Problems with social skills in nearly 3 year old

(18 Posts)
RainingPouring Tue 04-Mar-14 14:28:06

Have a post on Special Needs about this at the mo but nobody replied so thought I would ask here to see if anyone has any suggestions...

My nearly 3 year old son's nursery have confirmed that he has problems interacting with other children - he does appear interested in other children but doesn't quite seem able to play properly on their level. He has got better at initiating interactions now (which is good) but he can't seem to sustain it. Eg. he will try and force somebody to take a cup even if they don't want to, or he gets too loud and shouts in their face. I have noticed this myself on playdates.

He has no diagnosed special needs and his speech is probably slightly above average, his understanding and self-care skills are great, eg. toilet trained with no problems. He is affectionate towards us and his baby sister and understands emotions eg. will say if someone in a picture is happy or sad. He has good joint attention.

So I'm wondering has anybody else had this issue with their child which they grew out of? Or is it the beginning of the road to an Asperger's diagnosis or similar? Maybe dyspraxia?

Does anyone have any tips of how to encourage/teach social interaction when it doesn't come naturally to a child? Thanks in advance if you're still reading!

glizzle Tue 04-Mar-14 15:37:32

Hi, he sounds a lot like my son who is a few months younger, and although I struggle with his developing social skills and wish he found it all easier, I think in many cases it is normal. Just like with talking and physical development, socialising is something to be learnt and different children will find it more or less challenging. Like your ds, my son is fab with us, his more extended family and has probably been the best of all his peers in accepting and engaging with his baby sister, he just struggles with the social dynamics of the toddlerhood. And sometimes I can't blame him, for example the other day he was really trying to engage in some football with one of his little friends, who just kept trying to take the ball. As I know him initiating play like this is so rare it was hard to watch. With toy possessiveness still at the forefront, plus all having different language skill levels and social understanding, sometimes I think my little boy choosing to play with a car on his own is very wise!

I am not trying to make light of your situation, and maybe my ds's issues will turn out to have more significance than I hope, but I think there's a bigger chance that he is just working it all out. In the meantime we try and create social situations that ds will enjoy (for us that means more park and football play dates and less ones at our house) with a small group of friends that we can see quite regularly, so he understands how they play and so the familiarity and friendship can build. I'm hoping him seeing how the older children at nursery play will help too. And time.

I hope this helps x

RainingPouring Tue 04-Mar-14 19:26:16

Thanks glizzle for your reply. I do hope he grows out of it too. It's just so hard to find info on how to best help him - anyone any ideas?

HighVoltage Tue 04-Mar-14 21:42:25

Our DS (now 3.9) had issues initiating play/making friends and I role played with him as well as read books with him that were about all different aspects of friendship. This helped a little, he now has two friends he regularly plays with but that took about a year of nursery.

RainingPouring Wed 05-Mar-14 06:28:51

Thanks Highvoltage. Do you have the names of the books at all? When you say role played, do you mean you pretended to be the other child?

confusedofengland Wed 05-Mar-14 09:47:54

I also have a ds of nearly 3 (next month). Nursery have told me that, at this age, predominantly parallel play is completely normal & that so long as ds is trying to join in & is aware of other DC, it is all fine.

beabea81 Wed 05-Mar-14 10:46:17

I think it's entirely normal for a lot of children this age - many of my nearly 3 year old dd's friends are the same & she's had moments like these herself : ) A couple of little boys we know in particular, so I'd say it's just an age thing and try not to worry too much, my dd is v sociable & loves pre school & going to friends houses etc to play, but is TERRIBLE at sharing when they come to our house, she is so possessive with all her toys and it is recently proving a slow & exhausting process trying to teach her about sharing & letting others play with her stuff. But I do think it's just their age & that they will learn & get better eventually! x

ThisIsYourSong Wed 05-Mar-14 10:54:04

You could look at Incredible Years. They run courses and you can buy the book from Amazon which sounds like it would be enough to give you some ideas and guidance. It does have a section on social coaching but it might be more aimed at older children. Great book though and I'd really recommend it.

I'd just echo what the others have said though, they start learning this stuff at 3. So he is just starting out on his journey, you can certainly help him on his way but he's got a lot of learning to do by himself and lots of time to do it in. The leap just from 3 year olds to four year olds is incredible so please don't get too worried about things, just have lots of fun together smile

RainingPouring Wed 05-Mar-14 13:45:37

Thanks everyone. ThisIsYourSong - thanks for the recommendation. I looked at the Incredible Years website but couldn't see any courses in the UK - do you know of any providers? I will take a look at the book too.

ThisIsYourSong Wed 05-Mar-14 18:50:16

They are run independently of the US one. If you google Incredible Years and your city / county etc it will bring up whether there is one in your area.

I can tell you are anxious about this but from what you say, I don't think you would need the course at this stage. Toddler behaviour comes in a very wide range and your DS doesn't sound too bad! Just a lot of modelling, a little bit of gentle direction and some time should help.

But if you do decide to do the course, it is fantastic and will set you up for years to come. It's a big commitment though.

HighVoltage Fri 07-Mar-14 14:00:25

RainingPouring - am so sorry it's taken me so long to reply.

The books I got weren't brilliant to be honest but helped start talking about it:
- Pumpkin Soup
- Clifford makes a friend
- Alexander and the wind-up
Mouse

And for role playing either I would pretend to be at nursery with him or we would each take a dinosaur (or whatever) and we'd pretend to be playing together (we still do it now - usually at bath time with bath toys) saying stuff like "But I don't want to play that." "How about we play your game first then we play your game?" And things like that.

Goldmandra Sat 08-Mar-14 11:17:49

I think it helps to remember that a child can have a developmental delay without having a developmental disorder. My children have AS. It is a disorder and it means that in some areas they are a long way behind their peers, e.g. at the age of 7 Y my DD2's emotional literacy was in line with that of a 2 YO.

Children with AS often have very mature speech, high need for consistent routine, uncontrollable meltdowns, deep interests that dominate their lives, socially inappropriate behaviour, etc which builds a picture of them being quite different from their peers in lots of areas. Your DS sound like he is only struggling with one aspect of social interaction, i.e. cooperative play.

Every child with AS presents in their own individual way so nobody can say your DS doesn't have it but I don't think I'd be concerned about a child in my care behaving in the way you describe. I would just be doing lots of modelling appropriate interaction and explaining the other child's needs and feelings constantly so he can start to understand the impact of his actions on others.

RainingPouring Sat 08-Mar-14 12:37:16

Thank you HighVoltage, I will look up those books. And the role playing is a great idea - I've only just started to realise how different toddler-adult interactions are from toddler-toddler interactions.

Goldmandra - thank you for your thoughts, that's really helpful. It's so hard to tell with my son, since our meeting with nursery I am starting to doubt what is so-called 'normal' nearly 3 year old behaviour and what might be signs of something else. I have only just realised that he does what I think is called 'scripting' or delayed echolalia - quoting chunks of Julia Donaldson books/audio CDs whilst acting out the story. This doesn't get in the way of functional speech but he does do it quite a lot. He also occasionally uses lines from books in as part of his speech in the correct context. I thought it was quite cute and clever but now I realise that it can be a sign of ASD. He also shouts a lot although that may just be him being naughty. I just don't know.

MisForMumNotMaid Sat 08-Mar-14 13:04:16

I'm another with a child on the Autistic spectrum. He's 10. When he was 2.5 playgroup said he was a very different little boy. I have a neuro typical 8 year old and a just turned 3 year old DD who is having social communication issues but has very advanced speech and is learning her numbers, basic sums and first words. Physically she's way behind.

With DD i'm getting her in the system. It may turn out that things are fine and she's just got a slight delay in developing socially. However, the assessment process is a long one and any support that DD can get to ease her transition into nursery and school can't be a bad thing.

With DS1 we were referred to a speech therapist, when he was about 4. I thought it was crazy as his speech was good and appropriate but they helped with emotional language, group working with NT children in the school environment to encourage reciprocal speech, when to pause, when to ask questions and await a response etc. How to play in a group in a way that I just couldn't simulate at home

Where I lived in Wales you went to your GP and they referred to a community paediatrician who referred on to various services. Now i live in England and apparently I go via my Health Visitor so she's doing a home visit for DD to start the ball rolling. Nursery (attached to a school) also referred my son to an educational psychologist which helped getting external support.

I had a bit of a concern about DS getting a label. Any diagnosis doesn't just happen it takes possible 18 months- 2 years. The process can help your child, it did in DS's case, it may lead to a diagnosis it may be that over time these social discrepancies resolve.

Do the nursery have agencies they can refer to to get you extra support?

Have you thought about going the health visitor/ GP route?

Goldmandra Sat 08-Mar-14 13:25:42

I think the most important thing to do is follow your instincts.

I could describe my DD2's behaviour on here in quite a lot of detail and I would have lots of people telling me that it is perfectly normal for a ten year old. She masks a lot of her difficulties and I regularly have TAs, nurses, etc telling me that they don't think she has Autism. She does have it and, in a unit of ten children with ASD, she has by far the biggest support package. I have always known she had these needs but it has taken a lot of work with very skilled professionals for them to be formally recognised.

My point is that it is easy to miss symptoms of ASD and you are the person who knows your child best. If you think there is something wrong it is worth getting it investigated. If you're just worrying that your child isn't doing what the books say but your gut feeling says he will catch up, perhaps a period of watchful waiting is better.

Early intervention is key to supporting children with ASD but it is no disaster if you wait a little while to be sure that your concerns are well founded.

Remember, nobody knows your child better than you do. Have confidence in yourself, follow your instincts, and if that means asking for an assessment, stand your ground and don't allow anyone to fob you off.

adrianna1 Sat 08-Mar-14 15:56:39

The book "More thank just words" is an excellent book. It's for kids who primarily have a social skills delays. It would be great for your DS.

RainingPouring Sun 09-Mar-14 10:22:20

Thank you so much MisFor, and Goldmandra for sharing your experiences. It's so flipping hard to know. We had quite a few concerns about him up till 18 months (slow to sit up, point and to start talking although within normal range just) but then he had a huge developmental leap and caught up with all his peers, to the extent that all our concerns melted away. MisFor - I suppose I am a little concerned about a label as well, mostly as we are fortunate enough to have his name down for a good local independent school (our local state school is not great unfortunately) and I guess they might not accept him if he is diagnosed with special needs? Not sure what the position is on this. But obviously it's more important to get him the help he needs.

Does anyone have any experience of doing ABA without actually having a diagnosis?

adrianna1 - thanks for the recommendation.

Thanks again to everyone who's given advice on the thread - I don't feel I can talk to anyone in RL about this at the moment other than DH.

RainingPouring Mon 10-Mar-14 13:28:33

Bumping to see if anyone has any more thoughts

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