"I can't talk to anyone. I can barely talk to my friends."

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by MidwestMom, Dec 21, 2008.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Wow. My Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) son doesn't usually share a lot, but he did today when I told him that on Christmas (we have two places to go) that he has to try to stay with the group. He tends to watch television or go upstairs or disappear and everyone wonders where he is. They think he's being rude.
    L. is going to have a great Christmas. He is getting everything he loves and more, and I want him to be gracious and stay with the family. But when I told him he had to stick around this time, he just looked wide-eyed and said, "I can't talk to anyone. I can barely talk to my friends. It's hard for me."
    (Sniff) I felt so bad. Any suggestions on how to make an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kid feel comfortable while everyone is talking? I'm thinking of telling him just to hang around where everyone is at and that he doesn't have to talk. I did tell my daughter to engage him when she goes off with their cousin (who is 13). If he is asked, he will usually join in. But he IS a very quiet kid, and it IS because of his Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Thoughts?
  2. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Sometimes having special activities set up just for the kids help. We always have the kids play in another room while adults talk - it really cuts down on the kid's boredom and asking if we can leave yet. All the chatter may also be hard for your difficult child to follow.

    So, can you purchase or make a ton of sugar cookies for the kids to decorate? or get out a game for them or a puzzle to put together? It will help the kids to connect with each other and have a good time.

    Is there a sledding hill nearby? Take outerwear and sleds. Even the older kids like to slide.
  3. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    Are there others who share common interests with him, adults or children? Even if it is just a computer game, if it gave them something to talk about that might help. Are there any family members who are more understanding about his disorders who might help him mingle? If you are going to be in a certain place for awhile what about a card game, would he like to play cards with someone?

    Not sure if any of this will help, but some kind of game would stimulate conversation, as long as he does not get too competitive.

    With my difficult child it is the opposite, we can not get him to STOP talking, or to not interupt. From one extreme to the next.
  4. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Honestly, I wouldn't force him to be there the whole time. Maybe do a compromise. He has to stay the first 15 minutes, then can go off by himself or with someone he is comfortable with for 30 minutes, back with the group for 15 minutes and so on. If he has to stay with the group the whole time, he's just going to be miserable and no one should be forced to be miserable at Christmas. Sorry, but that's my line of thinking.
  5. bran155

    bran155 Guest

    First off let me say how impressed I am with your son, his ability to tell you that he has trouble talking to people is amazing. The only thing my daughter will admit to is having anger problems. So - kudos to him!!! :)

    My daughter is the same way. She is very uncomfortable in social situations that don't include gang members, convicts, drug dealers.....etc. So Christmas Eve we usually go to my aunts house and she is visibly feeling out of place. My heart breaks for her because you can see it on her face and in her body language. One of my aunts is very understanding of our situation and always makes a big deal when she sees my daughter. Last year as soon as we walked in the door she just made my daughter feel so special. She jumped up out of her seat and said "There she is, the only one I wanted to see tonight", gave her a big hug and kiss and began a conversation with her. It worked, the rest of the night went pretty smoothly. A few bumps here and there. Can you make arrangements for someone or a few people to embrace him in such a way. Maybe he too might feel good if people are actually excited to see "him", that he is that special. Just a thought.

    Good luck. Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday. :)
  6. bran155

    bran155 Guest

    I like Meowbunny's thinking. I think if you force him to be where he is not comfortable it will only make him more uncomfortable. :)
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    OMG! Thanks for all the great suggestions. Meow, don't apologize. I agree with you. He doesn't need to stay the whole time. Guys who suggested puzzles and making cookies (I love it!) had wonderful ideas!!!
    I'm going to my hub's sisters on Christmas and they are WONDERFUL. They just let L. do his thing.
    My own family is less understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). I think I'll have him stay down for fifteen minutes at a time and have activities for him to do. I wish everyone understood that he isn't trying to be rude, but they don't and I can't control other people. I guess I'm just going to do what is best for L. It is VERY uncomfortable for L. to hang around and talk to others for too long.
    Bran, trust me, I had a kid who was attracted to the same assortment of winners as your daughter. If it wasn't so sad, I would have laughed. She brought one boy home and proudly announced, "This is my new boyfriend, The Gambler (not his real nickname). I almost ran. He was tall and skinny (probably did more drugs than I take in three years), had glassy colorless eyes, a completely shaved head with a band-aide on it, and no expression on his face. He didn't say "hi" or anything. This daughter was also very unsure of herself and shy and that drove her to drugs to help her feel more socially comfortable BUT GAWD! The people she attracted looked like serial killers!!! (((Hugs))) Give your daughter time to grow up. I'm so glad she has such a wonderful aunt. L. doesn't like being hugged. It's an autism thing. But I think I can call my daughter-in-law and ask if she wouldn't mind maybe playing cards with him. She used to until she had her baby. We'll see.

    Once again, it's so great that you all understand. I never take offense at a suggestion. I cherish them all because I can't talk about this to most people. They really don't get it.
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Aw. That's so sweet.
    And also, neat that he can express that to you.

    I agree, a combo would work. Kids' activities, keep him in the conversation, and then let him loose.

    We're going to do that with-my son, too. We're only going to 2 days. It will fly by for us but it will drag on for him.
  9. Jena

    Jena New Member

    My difficult child tends to be the same way, very quiet, gets lost in the crowd truly apprehensive with alot of ppl around. By the time she settles in it's time to go basically. It can take literally hours.

    I talk to her before we go to places if she seems uneasy, we kinda do role playing. It sounds funny, but we talk about what things she can think of to start a conversation, how to start a conversation, that sort of stuff. It seems to work a little. The other suggestions are great as well. I just know now that she's actually able to be verbal with other ppl to some extent for the first time truly in school setting we often do the role playing and discussing ways to begin conversations, how to handle them etc.

    Good luck, holidays can be hard on our little ppl. I hope he has a good day and feels comfortable.
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    MB, that is a great suggestion. Also, the cooking session is good, although I know it wouldn't work too well for difficult child 3 because he would fuss about the mess people were making, or it not being perfect. Giving him the job to do on his own or with someone else supervising/supporting him would work better, as long as difficult child 3 has control and doesn't have to wait for other people and have to deal with their different take on it.

    MWM, you are doing the right thing by allowing him his own space and time out. However, I think it is very good he shared about his disappointment in himself for not being able to talk to other people. Small talk and conversation is a sophisticated skill that takes A LOT of coaching and practice for Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids. We have to always remember - our sons are 14 by their birth certificate only; socially, they're much younger and we shouldn't put too great expectations on them. I have often described difficult child 3 as seeming like a five year old genius.

    I just called difficult child 3 iin to ask him for his advice for your son. He said, "Don't be afraid of being social; just walk up to someone you don't know very well and introduce yourself. As the conversation continues, some subjects might come up that you feel comfortable talking about. When it's over you will feel very good about yourself."
    I would add, teach him to ask questions about the other person, the sort of question that requires more than a yes or no answer. difficult child 3 suggests asking, "What do you do? What have you been doing recently? What do you like doing/eating/other?"

    difficult child 3 often has his Nintendo DS with him (we think it;'s been surgically grafted onto his hand!) and we've often found this starts conversations for him. I watched last night while waiting for the carols night to begin, difficult child 3 was showing his game to the choir singer sitting next to him, the bloke had asked about it and seemed to me to be enjoying looking at how it worked.

    it's important to practice social skills and to also try to set up ahead of time, some cues to warn him when he's getting off topic or beginning to be inappropriate in some other way.

    Build in escape hatches for him; Saturday's party quickly split into younger generation/older generation, with the kids occupying the living room and the DVD player, watching "Fifth Element" which difficult child 3 likes. Planning ahead by taking along a DVD that difficult child likes but that is still appropriate for others there too, is good. Board games that difficult child is good at (but not TOO good), card games, all open up controlled social opportunities.

    At difficult child 3's drama class, some of the other autistic kids are clearly using me to practice their social skills; it can be quite funny, I recognise the signs. One young man will come up to me and after saying, "Hello Marg," will continue with, "Did you know about the new Stargate DVD sets? I was watching them and found something interesting about ... that I thought you might like." Or something similar. He knows from previous conversations that I have watched Stargate enough to know about it. He's talked about other science fiction TV and movies with our family before, so is using known information about me to begin a conversation. Or he might say, "I brought some of my sketches along to show you. May I?" and then gets his sketch book out.

    If your difficult child has any face blindness, this can greatly hamper him socially also; it just adds to the burden. You might need to help him by trying to include him in a conversation with a family member, much as the consummate hostess would at a power cocktail party. You know the sort of thing, "John, this is Jack. He likes to build model cars. Jack, John works for a company that manufactures assembly kits, I'm sure you will find a lot to talk about."
    You could stay to kick off the conversation and then move on once they clearly no longer need you. Or you could chaperone your guest of honour (and also teach difficult child how to politely disengage form a conversation) and when the conversation begins to flag, you say, "John, I promised Jack I would introduce him to as many people as I could tonight, because he is new to the area and needs to build contacts. I'm glad you've had a chance to meet; hopefully you will get another opportunity to talk once we've circulated sufficiently."
    difficult child needs to learn to say, "I have enjoyed talking to you. Please excuse me, I do need to have a quick word to ..." or some other legitimate excuse.

    I hope this helps.

  11. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    You just described Travis. And yes, I think it's the autism.

    Travis would literally live in his room if I let him. I do what I can to encourage him out once in a while. But usually, he's in his room.

    During the holidays he'll hide in his room if I don't put my foot down. I make him hang around. And honestly, he does much better than he thinks he does. sister in law makes great effort to include Travis in conversation and ribbing. Nichole's boyfriend will ask his advice about computers. (he's learning to repair the software, Travis knows the hardware)

    After a decent amount of time, especially if the gathering is rather drawn out, then he can go on up to his room. This is atually necessary as by then he's as hyper as the kids and acting like a 8 year old. lol

    But for the most part, over the years the family has adjusted to Travis and his needs. It's not a big deal when he needs to go off by himself for awhile. And the more relaxed atomosphere has improved his ability to stay and enjoy the activities a little longer.

    Of course, I just spoke to K tonight. I'm pretty positive the 2 boys both are on the spectrum with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Evan seems to be much more severe than Alex. And it made me remember Travis when he was a kid. Gee, I could barely handle one, I don't know how she's gonna cope with 2. :faint:
  12. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks again. I'm going to sit my son down and teach him how to make small talk. He won't enjoy our sessioin lol but maybe it will help him :)
  13. compassion

    compassion Member

    I just got difficult child a sidekick and she texts which she loves. She can interact a bit and then go back to what is more comfortable. I agree about small time increments and having activities.Compassion
  14. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    For small talk, one of the easiest things to do is to compliment someone. Tell him to find something nice about everyone he talks to. A pretty sweater, a nice smile, great hair, whatever. But find one nice thing about every person and tell them. Then he can become a good listener as they tell him how they got the item, etc. Obvioiusly, if he knows they have something in common, it is easier to talk to them. Do remind him that "small talk" really doesn't mean he has to talk. He has to ask a question and then listen. That's really so much easier for many kids on the spectrum. They really are some of the world's greatest listeners.

    Try to make the practice fun for him. Use puppets, stuffed animals, etc. Have them have a party and he can walk in as a guest. If you can enlist someone else to help, he can "talk" to the things hearing different voices. If not, you can be each thing while he talks to them.

    Good luck on this. Do remind him that small talk is hard for many people until they find a common interest. He's really not alone on this one.
  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Ah, Meow and Compassion, thanks. I am going to try everything, but I think I'm going to start with "So how are you doing?" because that will get the OTHER person talking and he can nod and act interested. I have to teach him how to look interested too...lol. I realize he has come far, but still doesn't know how to make small talk. The hard part is...I'm not very good at it either. Nor is hub, he's very quiet. But I'll try.
  16. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    The problem with "how are you doing" is you get one of two answers -- either fine or a litany of aches and pains. One is non-conducive to talking. The other is guaranteed to bore a kid. Try asking, "So, did you do anything special this year?" That's bound to elicit a response. And they're bound to ask him what he did special. The good part is it is something he can practice asking and answering, plus he might truly be interested in the response. After that discussion (and a compliment), he can say, "It was nice talking to you but I have to ask my mom a qeustion. Excuse me, please." All of a sudden he's gone from the weird kid to an incredibly polite kid. As the saying goes, KISS. The simpler, the better. But do work with questions that will get real answers, not just one word responses.
  17. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks, meow :) I'm taking him out all day today, so I can practice with him in the car. He can't get away from me there. Muhahahahahahaha ;) I appreciate all this great feedback from everybody.