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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.

TheLightPassenger Tue 10-Sep-13 16:18:52

keepon - spot on. If I had know I had OCD and at the very least AS traits at an earlier age, it probably would have been better for me overall than thinking I was bad or inadequate. I say overall as I suspect there would have been initial anger at not wanting to be different etc. It's for precisely this reason I may need to look at the private DX route for DS further down the line. Though he may "only" meet the criteria for social communication problems rather than ASD.

sorry claw, I haven't been deliberately ignoring you. I suppose my gut feeling is to say re:your son - but that's so unfair - it's not like he's bullying the other kids or insulting them or mugging them for their pocket money - that dominating conversation/rigidity isn't that bad a trait - but then I am probably so close to the spectrum/such a people pleaser that I can't really vouch for my opinion as representing any form of normality!

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 16:36:16

Goon ds is excluded because he doesn't make a good friend, its not the other childrens fault, its not ds's fault. Children do not want to play with children who don't make good friends.

Ds is targeted, he is excluded from play because of his difficulties or taken advantage of and I think that is the difference from being forced or choosing to not interact.

Now days ds is choosing not to interact more and more, not really a true choice, if you didn't have the choice to start with.

Keep Do you think our kids will ever enjoy social interaction or just tolerate it in future?

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 16:56:26

TLP, ds has his dogs, who he regards at his 'best friends' and gets a lot of enjoyment from their company. He has far more empathy for animals, they are far less complicated!

Anyhow enough about ds, im taking over the thread blush

I suppose the difference is having good social skills but no desire to actually use them, which is fine or having limited social skills resulting in a desire to not interact. If social skills were improved would there be a desire to use them and interact?

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Sep-13 17:06:46

Trouble is that limited social skills do not always result in a lack of desire or motivation to interact. This is what is so painful to observehmm

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 17:22:03

Yep agree totally Keep, ds used to be like, not so much now, but it might return now he is back in school.

so we have

1. Having good social skills but no desire to actually use them.
2. Having limited social skills, a desire to use them, but failing.
3. Having limited social skills but no desire to actually use them.

I think 1 is a choice, 2 and 3 are not.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Tue 10-Sep-13 17:32:24

Perhaps what you are suggesting is that options 2 and 3 result from neurological difference/deficit whereas option 1 does not. Where is the dividing line? Is the dividing line physiological or biological or social?

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 17:48:08

Not necessarily, im thinking more about having a true choice and being happy with that choice.

HisMum4now Tue 10-Sep-13 17:56:18

^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.^

Claw, have you ever considered how did you come to the certainties you assert above? Were you born with them? Would any of the above make sense to you if you grew up in the society dominated by aspies where compliant accommodating feeling types would be a minority?

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 19:27:44

Just my opinion, based on my observations of ds. My point being ds would love to interact, he just isn't able to, whether that be in a world dominated by aspies or not.

HisMum4now Tue 10-Sep-13 20:01:56

But surely Claw, you were not born with the opinions of what is or isn't a good friend or what is evidence of inability to interact.

I thought babies form their opinions through their particular path of socialisation. They receive these ideas from their environment and confirmed them through their experience of growing in the society which you describe as intolerant and bullying towards those that are different, like your DS.

What if peers were friendly, tolerant and patient and interacted with your DS, as if he was normal, listen to him, tell him that they would like him to listen to their preferred topics etc. If peers made your DS feel welcome and safe, wouldn't he develop better interaction skills over time and become a very good friend with a select group of discerning peers?

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 20:26:33

Not born with these opinions no, i was raised with a brother with autism, if that makes a difference to my opinions or not.

If peers were as you describe, more like adults really, then ds would probably still be intolerant of them, as he is with his older brothers etc who treat him in a way you describe.

I really doubt that ds would pick up skills just by being around other tolerant children. I am of the opinion that ds needs to be directly taught these skills and this is kind of what the discussion is about really, should we bother or just be accepting of the lack of social skills.

As I said earlier social skills involve a lot more than just interaction, social understanding being one, ds just doesn't understand social interaction or doesn't get what others mean, no matter how nice it might be, he misinterprets social situations and feels persecuted.

goonIcantakeit Tue 10-Sep-13 20:29:20

"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"

so Beemum, he isn't lonely because he has you and you understand and like each other?

hoxtonbabe Tue 10-Sep-13 21:00:00

This is really interesting as it is an eyeopener for me. When he was younger he didn't make friends so easily as his behavior wasn't what one would call appropriate so only played with the boys that were similar to him which meant years of him getting into trouble (school etc just put it down to his language issues, I now know its probably not that now..all 10 years on) when he got towards the end of primary, he got a bit better, he started to join in the football and music club at school, secondary school, he now has hardly any interest in interacting with people, he was described by an SLT as not being anti-social, but equally he doesn't like to socialise and has social communication difficulties, he has his limited interest and as some others have said here, he has his little online buddies that are all linked back to his limited interest, but to meet up with someone, Pah! I can only hope.

He has only been invited to 2 birthday parties since age 11, and he didn't want to attend, he tolerates his classmates, he doesn't ask for help (I read that on the first page, whats all that about as the teachers at school are constantly moaning about this..is this a common ASD trait??)

But with all that said he seems content to be in his own little bubble, its super stressful at home as hes always there iyswim, but what can I do? I cant force him out the house, and I have encouraged him till the cows come home and hes having none of it.

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:15:01

It is interesting discussion Hoxton isn't it, maybe my opinion will change as ds gets older. He is 9 at the moment.

Social interaction has a lot to answer for with ds, he desperately wants to interact. However his confusion about social interaction, social understanding etc, is responsible for his self harming. Its responsible for his subsequent mental breakdown and emergency A&E mental health assessment and suicidal thoughts. Its responsible for him not being able to attend school for over a year.

At the moment ds has just started specialist school and im still in fighting mode, I am determined to try and improve his social skills, so his life doesn't continue this way. For me it has to be worth a try.

hoxtonbabe Tue 10-Sep-13 21:37:05

Oh dear Claw :-(

I hope the new school can help as this must be a lot for you to deal with..

claw2 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:42:48

Thanks Hoxton, so do I.

AgnesDiPesto Tue 10-Sep-13 22:01:35

Really interesting thread. Ds (6) is the passive perfectly content on his own type. He has had good social skills intervention and it has made a difference to how he interacts with me, DH and ABA staff, but no real difference with his brothers or other children (although he is more tolerant it hasn't moved on to genuine interest).
I honestly dont know if DS will ever 'need' friends in the sense NT's understand. He is very happy for now without them. However I do think he will be very vulnerable (so needs his brothers / others to look out for him, so it would help if he liked them more) and his mental health will likely be better if he is able to have genuinely affectionate relationships. I do hope it will keep developing.
I do think as a society we are increasingly obsessed with social skills. I am especially fed up with hearing David Cameron etc bang on about how to be employable these days you need good social skills, language skills etc etc and think many jobs which don't require much in terms of social interaction are insisting applicants jump through social hoops at interviews which are probably unnecessary and make it even harder for those on the spectrum to get jobs.
On the positive side I think with the internet, texting etc etc that in some ways there are more ways to interact these days other than face to face / phone etc. and that may appeal to DS more.
It is interesting to wonder what it would be like if NT were the minority. The NT way of filling every gap or silence with meaningless banter is in many ways more odd than DS who is happy to be quiet until there is a pressing need to say something. Is his being a loner any worse than me being terribly needy?

goonIcantakeit Wed 11-Sep-13 12:39:58

"Is his being a loner any worse than me being terribly needy?"

I suspect not Agnes...

goonIcantakeit Wed 11-Sep-13 12:44:51

"im still in fighting mode"

that brings back memories.... good luck.

sophj100 Wed 11-Sep-13 13:57:37

Great topic goonIcantakeit. Being sociable is deemed as the 'norm' and not wishing to socialise as a negative (anti-social). Like anything, it must be bespoke for each individual and depend on a lot of factors. Anyone with problems relating in a social situation, does not necessarily wish they could. Being on your own, does not make you lonely, if you are happy. As an adult, we can pick or choose when we want to be alone but as a child, particularly in a school environment, it is deemed 'ab-normal' not to do so.

My eldest, 6 year old (ASD) and in Year 2 has moments of wanting both to join in and to be alone and he should be able to choose when to do so, particularly in a play scenario. He struggles to understand how his 'friend' can be someone else's friend too and feels betrayed if they don't want to play with him. Equally, my 4 year old (ASD) and just started Reception always wants to join in but he has behavioural issues which mean he tends to lash out, his form of address when words fail him but this is misunderstood as aggression or unfriendliness. He then gets frustrated that they don't understand him. He has no friends in particular, he just throws himself into the arena!

I agree, we do seem to associate success with being surrounded by an entourage of friends. Facebook shows how many friends each person has, like a badge of achievement.

I feel too much emphasis has been put on being sociable as a pre-requisite to success. So many successful adults in a variety of fields, prefer the solitude to focus on their area of expertise. On a basic level, I think a child's success has to be that he is loved and supported, with acceptance for their individuality.

Wow, this is such a good topic and I better stop now as it takes a lot of thought and not sure I've even explained my thought process clearly!

goonIcantakeit Wed 11-Sep-13 14:07:18

smile at soph.

The need to pretend to be sociable at all costs can damage a lot of people I think.

I think it can lead to you actually disliking people and yourself.

HisMum4now Wed 11-Sep-13 20:40:38

fed up with hearing David Cameron etc bang on about how to be employable these days you need good social skills, language skills etc etc and think many jobs which don't require much in terms of social interaction are insisting applicants jump through social hoops at interviews which are probably unnecessary and make it even harder for those on the spectrum to get jobs.

we do seem to associate success with being surrounded by an entourage of friends. Facebook shows how many friends each person has, like a badge of achievement.

Is there an increasing pressure from the society on social skills which marginalizes people on the spectrum more than ever? How can people on the spectrum fight back survive and thrive in this environment?

sophj100 Wed 11-Sep-13 22:16:22

Funnily enough, after my 4 year old's diagnosis in July, I had a good chat with the Paediatrician on the very subject of people on the spectrum and how those with such focussed attention and repetitive behaviour, meant they would prove successful in certain areas of industry - even sought after.

I agreed, as my mind at the time was keen to see the diagnosis in a positive light (unlike when my eldest was diagnosed), focussing on his abilities, rather than his 'dis-ability'. It sent me away feeling hope that those on the spectrum have a very real potential to succeed in certain areas of the workforce which requires their special insight.

I try to believe there is room for all varieties of social skills in society who can rub along together. If I look at my friends and 'nit-pick', I'm sure I could find those who don't always act appropriately - too chatty, too quiet, abrupt, grumpy etc., and yet as adults we accept these foibles. I guess we can only reinforce our children's feelings of self-worth by assuring they know they are loved & cherished and lead by example. Let's turn it on its head and instead of our children adjusting to the environment - let the environment adjust to our children, for a change! smile

HisMum4now Wed 11-Sep-13 23:52:54

instead of our children adjusting to the environment - let the environment adjust to our children Thanks for putting it so well, Sophj

Is it turning things on the head though? People on the spectrum always existed and contributed to society mostly by being themselves, the way they were. I am less and less sure whether people on the spectrum can actually adjust a great deal, more like just on the margin, to the extent they can learn and develop. Autistic people do not evolve into not being autistic. They just cope better.

If you apply the concept of equality to gays, women or wheel chair users, would you say they are required to adjust? The requirement for gays or even wheel chair users to adjust would be seen as discrimination. I don't think of women as adjusting to the male dominated environment, but rather as taking our rightful place.

I would say let the environment adjust to our children or maybe let the environment respect and acknowledge the rightful place of our children. Autistic people belong here.

sophj100 Thu 12-Sep-13 08:28:26

Much more succinctly put HisMum4now it is more about respect and being acknowledged, rather than total adjustment. We don't ask for more for them, just an equal amount. smile

HisMum4now Thu 12-Sep-13 09:51:37

Just an equal amount smile

Spiraling Thu 12-Sep-13 11:25:48

This is an interesting subject. I have spent most my life (over 40 now) being a loner and not though choice. I can relate to everything you have said claw about yous ds, and I feel similary, I would like friends but really do not process the skills to achieve this.

School was a nightmare my dog was my best friend, was dx with dyslexia in 80's, but I have now applied for as asd assessment. Went to uni to do engineering, ended staying nearly 20 year (as commented it changing and the demands that you be a social networker rather than an interested introvert is not good).

Finally felt ok, and contented enough for me to stop hating myself, took up running, swimming, found a husband, 2 kids (one asd other nt). But with the whole school thing back and not working, feel inadequate again, as make no connections, struggle so much and feel lonely again, back to depression. As I do not fit into this aspect of society and they are not willing to tolerate awkward interactions. I like helping, but now contribute in other ways, school garden, the cakes, homemade stuff.

Agnesdipesto my mum is very happy with her own company, and never pursues contact. She is incredability active with her interests, mainly self taught and has ended up in demand for her skills. She says she has more than enough friends that genuinely care for her, oh and her 5 kids.

So I am trying to learn to be a a contented loner, with allotments, sewing, excercise, a house etc.

I have a twin sister, our interests are the same, the outcomes very different, I use to think she was a social whirlwind, but now I know it is because she is NT. I only really feel at ease in her company, shame the Irish Sea separates us.

Ds1 has to be taught everything in a hands on way and I know this will apply for social situations and am trying to get the school to address this but failing. I find it fascinating how easily ds2 just seems to get things and goes with the flow of life. A local school did a lesson a week on a variety of disabilities, covering the range in the class, I think it really made a difference. Awareness and knowledge is everything and keeping it quiet as society does only enhances the gap.

goonIcantakeit Thu 12-Sep-13 11:50:20

Spiraling - I've said it before and I'll say it again. I've read so many empathetic, thoughtful, responsive posts on this board by people who say they have poor social skills and who also may have ASD.

One interesting question for those of us who are a bit "trait-y" or even have a dx. If life was conducted via internet forums, would you still consider yourself to have poor social skills? Or might you consider yourself to have excellent social skills?

It's fascinating to read the tactless, all-about-me, non-empathetic posts that you see elsewhere on the mumsnet boards and to reflect that those posters may come across as quite socially skilled in their face-to-face life.

Of course, there are degrees: My brother now comes across as empathetic, responsive and socially skilled on the radio (yes really! BBC and everything!) because he gets to broadcast on his specialist topic. None of the people who post positive messages on the related forums would ever guess his history or his challenges, which are many even now.

goonIcantakeit Thu 12-Sep-13 11:55:21

May I ask another question?

I was doing some work at the school the other day at playtime. Glancing out, I see DS2 in the middle of the playground all alone watching. Cue the usual visceral reaction.

Then a child he likes approached him, held out his hand to shake and started some kind of clapping game. DS2 joined in (yeah!).

I said to DS2 that evening, "I saw you with d in the playground". He said, "yes, I didn't know what game he was trying to play".

I am right to be hopeful that DS2 trusted D enough to join in even though he didn't understand the game? In which case, does that mean it was ok to stand in the middle and avoid the games he didn't like?

devilinside Thu 12-Sep-13 12:06:09

Interesting isn't it. A woman at the school gates talks continuously about herself, never listens and talks over you. Yet she is always surrounded by groupies. (I have noticed a similar pattern on Mumsnet) I as an AS adult, steer clear, but I notice, many people cluster around them. Is it because they are looking for a charismatic leader who is not very empathetic. Are some NTs unable to function without a leader? (not knocking NTs, but am interested why so many of them cluster around these queen bee types)

Spiraling Thu 12-Sep-13 12:13:28

Better social skiils, i think the internet forums are a life line for many, as the internet is in general, i can email easier than spending days gearing to make a phone call. Many asds are empathic, but just do not appear to be.

I believe it is the speed of response in a conversation is the problem, writing in your own time, check the meaning is correct is far better. If having a conversation, I struggle so much, cannot follow it and read the body language and details due to other things going on around me. Also being able to bring a smile, humour into a conservation is important and get jokes, to much to handle, panic, overload then shut down.

My dad is an aspie, applauded around the world, and teaching a generation of aspiring geologists, yes his chosen subject. At home, well, let be content with saying at least he many 6months a year abroad, could not cope with demands family life brings. In the right environment you really can flourish, but takes a lot of work and good people around you. My mum happen to love him totally for all his strengths and scooped up the weakness. Sadly he will never know. He remarried 2 days after the divorce and his 2nd wife handles him well, abate without 5 kids in tow.

goonIcantakeit Thu 12-Sep-13 12:42:47

"I believe it is the speed of response in a conversation is the problem"

Absolutely. I think we overlook this from day one. "Say less, Stress, Go Slow" says the good book.....

I'm a bit of a pro on the telephone myself. But there is of course a very narrow focus with no body language.

I cannot take notes of meetings very well, and am often astonished by people who have concluded a to-do list whilst talking and listening too. In fact, this conversation has inspired me to start recording my meetings which would eliminate something I have come to think of as a disadvantage.

PolterGoose Thu 12-Sep-13 16:05:12

This is all very interesting. Like many it wasn't until ds got his dx that I had my lightbulb moment and realised perhaps why I've always struggled socially...

The problem for me is that so much emphasis is placed on the pretty much superficial social chit chat that seems so important to so many people. I've never been able to perform socially in that way. But at the same time my 'career' is dependent on effective communication, empathy and responding to the needs of others. I've found that many NT people are very good at the superficial stuff but crap at anything with any meaning... probably not articulating well but 'social skills' in my view is often taken to mean being social and chatty when actually it isn't, it's more than that.

TheLightPassenger Thu 12-Sep-13 16:34:58

Goon - re the playground example - I honestly don't know. As the logical answer is - why should your DS join in a game he doesn't like. Whereas the social conformist what will the neighbours think answer is - either your DS should join in or be more discreet in doing something else so as not to stand out. So I suppose in as much as there can be a right answer, it will be somewhere in the middle.

Devil - not so much now, but in the past I have gravitated towards noisy seemingly confident people, as it sort of fills in the gap in the conversations more easily

Polter - interesting point re:social skills. Despite being massively socially awkward, I am frequently asked for directions etc by people, so I obviously give off some sort of approachable or reasonable pleasant vibes....

sophj100 Fri 13-Sep-13 13:36:06

Like most mums when faced with hearing a diagnosis of being on the autistic spectrum, I not worried for the future but instinctively looked at the cause. With so many anomalies, myths, variations & unknowns from inherited gene to diet-related, I couldn't help but dissect my own skills, to see if indeed I was the cause. Not to associate 'blame' but to be pro-active in understanding this 'uninvited visitor'.

PolterGoose I had a similar 'lightbulb' moment whilst listening to the Paediatrician give the diagnosis on my 4 year old this July. she had a wry smile as I read my lists and scribblings in my notebook, and I looked up, giggling nervously, to say that maybe I was a little bit on the spectrum myself....she didn't agree or disagree!

I am not naturally comfortable in social situations and it's not shyness but I've never been able to explain why. I don't find the 'chit-chat' easy & certain venues leave me claustrophobic. I like my own company and often prefer it, to attending a social gathering.

I run a de-clutter company and love creating organisation from chaos and whereas I don't try to match my children's issues, there is definitely some overlapping. Interesting new topic for debate? I think so....

goonIcantakeit Fri 13-Sep-13 14:32:08

I think so too soph....

Well, I'm really glad for this thread because this week we have:
- dropped tennis lessons (ie me accepting that it is ok to stop without making a fuss)

- started team dodgeball sessions which he loved and came back very excited because he had shared out a pack of sweets....

- joined the school orchestra which he loved and which would have been impossible even a year ago....

- been totally alone right in the middle of the playground again - I greeted him and he happily greeted me back and told me about something that morning

- apparently been invited to someone's house (this qualifies for a whoo-hoo in my household....) - I'll believe it when the mother says it!

- most significantly for this thread, attempted cubs again, and come home a bit teary because "the teacher talked really fast and I didn't understand"....

Has DS2 been reading this thread do you think? smile ? smile

Anyway, you are all really helping me here, because when I saw him in the playground alone again, my stomach remained in place and I was open to the possibility that he was neither unhappy nor antisocial but merely interested in watching what was going on. I'm not saying that was definitely the case but I feel healthier as a mother for having been open to that possibility..... IYSWIM......

MadameSin Fri 13-Sep-13 16:57:49

Sorry, haven't got time to read whole thread but in short ... yes we are, but for good reason. Socially life is tougher than it's ever been. Our expectations of one another are very high and it's become a never ending circle of competition. We measure each other by financial and academic success. We tend not to look inside the person iyswim. We are a shallow society and as the world becomes a smaller place, we enter into transitional relationships where quick judgements are made on a brief enounter with another. It's such a shame out children are not accepted for who and not what they are. I think this high expectation of social awareness and standards is quite British. Many other countries in Europe take a very different approach to social skills.

goonIcantakeit Fri 13-Sep-13 18:24:39

"We measure each other by financial and academic success"

It seems to be more by height, charm, aggression and charisma from where I stand. In all of which DS2 is rather lacking....... smile. But I love him smile

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