Hello - newbie on the loose!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Triesandfailsbetter, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. Triesandfailsbetter

    Triesandfailsbetter New Member

    Hi. I'm new as of a few minutes ago. I don't know everything about the site yet, so please bear with me as I stumble around. I am 38, engaged to 49-year-old and son is age 8. Son is a sweet child diagnosed ADHD with sensory integration difficulties. Has several Asperger-ish traits, but was not officially diagnosed that way as I had expected. He is currently attending a parochial school with fewer students and a calmer atmosphere than our local public schools (larger classes, more chaotic and he can't deal) and he is thriving there (which surprised me as I had thought he would have done better in Montessori...go figure)

    Anyway, he is a sweet child who believes everyone is his friend at school and loves everyone. I think he is higher functioning than I once suspected, but my heart breaks when I think about him realizing one day soon that some of these kids are not his friends and in fact, he has no real friends. No one calls him to come over, no one comes over to our place from his school. I have tried getting him in swimming lessons, and he enjoyed it but didn't make friends there. We tried baseball and basketball but he didn't have the coordination. We are going to try an art class because he seems great at art.

    I'm wondering if other parents can advise me on safe ways to find pen pals, make friends with other kids who are special online, etc. Our area does not seem to welcome us for some reason. May need to move or something.

    Ideas welcome. Thank you for your time!

    P.S. I may not be on here every day, but will check in as often as possible!!
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Hi and welcome.

    What seems to have worked best for us (friends-wise) was helping our kids find friends with similar interests, often friends who also are Aspie. Sometimes they find one another, which is good.

    The thing with other Aspies as friends - you're dealing with kids who are similarly loving, friendly and not with any hidden agendas or underlying deceit. Especially as they get older (and acquire a few street smarts) they often find other kids who are like them.

    Aspies are often very naive and can be taken advantage of. It's a very hard lesson for them, to learn that their own honesty is unusual and not to be taken for granted in other people. It was a very difficult lesson to teach our kids, especially difficult child 3.

    difficult child 3's friends (the real ones) were kids his own age when he was younger, but by the time he was about 7 or 8, those kids (even the nice ones) had simply moved on socially, and couldn't really be held back in order to keep the relationship going for difficult child 3. The meaner kids began to really take advantage of difficult child 3 and even to bully him. The nice kids would say hello in passing, but stopped coming over to play because the social gulf between them and difficult child 3 was widening.

    But difficult child 3 does have friends. They are from two groups:

    1) Very bright, but much younger kids. For example, the kids over the road (six years younger) who enjoy difficult child 3's amazing ability with computer games and also have the social maturity to accept difficult child 3's immaturity. The really bright kids value difficult child 3's intellect and are also smart enough to have an instinctive understanding of his disability.

    2) Other SpEd kids from various classes and extra-curricular social groups we've been involved in (for example, difficult child 3's drama class for kids with learning disabilities; an autism social skills class that was run a few years ago and morphed form there into an informal friendship group).

    You can manufacture this sort of thing yourself - you could start your own informal support group for parents of difficult children, but keep the time limited that the kids spend together, because it's better to have a short, happy encounter than a longer one where the kids eventually fall out because one or another got over-tired.

    In our situation, difficult child 3 has been nagging me to organise another ten-pin bowling get together. He wants to spend time with these kids. We were invited to a birthday party of one of these kids (yesterday - couldn't go because I was not well enough) and these are really good. The kids get together, but so do us parents, we get to compare notes and relax.

    difficult child 3 has another friend who lives nearby - another high-functioning autistic kid, whose autism is milder tan difficult child 3's. But I tend to avoid simply dropping difficult child 3 off to play, I often go round to visit as well. The boys play together, us parents share coffee, but it means I'm there if there is a problem.

    It's a lot more difficult for our kids and your son is at a very difficult age, when other kids his age can be very cruel. You probably need to actively teach your son some social skills, to help him learn (role playing is good) the various things he needs, in order to be safe. You need to ensure that any play with other kids is supervised, in order to help keep him safe and also help him learn. This can be done without you having to be obvious about it - I used to run an after-school chess club, for example. Because I was running it, I was always there. That was my alibi, so to speak.

    If you feel your son is Aspie, but the diagnosis hasn't been made, use it as your working hypothesis until you have a diagnosis that is made more formally. Help him understand his condition and to see his good qualities as well as get a better understanding of where he needs a bit more help than usual.

    And never forget - trying to get an accurate IQ score on Aspies is very difficult, they generally score a lot lower than they really are. Treat him as if he is really bright, especially in his high skill areas, and that can also make a big difference in how he feels about himself.

  3. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome! I would look into some social skills classes. Maybe the school has such a thing. He may not even 'get' that friends come over to play. It takes time sometimes for kids such as ours to understand social cues and appropriate responses.
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    While I don't have an Aspie (though he has some of the traits), my difficult child 2 has similar social skills problems and the lack of real friends. We've tried the sports teams (same problem as you -- he's not as skilled as his peers and not intuitive about what he should be doing, not to mention othe families not understanding him). For now, we're trying to just let him explore things that interest him in hopes that there are probably other kids who like the same things and he'll eventually meet up with them. Right now, it's geology. We meet some families at a local rock shop that had info on a geology club, so he wants to join that and go on some of their field trips.

    At school, he's made a few friends this year, but no one who calls him to do anything. At this point, I'm happy that people engage him at school -- he likes going to dances and there are girls who like him and ask him to dance, so even if it's just at the level of acquaintences, I'm happy for that.

    We also sent him to an overnight camp last summer for "special needs" kids -- many of them were autistic, some were ADHD or had other mental health issues. He fit in o.k. and made a friend, but the child lives very far from us, making it hard to maintain a relationship.

    We have a friend with an Aspie son who has chosen Boy Scouts as his main social activity. I think it's been helpful for him and have seen a lot of growth over the past few years. He's also in difficult child 2's social skills class at school.

    The main thing, I think, is to find something your child will enjoy doing that involves other people. The frienships, at whatever level, will eventually follow.
  5. Triesandfailsbetter

    Triesandfailsbetter New Member

    Thank you, Marguerite, for your detailed and very helpful reply! I really appreciate your time and wisdom on this.

    It's good to know that my son will (hopefully) eventually find friends like him. You are SO right on the subject of being naive. Sometimes I try to explain to others how my son is very pure-of-heart, and they think I'm just being a mom and exaggerating!

    My son has turned out to get along better with the kids in the grade younger too...he happened to fall into a homeschool group with that age group last year, and this year I put him into the classroom with them at the parochial school to help him transition. I think it was the right move because the class was much smaller than his age class too, so he doesn't get as over-stimmed by the chaos like in our public schools. (Not to be unkind to public school teachers; they do a good job with what they have, but there are just TOO many kids in these classes, in my humble opinion!)

    The thing with bullies makes me sad and angry at the same time; I am pretty protective, and he told me a couple of weeks ago about a kid (younger than him) kicking him at lunch and when he told the lunchlady she "didn't say anything." I mentioned it to his teacher and she said she would take care of it. My son said it hasn't happened again. I am trying not to show up at the school and confront a child and look like a crazy mommy, so I'm holding myself back!! lol

    I hope he can find some friends like yours has...I will try again to come up with some groups, but I have failed before. I put signs up at the library, posted them around town where other moms might go, etc., but no replies. It might be because I'm not from this area where we live and haven't known that many people.

    We also live in an apartment instead of a house (we are working on that this year though; even if it means just renting a house instead of buying, we are getting this child a yard to play in at the end of this lease!!), so it's difficult to have company. My neighbors are also *unpleasant* so we are limited that way. You have given me some good ideas though with the parties and such. I may try to have a party for him even though it's not his birthday or something. ;)

    I will keep your words in mind, and again, I really appreciate your reply! We will definitely treat my son as brilliant in the areas where we see the evidence...he's a bright one, although not always apparent to everyone. Thank you and please stay in touch!!

  6. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I can't recall where I read it, but one of the (millions) of books my mom dragged home for me to read had suggestions of "creating opportunities". Things like "when you go to pick your child up from school, take the family dog - pets encourage kids to gather around, and gives them a starting place for conversations with your child". I can't recall all the suggestions, but I'll try to look tonight and see if I happen to still have that book.

    My older difficult child probably would have spent his entire "teen-hood" in the chair in the living room had he not at least attempted to mimic easy child's social life. difficult child 1 made the rounds repeatedly between about 4 groups of kids...when one group got tired of him, he went to the next, and so on, his entire high school career. And had it not been for easy child 1's influence, I don't think he'd even have done that. I think he'd have been content to be home on Saturday night (which would have made our lives easier, by the way. LOL)

    Wee difficult child gets along, as you say, without really getting that he doesn't have a lot of friends. When he stops to think about it, he realizes it with his class at school, and things like that. BUt he considers the 3 boys he went to daycare with from the age of 14mos to 4 years to be his friends...while they will still come play with him sometimes when he calls, they never invite him to their house. But he doesn't notice that yet.
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    One of the things we've found, that opens doors for difficult child 3 - it's his extreme capability with all things technological. He's fixed school computers, he's fixed computers for friends. He's an expert on just about any computer game, too.

    I used to run a school chess club, which I actually started to give difficult child 3 something other than academic stuff to achieve in, and also a chance to mingle with other kids under my supervision. Some of the kids were mean to him (even with me there); a lot of the kids had their own problems. I remember one kid (fairly typical, sadly) who seemed to have a problem with any kind of disability, physical or otherwise. I'm fairly sure this came form his mother, who was a fitness fanatic who at times was very rude to me (because of my own fairly obvious physical disability). I remember one inter-school tournament, there was a kid there with achondroplasia. The achondroplasic kid was actually a very good chess player, but I could see he was heading for a lifetime of pain as his long bones such as his legs were already badly twisting and he needed to stand on the chair instead of sit on it, to reach across the chess table. ANd my "little treasure" of a student just stood there, stared and pointed, saying, "Look at HIM! How sick is that?" very loudly.
    My dragging the kid off for a stern talk did absolutely nothing (except draw more attention to the discrimination).

    This "little treasure" one day (at a different inter-school tournament) was very nasty to difficult child 3 in the car, calling him "dummy" and "retard" (yep - one more place for difficult child 3 to hear that choice word used as an insult). I actually stopped the car and said, "You are getting a lift from me to an inter-school event. I'm not getting paid for any of this, I do it because I want to do something nice for you all. So do something nice for me and stop being mean to my son."
    As I suspected, it had absolutely no impact on this kid and I was mentally planning what to say to his mother when I said her son was about to get dropped form the team.
    UNTIL - on the way home, "little treasure" was struggling with his hand-held computer game. He kept striking out at the lower level and was desperate to move up. All the kids had a go and couldn't do it. One of the other kids handed the game to difficult child 3. "Little treasure tried to snatch it back but stopped when he saw difficult child 3 talking him through how to get to the higher level. "See? You missed collecting gold at that point. Then you have to push both those buttons this way to kick the last villain to the kerb. OK - now you're through. Here you are."
    difficult child 3 handed the game back to the kid who said, "How did you do that? Do you have that game too? Wow, I didn't know you were able to do that!"
    difficult child 3 replied, "No, I don't have that game. I haven't played it before. But I've been watching you all and I worked it out while I watched. It's fairly basic, really."

    After that, "little treasure" stopped bullying HGFG3 and respected his brain - he realised he had one, after all.

    A lot of difficult child 3's friends are kids who hang around purely for the gaming. Being younger kids, they often lack some of the finer motor skills or the multi-tasking. Incidentally, difficult child 1 is bad at multitasking, while difficult child 3 is good at it. Some are - some aren't.

    Just yesterday, difficult child 3 wanted to go visit a friend. He has two friends within close walking distance so I suggested he begin at the closer house - across the street. difficult child 3 disappeared and didn't come home, which usually indicates he's found someone willing to play. Then he came home at about 5 pm and brought his friend with him. They played computer games until 6 pm when this other kid knew he had to go home. They have little in common other than this other kid respecting difficult child 3's problem solving skills. He's also used difficult child 3 to re-build various complex toys (such as Lego things). He's also friends with difficult child 3's other good friend, who is more mildly autistic and also high-functioning. It's three friends, two on the spectrum.

    difficult child 3 was free to go visit yesterday because his tennis class was cancelled (teacher sick). But at tennis, he plays with other kids who know him from when he was in their class at school. I tend to hang around and make myself useful kicking balls back to the teacher or fetching balls that go out of bounds, so I'm around to support any social interaction. Sometimes difficult child 3, in trying to joke around with the other kids (mostly girls) gets offensive or verbally aggressive and I have to tromp on him. The girls are trying to avoid upsetting him so they tend to not joke back as much, so I sometimes joke around with him to give them a hint, so they're starting to verbally sass him too, which is all good for him to learn more Aussie ways of interacting.

    You can do this sort of thing yourself informally, but don't force social interactions. Observe the other kids and if they seem reluctant in any way, leave them off your list next time. When difficult child 3 was 5 he had more friends than he has now. The social gulf between him and other kids his age was not so great. Now it is greater, but as he gets older that gulf is narrowing again, as other kids learn more mature social skills and become more able to make allowances. When they were 5 there was one kid who regularly was round to play, but he never seemed too thrilled about it. I found out the boy's mother was pushing him to come and visit because she felt it would be good for her son to grow up with a wider tolerance of the differences in the human spectrum. But her son resented it and increasingly he was uncomfortable around difficult child 3. So I stopped inviting him and I think the kid was relieved. However, there have been many times since when there was a problem and this other kid would step in to help difficult child 3. They still say "g'day in passing (often at the beach - the other kid just about lives there, swims like a fish) but really, don't have much in common.

    What we also have done, is look around for social groups for kids with autism, and also for general groups (various activities) for kids with disabilities. You can get therapy groups, such as hippotherapy (not in our area, unfortunately). For a year or so we joined a club for swimming lessons for kids with disabilities. There are a lot of autistic kids there, some high-functioning. At difficult child 3's drama class, there are also a lot of autistic kids of varying levels of ability. But there are kids with other disabilities too, including a couple of kids with Downs and a few with unspecified global developmental delay. We had a Prader-Willi kid for a while, until he became too disruptive. He's now in a foster care arrangement, even though his mother was absolutely brilliant with him. But he needed more intensive medical supervision and 24/7 observation and she couldn't do it alone. We've made some wonderful contacts at the drama group - while the kids are in the next room doing a sort of improv theatre sports, us parents are in the next room chatting and drinking coffee. From there a lot of good social stuff gets organised. difficult child 3 has asked me to organise a ten pin bowling day for him and his drama classmates. We simply set a day and time, book a couple of lanes and whoever turns up, they have a game or two. We used to organise picnics too. These social outings originally came from a social skills class which we found out about too late - difficult child 3 was only there for the last two sessions. But we were there to find out about a bowling activity, and he went along and formed friendships.

    Some things you can organise yourself. But sometimes you just have to look around at what is already available, and plug in to that. It may work, or it may not. You might need to persist. But always, watch for those signs of impending conflict.
    difficult child 3 hated drama for a long time, because he had a lot of difficulty with performing and "being what you are not". The first play they did was a simple adaptation of AA Milne's "The King's Breakfast". The teacher wanted difficult child 3 to play the king, but the king is a badly behaved spoilt baby and difficult child 3 didn't want people to see him in the play and think he really was badly behaved. He spent so much of his day trying to be good, that to turn around and pretend to be naughty was too difficult for him, so we let him drop out of the performance, and the kids all ended up reciting it instead.
    Now - difficult child 3 prints out "Red Dwarf" scripts off the internet and he and his friends act them out.

    He's come a long way.

  8. Triesandfailsbetter

    Triesandfailsbetter New Member

    Hello all,

    I'm trying to figure out how to reply to each person individually, but I'm not getting it. I spent some time on the FAQ forum today to see if I could get it figured out, but I could not. I promise to try again soon! Thank you for taking the time to care about what I posted; I really do appreciate it and will be back sometime soon!

    Thank you,
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Best way to do it is just to write one post, and simply begin a new paragraph with a reference to each person. Unless you want to PM someone, then you can reply in person. For example, I didn't put your name at the beginning of my post, T & FB, because by default any reply to your thread is a reply to you. But if I want to comment on what Shari wrote, I'll just 'yell' - hey, Shari! I agree with you, girl, about making opportunities.

    I've seen threads where the person 'replies' to each post separately - it's cumbersome to do it, it's cumbersome to read it. Save your energy for your kids!