Thursday, January 23, 2014

Training Social Behavior

In talking to my mother today, who is also on the spectrum, I described to her my way of socializing my two boys. We had recently had a visit from my cousin who brought her little girl, also 3, but who was so terrified of people she had temper tantrums if her mother was out of sight. It was a reaction so foreign to me as I have never seen a child act so wild and lost. My boys are very friendly and will often approach complete strangers and ask to be picked up. I have no idea how my cousin is raising her child but from the reports by family members it is a common behavior for the little girl regardless of the situation. 

Being on the spectrum with NT children makes me concerned that I won't adequately socialize my children. Add that I plan to homeschool, I know that it will be all on me to socialize them with no external help from teachers, counselors, or yard duties. I am very challenged with socializing with people. Thankfully, I was in the military and they have very strict etiquette in how you interact with others. They run you through scenario after scenario to make sure you don't embarrass yourself or them with your actions. I've been trying to use some of the same techniques with my boys in an effort for them to appear socialized (fake it til you make it, right?).

I don't know if what I'm doing is any different than what my cousin is doing but I feel it's important to at least document what is currently working for my boys. 

My boys have very little interaction with other children their age, mostly because I'm concerned with hitting and biting and other agressive behaviors. Once they are more under verbal control than physical control, that will probably change. The only time my kids are around other people are at the store, church, holidays, and birthday parties. Once a week I take my boys to my parent's house and so they get that interaction as well. It doesn't seem like much or even enough. Yet, those two boys are not shy and will talk to nearly everyone. 

When I go to the store, especially Walmart where they have the greeters, I tell my boys to say hello and/or wave to the greeter right before we come into view. They sometimes act shy and won't do it but at least one child of mine will do as I ask. When we are leaving, I tell them to say good bye and I hear good bye to every checker all the way out the door, by my boys. 

Sometimes I think others are embarrassed by such behavior and will shush their children in order to not draw attention, but I think it is more appropriate my children interact with people. When else will they learn a skill like making eye contact on purpose and speak kindly to those they do not know? I have a friend who is 6'5" and will refuse to shop where people purposely engage him. He constantly slumps his shoulders to appear smaller. I find this behavior extreemly odd for a man as big as he is, and he is a 2nd degree black belt instructor. The slouching makes him look even bigger and taller. I don't want my boys to be so intimidated by social interaction. I want it to be second nature to them. 

When I know we are having a family event we will be going to, about a week before we go I start running through the names of everyone we will see. My boys have 8, 1st cousins on my husband's side and 4, 1st cousins on my side. The oldest of all the cousins on my husband's side just turned five years old and the oldest on my side will turn 14 this year. It's quite a spectrum of ages, more very little children than anything. This is wonderful for my boys as they have lots of kds their age to play with at family events. I also run through all of the aunt and uncle names. I feel that this gives my boys handles for each person they can hold onto. I even do this for when I take my boys to visit my parents. 

There are other little things but mostly it is verbal run throughs of what we should be doing. Practice, practice, practice. Eventually we will make it. 

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