ss social skills (ceph and sweeby pls rd)

mom_of_4April 23, 2010

I would love advice from anyone but I know ceph is dealing with adhd with her ss and sweeby deals with learning issues and the like with her son as well

My ss (soon to be 13 next month) is having a really hard time with his social skills. In general I would say he acts more like my 7 year old then any 10 or 13 year old. When he makes friends in the neighborhood they are always WAY younger than he is and I swear even then sometimes these kids act older then he does.

I have tried several things... I thought for a while that maybe we were just to strict and I needed to give him more freedom but that didnt work...I put him into classes that only consisted of kids his own age but he still only conversed with kids after his class that were significantly younger than he is.

His conversations and questions sometimes sound much like a two year old asking a question and it is oh so frustrating. DH can barely tolerate it anymore and ends up just biting ss's head off and then worrying about why he is playing with kids so much younger.

I talked to ss and asked him why he plays with younger kids and he said he doesnt know. I asked him if he wanted to hang out with kids his own age and he said yes but he didnt know how.

How do you teach someone to hang out with there own age group? I am sort of baffled by it.

My mom suggested that the reason he hangs out with kids so much younger than he is, is that they dont make him feel dumb. With all of his difficulties in school he tends to say fairly ridiculous things... so that sounds like a possible reason....

but he is going to be put back into middle school next year and I am really worried about how he is going to fair. Middle school is a hard time for everyone... I dont want things to be even tougher for him because he doesnt have 13 year old social skills... but rather 7 year old social skills.

any suggestions are appreciated

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I have some experience with this as well. I have known SS30 since he was 14-15. He too was backwards socially, spent time with kids of 7,8,9 while he was an adolescent. He was also diagnosed with ADD (ADHD wasn't a popular diagnosis then) along with other issues with school and so on. DH and BM basically threw their hands up, spent a lot of time criticizing and being frustrated but to my memory, never took a lot of action to help SS through this phase.

DH has since admitted that if he had it to do all over again, he would have engineered more age appropriate activities for SS that would have forced him to socialize with his peers thereby helping him to grow up emotionally in a healthier way. Meaning signing him up for team sports with kids at his age level, Boy Scouts at his age level and the like. They left him to his own social devices and like your SS, he was very backwards socially. Still is. He had many school interventions but DH and BM's denial did not allow them to really tap in to school psychologist recommendations.

I would recommend fewer lectures/talks and more guided direction toward age appropriate activites like sports, clubs, Boy Scouts and the like. There was a girl in our neighborhood who was 4+ years older than DS now 7 who liked to hang out with him, 3 1/2 or 4 at the time, because there were few young kids on our street and because her mother basically did nothing to program this girl's time. She would ring the doorbell or call on the phone almost begging to spend time with us, meaning DS who was almost a baby by comparison at 3 1/2-4 years old. Her grandmother put her in to a few activities, set up playdates with kids her age, she made friends her own age and we barely see her around now which is a lot healthier.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 2:10PM
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I can see why you're concerned...
Some questions before I go too far:

- Has SS ever been evaluated by the school for learning disabilities, or by a team of medical experts for possible developmental issues? Specific things to look for: ADHD, ADD (inattentive type), Autism spectrum issues (it's a very wide spectrum with a hard-to-spot mild end as well as a highly visible severe end)

- Have you ever expressed your concern to his teachers and asked them for their impressions? You may have to ask them very seriously *not* to sugar-coat things, because teachers often try so hard to show how much they love our kids that they won't tell you the truth if it's cold and hard.

- Does SS play on any sports teams? (And is he well coordinated?) Boy Scouts, church groups, other group activities? And if so, how do the other boys treat him.

- How does he do with another same-age boy one on one? Social groups are much harder to navigate, and playing one on one may be more successful.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 6:42PM
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I read your post to DH and he says "Wow... I don't know! And if I did know, I'd be doing it for A__."

We brainstormed a little and we're wondering if SS has any cousins his own age? Sometimes kids have an easier time learning to relate to family members than to kids that they have to "start cold" with.

I know you tried putting him in activities, but does he have any hobbies that he really loves? Whether they are with kids his own age or not, connecting with other people on a particular subject is a good way to build social skills.
My nephew (who is 10 and does pretty well socially) joined a chess club because he thought chess was the coolest thing. He's made some good friends from ages 7 to 14 at it.

DH just offered another really good bit of wisdom: "Social skills are all about trial and error. You continually f*** it up until you start to figure out what works. I know I did lots of stupid stuff as a kid that got me made fun of, but I learned from it and got better at it."
How does your SS learn from other trial and error situations? Does he modify and retry, or does he just make the same mistake over and over? Maybe he could get some help from you after social situations that haven't gone well to say "Well, if you could do it again, what would you do differently" or maybe before social situations as a bit of positive prep work?

Like Sweeby suggested, one-on-one situations might be easier for him. My SS typically does better with only one or two others than with 10 others.
And DH said "It's too bad your SM friends don't live around here, we could all get our oddball kids together and they could grow their social skills as a group!" My SS also does better with kids who are also "kinda weird" - DH figures it's because they are less judgmental about being cool than other kids.

Best of luck!
But I don't think it's something we, as parents and step-parents, can fix for them. It's something that kids have to figure out themselves while we offer support and guidance.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:58PM
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sorry I didnt have internet for a few days so I was unable to respond... Some answers to your questions

SS does have ADD. He has been evaluated by the school and by doctors. He used to play football and though he talks about it now like it was the best thing in the world... at both practice and games he would pay more attention to the car driving down the street then what was going on with the team. He sort of made one friend on the team but watching their interaction, it looked like the other kid was annoyed by ss.

In school last year, several times when I was volunteering or something in school I noticed that he pretty much didnt talk to anyone ... at all. The couple of times I actually did see him talking to other kids... the other kids were picking on him and he was just kind of taking it. ((I've talked to him several times about standing up for himself but it doesnt really sink in))

I also put him in an art class with kids his own age... a local thing sponsored by a church... but still he only plays with the kids significantly younger than he after his class.

I have thought myself several times that he might be a little more than just ADD. He is also extremey emotionally immature for his age, there is almost no connection between cause and effect, and (for lack of a better description) zero common sense.

One on one with other kids he does so so. He is so immature that once his gaurd is down for a minute he says or does something "dorky" or "annoying" and the other kid doesnt want to hang around him or tolerates him until someone else comes along and then ss is kind of left in the dust

There arent any family members his age, really there arent any other kids in the family other then ours. They are the only great grands nieces nephews...etc. I have my younger brothers and cousin. They are all over 18 but he really likes hanging out with them.

He really enjoys music and wants to learn to play the drums. But that is kind of a solitary thing (music classes). I am considering putting him into beginning band camp this summer which is at the middle school he will be going to with kids he will be going to school with next year. I thought this might give him the advantage of getting to know some people before school starts.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 2:26PM
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Is he on ADD medications? Because for some kids, those can really help -- even with social issues.

And is it possible it's Asperger's Syndrome instead? That is often misdiagnosed as ADD.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 3:33PM
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