Our SN area is not a substitute for expert advice. While many Mumsnetters have a specialist knowledge of special needs, if they post here they are posting as members, not experts. There are, however, lots of organisations that can help - some suggestions are listed here. If you've come across an organisation that you've found helpful, please tell us. Go to Special needs chat, Parents with disabilities, SN teens, SN legal, SN education, SN recommendations.

do you think as a society we are too obsessed with social skills?

(63 Posts)
goonIcantakeit Tue 10-Sep-13 10:52:22

Now my son is older (8) with no dx, life is pretty easy. He celebrated his eighth birthday by overcoming his fear of all handdryers except the awful Dyson ones.
The problem is, he swings between periods where he has established friendships on the playground and longer periods where the friend has "broken up" with him, and depends a great deal still on his lovely big brother (10).
When we are in the "broken up" periods, I get down, fearful, anxious about him, terrified that his sibling will lose patience with him, and it hits me right in the solar plexus, just like it used to when he was three and people would speak to him and he didn't understand.

Is it his social skills that are the problem? Or is it my lack of acceptance that's the problem? And if the latter, is that because I was brought up to believe that knowing how to deal with lots of different kinds of people and be socially successful is the be all and end all in life? I was definitely brought up to be ashamed of my older brother because he was a loner at school.

I have also leafed through some of the recent books on introversion, which seem a bit simplistic because you can't divide a whole population into two groups. But sometimes I wonder whether these authors make good points about social skills being excessively valued. I also suspect that introversion is more to do with your sensory profile than these authors mention.

Anyway, please don't flame me, but do wander over if you want to chew the fat and ponder whether it's really so terrible to be alone in the playground or whether perhaps sometimes it's society telling us you should never be alone....

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 11:09:04

I should imagine a lot depends on IF you want to be alone in the playground, doesn't it?

My older ASD brother, didn't want to interact, he had no urge or desire to. He was happiest doing his own thing.

My 9 year old ASD son desperately wanted to interact, desperately wanted to have friends and was not happy most of the time to be excluded and bullied.

PorridgeLover Tue 10-Sep-13 11:30:11

I think you've raised a really interesting topic.
On the one hand, yes, there should be no stigma attached to being a loner, having an obsessive level of interest in a narrow topic, not getting social cues quite right.

On the other, there's DS, who has all of the above but wants to connect and fails.
It distresses him (and me) that he cannot get it right with his friends. He is socially disabled.

But he is of the type that adds huge value to society as a whole....surely the first person to observe the night sky as a aid to navigation was on the ASD spectrum...who else would have the memory or the interest to see the pattern?
What about the often quoted idea that Bill Gates/Steve Jobs etc are the highly visible and valuable faces of HFA?

I think my DS would swap that ability for close friendships sad

Weller Tue 10-Sep-13 12:01:03

There is also a huge difference in a loner who can communicate with society such as job/ housing/ driving lessons than a loner who cannot access the world around them. For the second group social communication and skills are vital.

goonIcantakeit Tue 10-Sep-13 12:09:16

sorry to hear about the bullying claw. Is it continuing or is it better now?

I think that dread of bullying is something we all share.

My son hasn't been bullied yet, but still - is there a part of me who is so scared of him being bullied that I want him to be someone else? Someone with a different sensory/perceptual profile?

I like my own space and I'm at peace with that. Why aren't I at peace with my son liking his own space too?

TheLightPassenger Tue 10-Sep-13 12:09:54

V interesting discussion. I agree with Polter and Claw that much depends on whether a child or adult wants friends and social contact or not. Its a painful experience to want friends and not have the social savvy to make them. The adults I know who are on or close to the spectrum who have intense interests and little desire to conform to superficial norms certainly seem to be reasonably happy.

TheLightPassenger Tue 10-Sep-13 12:12:19

Goon, I think its because we most want to shelter our children from the experiences that most upset us as kids. Ie if our kids have similar traits to us possibly we are particularly sensitive to possible trouble ahead.

TheLightPassenger Tue 10-Sep-13 12:14:32

Btw i have a slightly older child also without a dx. I often ponder whether his self esteem wld be better if he had received the dx.

goonIcantakeit Tue 10-Sep-13 12:22:31

lovely to hear from you TLP. can you guess who I am? (don't write it!). It rhymes with tingle.
You and I are an example of a relationship that flourished without light banter/playground chitchat and indeed perhaps because we were free from that.

re the distinction between those who want to interact and those who don't. My older brother appeared not to want to interact but I read his diaries when I was eleven (sorry bro) so I know the truth........ he really wanted to have a girlfriend and to marry, and I think he could have been quite a good husband in the days of arranged marriages, but he didn't have any idea how to court a girl.....

TheLightPassenger Tue 10-Sep-13 13:12:16

Yes i had my suspicions but was unsure if you wanted to be recognised as it were! I dont think wanting to interact is absolutely all or nothing tho, someone may want a family or partner but be less interested in friends. Or someone may have no interest in any form of out of work socialising with colleagues but enjoy working.

BeeMom Tue 10-Sep-13 13:17:06

I see this in my children. Bee wants desperately to have friends, and she does - but the children who befriend her either do it superficially because they want something she has, or want to be the "boss" - particularly little girls who want to mother her.

DS, on the other hand, is happy with his online connections and gaming buddies. He could definitely be considered a "loner", and will get into a group with like interests and then withdraw as he sees fit. This is how he manages social interaction, and it works for him.

I am definitely like my DS. I have always been a "functional loner" - DH has his friends and social circle, but I am content (and infinitely more comfortable) to keep to myself.

Appropriate social interaction is one thing, and social comfort is something else. I think that the massive emphasis put on "social skills" in ASD confuses the two...

TheLightPassenger Tue 10-Sep-13 13:17:33

Thinking about it is the playground is the flip side to toddler groups or postnatal web groups, in that you are pushed together with people who share only similarish birthdates rather than interests. Ie a forced environment with sensory etc challenges that isnt always conducive to making friends especially for kids with any social communication issues

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Sep-13 13:22:20

One of the reasons that I fought for Indi ss was because of my own experiences. I did not feel as though I fitted in anywhere until I got to uni and started hanging out with grad students and lecturers who were just like me (inadequately socialised with obsessive interests in minutia). Btw changes to higher education bring into academia the need for greater social skills and prioritises non-academic skills in new 'rounded' (ie employable) graduates.

MS SS could never provide DS1 with a similar community of others.

I think we can sometimes forget that DC need to explain their own behaviour to themselves as they get older. In the absence of a physiological explanation, the gap is filled by psychology. I think this results in self-punitive reasoning eg I am stupid rather than I have dyslexia or I am a wimp rather than I have tactile sensitivity. The difficulty in functioning is not addressed practically but becomes a relatively fixed identity or personality trait.

goonIcantakeit Tue 10-Sep-13 13:31:04

"I am definitely like my DS. I have always been a "functional loner" - DH has his friends and social circle, but I am content (and infinitely more comfortable) to keep to myself.

Appropriate social interaction is one thing, and social comfort is something else. I think that the massive emphasis put on "social skills" in ASD confuses the two..."

Taking your last paragraph first, yes, I agree, several different things are being confused when we address the issue of social interactions and it might be worth teasing them out.
Turning to the paragraph above, many of us feel scared of the word "loner", yet here you are happily (I presume!) marred and contributing to society (not least by helping me tease out these distinctions and identify what's DS's problem and what's actually just my problem).

Just as self-identifying "introverts" are in favour at the moment thanks to the recent publications, maybe those of us who "like our own space" should be making that a fashion too! I do think it would help me distinguish real threats (bullying risk/inadequate social skills) from neutral matters, such as liking one's own space.

goonIcantakeit Tue 10-Sep-13 13:32:47

"I think we can sometimes forget that DC need to explain their own behaviour to themselves as they get older. In the absence of a physiological explanation, the gap is filled by psychology. I think this results in self-punitive reasoning eg I am stupid rather than I have dyslexia or I am a wimp rather than I have tactile sensitivity. The difficulty in functioning is not addressed practically but becomes a relatively fixed identity or personality trait."

that is very interesting keeponkeepingon!

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Sep-13 13:40:41

To try and explain myself better - DS1 was not diagnosed (ASD, APD, SPD, SpLD, ADD, anxiety etc) until he was 12. This followed five years of educational failure and a range of other problems.

No diagnosis meant no effective intervention because the emphasis was on parenting and the self-esteem of the child. For example, not asking for help is accepted in DC with a diagnosis of ASD and appropriate measures put in place. For DS1 however, asking for help was an IEP target (that he could not reach) and he was put under increasing pressure (including being kept in when he had been stuck and not asked for help).

BeeMom Tue 10-Sep-13 13:41:14

TLP... You make a crucial point.

Only during school years are we "forced" to interact based on age (and frequently, gender). I had no school friends as a young person - I couldn't relate to them. My "friends" were male members of my Cadet Squadron. When I hit Uni, I socialised with grad and post-grad students. Now, my DH is 9 years older than me, my closest "friends" are 12 years older and 6 years younger than I am.

I have told DS that he only has to get through 3 more years of this - he says it doesn't bug him... he finds "watching people try to act like trendy fools" entertaining.

Honestly... so do I grin

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Sep-13 13:55:26

Interestingly (to me) I was reading a paper on mirror neurones and their role in socialisation that incidentally argued that it is not necessary to graft on a psychological Theory of Mind (will link when not on phone if anyone is interested)

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 14:13:18

Goonicantakeit Bullying is continuous i would say on varying degrees, rather than continuing. Ds is kicked and punched etc as he used to be, however being excluded is a form of bullying. Most children are just not tolerant of differences and as you say society in general.

I like my own space and im at peace with that too, however if I choose to interact I can. Ds doesn't have that choice and it is the cause of much anguish for him. Social skills are not just about interacting, there is also social understanding and actually understanding what is happening and what people mean and the confusion that this can bring. Social communication and being able to hold a back and forth conversation etc, etc.

I would be happy for my ds to choose not to interact, but he doesn't choose, he is forced. I dont want my ds to be someone else, i just want my ds to have that choice.

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 14:13:50

Ds ISNT kicked and punched rather

BeeMom Tue 10-Sep-13 14:27:24

KeepOn When you have a chance, I'd love to see that article - thanks for offering.

claw You are absolutely correct that exclusion is a form of bullying. Sadly, though - the "structured" social skills training that occurs (if you are lucky to access it) is so woefully inadequate at teaching our DCs anything more than the most superficial interaction that if there is a happy medium, I sure haven't found it yet... when they want to interact, but can't find the "way in", it can be SO difficult sad

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Sep-13 14:44:07

onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-5914.2007.00340.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

I'll check if this link works in a mo. If you can't get free access PM your email and I'll send the PDF.

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 14:51:17

Beemom, ds when younger so desperately wanted to interact, join in, have friends etc. The reality is he cant, he doesn't make a very good 'friend', he dominants the conversation, only talks of things which interest him. He is a 'know it all' and rigid with rules and his thinking. He misinterprets social interaction and often feels persecuted by others. He is very intolerant of others.

The difficulty isn't with society or 'norms', the difficulty is with ds. He is forced into isolation most of the time because of his difficulties.

goonIcantakeit Tue 10-Sep-13 14:53:25

sad claw.

exclusion bullying isn't really being alone it's being targetted.....

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Sep-13 15:06:42

Claw - you have perfectly described a number of successful professors I could name (but won't). They have just learned to hide their intolerance and contempt in public forums.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now