if they later get some answers (like late diagnosis of asperger or ADHD) even if not much is to be done any more. But mine will likely always need to deal with the fact that he is just little different and untypical. That all people are different and some are just little more different than others, as his neurologist 'diagnosed' him after his second full evaluation.

    And he is very fortunate position there he is getting help with areas that cause him difficulties even if no one can say why they cause him problems. And of course he has also acquired some diagnosable problems, addiction, PTSD, anxiety and all that and those do explain some of his current issues.

    Mine may also not be likeable or even genuinely that nice person, but he is loveable in his own way. I mean, as mothers we do love even our most screwed up kids, but I'm not an only person attached to my difficult child. And it's not just other family and his girlfriend, but there is something in him that makes also other people attach to him. Some genuine vulnerability and innocence to which many people answer with will to protect.

    But with that he is also a mixed bag. You mentioned animals. My difficult child likes animals and has always been very attached to our dogs. One dog we took when he was five-year-old. He loved that dog so much. She was his best friend and companion and the one difficult child told and cried all his worries to. And dog adored difficult child. Few years ago she was getting older, she was heavier breed (rottweiler) and had arthritis and that started to cause her problems and I was thinking about putting her down. I strongly believe dogs can't lament days they don't live but they certainly feel pain, so I think it is always better to put down a dog month too early than day too late.

    Her pain medication wasn't keeping pain totally in bay but she still had mostly good days with some bad, but bad were coming more frequent. And she wasn't getting better. My husband only wanted to see her good days and wanted to postpone the pain of letting her go. When kids heard about us talking about it, easy child very predictably and child like also only saw how she still played and wagged her tail and cried how she was okay and could live many more years still and how I was mean wanting to kill her. I was so sure that putting her down would be really tough thing for difficult child and he would blame me even worse than easy child, because he was so close to that dog. But, while very sad about it, difficult child showed certain toughness or hardness I didn't expect and in fact was able to step back and see that his beloved friend was suffering, not getting better and best thing for her was to get away before it would get really bad. He even came with me to vet office (husband has never been able to handle that) and petted her while vet put her to sleep. And was able to be calm and not to cry before she was in sleep to not to scare her. I was impressed and little taken aback by that at the same time. I didn't expect that kind of toughness from him at that age. But I also decided that if I ever have to give medical power of attorney over me to anyone, it will be difficult child and not husband or easy child.
  13. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Suz, yes, your difficult child sounds much more likeable than mine. At least he has something that draws certain people to him and he does like animals. It bothers me that my son doesn't. And he REALLY doesn't. And nobody is drawn to him. He was always more both a bully and a victim (hard to explain). He was in a group of boys that could be bullies and he was more of an instigator than the actual bully...he'd get the less intelligent boys to do the work for him, but, at the same time, when his friends turned on HIM, as they sometimes did, he'd cry like a baby. He seems to lack empathy. My obviously Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) son is VERY empathetic so I have no idea what my oldest difficult child is and I guess I'll never know. The perpetual victim? He thinks he is (sigh).
  14. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    No help here -- my difficult child has uneven levels of development. Years ago one of his evaluations reflected his performance to range from 3 - 26 yrs. I think he was around 10 at the time.

    Today? He still makes my head swim, ya never know what you're going to get, e.g., an 8 yr old or a 20 yr old.....

    difficult child easily makes friends and always has. His problem is keeping them. He's had social skills training -- one-to-one and small group. I even left him in after-school care programs until he aged out at 16 for additional social skills exposure.
  15. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I just spent the afternoon with difficult child#2...our Aspie. It has been five years since he decided that his GFGmom was right. A son and a Mom should be together. GAG!

    But the four or so hours we spent together were a pleasure for him. Most of the time was also a pleasure for me but, lol, I just can't "separate" myself from his Aspie traits. Sincerely I love the little brat. on the other hand I can't quite wrap my head around some of his characteristics. My much loved Dad used to say of Aspie's " they simply march to the beat of a different drummer"...it's "kinda like half notes in music". I find myself wanting to semi scream WTH are you thinking! Since I'm allegedly a wise old lady I don't yell that. But..I sure as heck think it. I understand. DDD