Social Strategies


Active Member
One of the more difficult aspects of dealing with a difficult child in my home is the social component to his disability. For him, it is really all about social skills, or the lack of them. This not only has implications for him; but for the whole family as well.

For me and husband, it has meant that we don't invite people home to entertain - unless they are very, very good friends or family. This is a bit awkward for us, as we are living in a very neighborly environment and people go to each others houses for "nibbles and drinks" quite regularly. It also has meant that easy child is unable to have playmates over while difficult child is in the house, due to difficult children unpredictable behavior.

As for difficult child himself, playdates need to be strictly timed to 2-hours - no more - he simply can't handle it.

One of the things that we have found that works, is to map out social stories for various situations with difficult child. We use clip art/icons to do this (also known as Picture Exchange Cards or PECs). In this way, we can manipulate the stories to match difficult children social deficits and hopefully improve on them! We also do a lot of social gatherings outside of the home: parks, indoor playgrounds, etc.

I'm curious to hear about what other social strategies people use - whether for themselves, their difficult children, or their PCs.


My son's Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) school has a series of games designed to teach social skills. Mostly the kind of thing to force cooperation and interaction.

We see pretty much only other families with difficult children. And most of that is outdoors where the noise and activity level of my boys is more tolerable. I also make sure there are activities scheduled to be sure that they keep busy. Being "bored" is inclined to get mine into trouble.

I also find it helpful to bring something that belongs to my kids when we go to another child's house. This makes the sharing a mutual thing and works better for my kids. Particularly if the host child has some "off limits" toy that mine wants.


Active Member
One of the things that my son's developmental pediatrician stressed was for me to arrange coached playdates for my son. This was beyond preschool and Sunday School and just meeting at the playground, but meant inviting kids over to our house to play. Typically I would alternate times when I would let them play (with one ear open) and times when I would be right in there, coaching and directing appropriate social responses. Often much of the time we would spend building Thomas the Tank Engine because they liked it and because there were so many opportunities to bring in social aspects because of the various characters of the trains. One of the biggest problems for me turned out finding kids to come over. He had friends--that wasn't the problem--it's just that most of those friends were in daycare when they weren't in preschool and had their social needs met there. They also rarely reciprocated because it was difficult/impossible.

Some of those playdates did my heart good, actually, and still do. It's so easy to put him under the microscope and analyze every little move when there are times when his peers have the same 7-year-old boy problems he does. Not long ago I observed him in the living room trying to engage a friend in conversation and the friend was so intense on the toys he didn't respond. It had me LOLing to see my obsessive little guy trying to get some appropriate interaction from his "normal" friend.

Those were actually easier days of social interaction because my difficult child's frustration level seems lower now. He gets very frustrated when kids won't play what he wants or at least not alternate activities. I don't let playdates go too long--not over 2 hours if I can help it. Even if he hasn't gone bad during the play date, too long can really impact his mood afterwards.

My difficult child hasn't taken well to social stories (they have high Crumple Up And Throw Potential) but when unusual sitations such as birthday parties came up I used to make lists of what would happen from start to finish. It would help him know what to expect in what order and how to respond appropriately.

One of the very best social times for our kids has been camping. We go several times a year with about 8-10 other families from church. There are usually about 30 kids running between campsites. There is a lot of relaxed time for interaction between children and adults plus we usually have some organized activities. difficult child loves going and has done surprisingly well in regulating himself--he knows when he needs downtime and heads to the camper alone and passing on activities that are stressful for him. We keep a set of "camping Legos" in the camper and he can invite in one or two friends for quiet play if the whole crowd gets to be too much. Usually he is indistinguishable from the other kids but if things get a little touchy it's safe because we are among understanding friends.


This was one of the harder things for us to deal with. I say that, but actually each problem seems "hard" in it's own way. It is isolating for the whole family.

difficult child has/had several problems that interfered with-developing social skills: impulsiveness, he couldn't interpret body language, at 7 - 8 yrs old his play was still at a 3 yr old level in areas (immaturity), tactile defensiveness, not recognizing when he was encroaching into other's "space," easily over stimulated, poor role modeling until he was 5 yrs old, and general lack of Executive Function.

Though it didn't seem so at the time, difficult child got lucky. The Director at his Montessouri School and daycare facility has a son that has ADHD. She worked with-difficult child intensively for two years. difficult child is still in there for after school care. He's been at that school as a student for Pre-K and Kindergarten (the Director was his teacher), and 2+ years for after school care .

difficult child has a friend that has ADHD. His mom and I teamed up -- allowing the kids play dates and overnighters in order to further develop social skills. It took the pressure off both of us knowing our kids were with-an experienced parent who understood the problems inherent in both kids.

Other things that I believe were helpful:
Large group social skills training.
Small group social skills training.
Psychologist works with-difficult child during sessions (4 yrs).
Roll playing and actually showing difficult child facial expressions and discussing what they mean
Occupational Therapist (OT) and Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) therapy.
Creating additional opportunities for difficult child to work on social skills.
Taking advantage of teaching moments while viewing cartoons or movies and discussing how "X" could have handled a situation differently so as not to hurt "Y's" feelings, etc.
Time for general maturity and for the central nervous system to further mature.

difficult child still lacks finesse in some areas, but things are much better. We still work on the finer points of social skills, i.e., he's still requires prompting to thank his host for the invitation, saying he had a good time, etc. I still take advantage of teaching moments. But the over stimulation is in check for the most part, knocking the fire out of a playmate has pretty much been resolved, he's learned to share, standing in lines for a short period of time is no longer a "given" that a problem is going to crop up for any number of reasons, he no longer hides under his desk or a table when overwhelmed, etc, etc., etc.

difficult child attended his first party unsupervised by his friend's mom or me on Halloween. As far as I know, everything went well (no reports of problems). Whew/phew!


New Member
Okay, laugh away at me, I certainly won't hear you. This is a real problem at my house, though. Bam is an extrovert. Social skills are his forte. As an infant he was so engaging strangers began joking that he would become president someday. How, you ask, could this possibly be an issue?

He wants his friends to come to play, all day, every day. I try to arrange playdates for him, but you know how difficult it is to get together with people these days. It isn't easy. Plus, if I invite them to my house, he tends to misbehave. It is not exactly polite to phone people to ask them if your child can come over for a few hours. Happily, he does behave well at other's homes. He thrives on new experiences, new people, new places. My biggest challenge is giving him what he craves. husband and I are homebodies and did not expect little mr. personality to pop up on the scene. School has been the lifesaver. I hope he continues to feel that way when he enters kindergarten.