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aibu in not encouraging my ds's interest in chess

(55 Posts)
poopadoop Wed 06-Nov-13 11:51:08

my ds (8) does lots of activities, mainly music and sports. He has a tendency to get very obsessive about things, and concerns have been raised about his communication/social skills - he can concentrate for very long periods of time to the exclusion of all else and is sometimes very uncommunicative. His school have counselled against having him assessed for ASD and I've been advised to just try to help with his social skills - eg role-playing making conversation about subjects other than his current obsession..

Anyway, one of his latest obsessions is chess, which he plays one lunchtime a week in school. He hasn't been playing long but seems to be good at it, partly I think due to his ability to focus! He is keen to do an intensive chess camp (6 hours a day for 5 days) next half term but I'd prefer him to go to a general sports camp with a friend as I think it would be more relaxed and be better for his social skills. His chess teacher who would be running the camp emphasises games should be played in silence.

Anyway, AIBU to not encourage the interest in chess and more specifically in not 'allowing' him go to the camp? He is very upset about it and I'm worried about whether I'm doing the right thing in not letting him do something that he is passionate about but might further entrench his quirks. I'm not trying to fundamentally change his personality, but just maybe help him be less obsessive...

squeakytoy Wed 06-Nov-13 11:54:57

I hated sports when I was a kid. I was no good at it other than swimming. Hated team games and would much rather have preferred to play chess.

I would let him do the chess camp.

Quoteunquote Wed 06-Nov-13 11:55:01

Oh please let him go, he is interested in it, and good at it, it will be such a confidence boost to be successfully a part of something,

Trying to suppress his strenghths is not going to end well, just try to expand them, as well.

Please let him go, he will have a great time.

AgentZigzag Wed 06-Nov-13 11:57:07

Obsessive or just has different interests?

You can't play chess on your own, so he's going to have to interact at the club at some point, and he'll be doing something he's interested in and good at.

There's no way I'd discourage him.

Just because he's not out playing rowdy games or communicating in the way you might expect, that doesn't mean he has to change. Some children prefer quieter thinking pass times than sport.

I'm sure a lot of parents would love it if their DC could concentrate for such a long time, he sounds great to me.

LadyVetinari Wed 06-Nov-13 12:04:54

YABU - balance is a good thing, but it's really important to let children follow their interests. He won't throw himself into the sports club if he's there under duress, whereas he may surprise you at chess club (especially if the teacher can be talked into encouraging socialising during the breaks).

You say he does "lots of activities, mainly music and sports" so it's not as though he spends all of his time holed up in his room or playing chess in silence.

Also, the chess thing could work to his advantage - if he has trouble socialising, I can't imagine a better place for him than a club that he really wants to participate in, and which is full of children with the same (rather niche) interest.

Also - there's nothing wrong with being "obsessive" about certain skills and activities, as long as all of the compulsory stuff gets done. I was obsessive about a certain style of (very technical, theory-heavy, super-fast, and solitary) guitar playing for years, became a guitar teacher at 16, and started going out with my lovely DH through a guitar club at 17. In the process, I learned a lot, built up a great CV, and went from having no social skills to being quite outgoing smile.

poopadoop Wed 06-Nov-13 12:05:30

Ah he IS great, and he does like sports (and music and reading). I suppose its just that he literally cannot stop talking about something once he is into it. And no, not just different interests, he can get so deeply into a particular game or toy that he'll get upset to the point of tears if I try to change the subject. With team sports, I've already had to pull him back a bit from matches as he gets so into it that he often gets injured and has tantrums when his team loses.

specialsubject Wed 06-Nov-13 12:06:48

let him go. He is very interested in something that stretches the mind and needs a high level of intelligence. It's not stupid shoot-em-ups, is it?

not everyone likes or enjoys 'team' sport - especially at school when there is sod-all concept of team anyway.

he sounds very smart. Encourage it, don't stifle it in the attempt to make him the same as everyone else.

AgentZigzag Wed 06-Nov-13 12:10:42

Sorry, I didn't mean that to sound as though I was saying you didn't think he was great smile

I go through phases of immersing myself in different subjects, it's a good way of learning about them. Could the not stopping talking about it/getting upset when his team loses, just be a thing all 8 YOs have to learn?

Having solid interests is a good way of meeting other people you have things in common with, as well as good for thinking about when you're on your own.

Plus, chess is a great game. I haven't played for ages, but I've never got over the fact that I beat my GF once shock

Result! grin

Beastofburden Wed 06-Nov-13 12:12:12

I would let him go. I would have loathed a sports camp at his age. I used to go to music camp.

sunbathe Wed 06-Nov-13 12:14:55

I'd let him go to the chess thing.

You say he does a lot of sport anyway.

SolidGoldBrass Wed 06-Nov-13 12:15:04

Let him go. Let him be his own person. Maybe he doesn't interact much with his classmates because they are thick conformists?

mummymeister Wed 06-Nov-13 12:18:14

poop he is a normal 8 yr old fgs. mine now has an obsession with hunger games. wont stop talking about it, making up his own games, making the lego play them etc. prior to this it was star wars, before that matchattax and so on and so on. go with it. let him go there are parents out there that would be shouting from the rooftops if their kids showed an interest in this hobby. all my kids have completely different hobbies from me. I don't understand them I just take them and support them and so should you. next year it will be something else.

TwoStepsBeyond Wed 06-Nov-13 12:18:26

My DS can be very obsessive too, it's a bit wearing tbh, but if he's interested in something enough to go and spend 5 days doing it, I'd be inclined to let him.

Your DS can do sports and other more sociable things another time. It's great that he is using his brain for recreation so don't discourage him just because it's not something you (or many others!) would enjoy.

poopadoop Wed 06-Nov-13 12:18:52

Thanks for all your replies - I should add he has been to sports camps before and enjoyed them. I think its the idea of the hours and hours of silence and concentration - he had pretty intensive speech therapy when he was younger as his language was very under-developed until he was 6 or so, and getting him just to chit chat is often a real struggle.
But of course I think he is fantastic, just so cerebral and intense that I worry about him forming relaxed and happy relationships.

ReallyTired Wed 06-Nov-13 12:20:09

If he enjoys chess then why not let him go? There is nothing bad about chess and he will have to mix with other people inorder to play chess. If he is good at chess then it will increase his confidence. He may well make friends with like minded people.

I suggest you buy him a couple of books for Christmas.

insanityscratching Wed 06-Nov-13 12:20:26

I'd let him go, my ds played chess for the County and he had a great time travelling around for matches meeting new people.
As for school advising against investigating whether he has an ASD, I think that really is the wrong advice tbh. He's coming up to an age where he will be questioning why he feels different (I can guarantee he will already be asking himself why he has obsessive interests, why friendships are a struggle) and an age when his peers will be less tolerant of his incessant chat and tears and tantrums. Because resources are stretched school may not want to refer to an ed psych if other children have greater needs and maybe they might be pushed to provide more support than they currently do which might make them prefer to push you to address his difficulties which is somewhat unfair if the difficulties are happening in school.
I'd speak to your GP, list his difficulties and give examples of behaviours and ask for a referral to whoever in your area looks for ASD (could be CAMHS/ Child development clinic/ community paediatrician.
When you have a clear picture of where his difficulties lie than you can be ar more successful at addressing them.
ps have two children with ASD

NewtRipley Wed 06-Nov-13 12:20:27

I understand your concern, but you can't change him and nor should you try. There is room in this world for all sorts of people. Allow him to enjoy himself.

Primrose123 Wed 06-Nov-13 12:20:39

I would let him go. I loved gymnastics as a child, but my mum always wanted me to do hockey because that's what she used to like. I hated hockey! I resented her trying to make me do it. I would have much preferred to be encouraged in the hobbies that I liked!

Chess is great, just make sure he still does plenty of sport for exercise.

My DD is friendly with one of the Welsh junior chess champions. He is an extremely clever boy, and admittedly his social skills are not the best, but every summer he travels abroad for competitions with his team, and they make friends and have a great time travelling.

poopadoop Wed 06-Nov-13 12:21:17

mummymeister - I recognise that...ds has now re-named diagonal lines as 'bishops', the letter 'L' as 'knight' and basically is starting to see the whole world in terms of chess.....

NewtRipley Wed 06-Nov-13 12:21:55

I also think that you should explore assessment for ASD if that is what you suspect.

insanityscratching Wed 06-Nov-13 12:23:27

*incessant chat on one subject
*far not ar blush

ICameOnTheJitney Wed 06-Nov-13 12:23:40

Poop please let him go. I have a "quirky" DD who "isn't" on the Autistic spectrum but has many traits. She's very like your son in that she obsessed over new's her gift in my opinion...she masters things. You DS needs to be encouraged to shine and he shines at chess.

NoComet Wed 06-Nov-13 12:24:29

DH has his obsessions and a ridiculous ability to concentrate on and learn everything there is to know about tea topic.

It's infuriating and I frequently tell him to shut up, but his ability to become totally immersed in all things nerdy and technical also pays the bills!

NewtRipley Wed 06-Nov-13 12:24:47

My DS1 is also a bit quirky but I suspect would not reach the threshold for ASD diagnosis

poopadoop Wed 06-Nov-13 12:25:55

insanityscratching - thanks very much. Every year a different teacher brings up the question of his intensity, every year I ask if they think he should be referred, every year I'm told no or that everyone is on a spectrum, and he is just maybe a bit further along than others. He is a very very happy child, and I've been encouraged to see his behaviour as quirky rather than anything else. But you're right about tolerance, he was in floods of tears after school the other day because a kid in his class said chess is boring

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