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Can anyone help me understand why DS2 can make one friend but not more?

(18 Posts)
lingle Tue 18-Oct-11 15:01:42

I'm just thinking I'd like to understand where DS2 (6.2, resolved receptive language delay+mild sensory+anxiety) is in terms of his development. I'd be really grateful to anyone who will share some thoughts. He has reached a bit of a plateau

DS2 has always had a warm intimate mutually beneficial relationship with DS1 (8, with enough similarities to DS2 that they get each other but with superior social skills and empathy). DS1 thinks of DS2 as his ultimate best friend and vice versa ("lucky you!" say all my parents-of-NT-kids-mates). If it is truly possible to change the pathway of a developing brain, this relationship will be what has done it.

Starting reception at 5.0, I identified a suitable child as his friend - a - son of my friend, that kind of thing. A lovely little boy, child b, also wanted to play with DS2. DS2 described himself as having two friends. I was greedy! I wanted more!

last Christmas, I became aware that he'd selected a new friend, child c and wouldn't play with child a any more. By February the teacher described them as inseparable. They are still very close. The relationship is basically very positive. The reception teacher described them as "completing each other".

DS2 likes to play exclusively with child c. If child c isn't there, he goes off to find his brother. Child b has finally got the message and stopped liking him (good for child b). When child c is there, he feels safe and can join in games with a group and trot off happily to parties. Without child c, he cannot and hangs at the side.

Child c is a bit possessive (once told Ds2 not to go to child b's house) and DS2 reacts passionately to child c's emotions. he will do things like writing letters to child c and posting them.

Ds2 appears to be a good friend to child c, who is a very popular child with good social skills, but with poorer language skills. Their play is very simple compared with how DS2 used to play with child b or how he plays with his brother. DS2 will sometimes look at our games and toys at home and wonder whether child c would like to play with them. He doesn't want to have other friends! His social skills aren't great - but he has had three little NT children want to be his best friend within a year, so they can't be that bad either IYSWIM.

Congratulations if you got this far. I'd be grateful for any thoughts. Is this age appropriate? Or is this typical development for a 4/5 year old and do I just need to accept that his skills will remain a bit behind? How do I find out what is going on here? Should I try to help him move on? If so, how? Might his sensory issues kick in when he has to distinguish many faces and can't just focus on one beloved face?

It's like having a vulnerable teenager in love - he's happy now but I'm just waiting for the heartbreak.



EllenJaneisnotmyname Tue 18-Oct-11 15:10:50

TBH I'd be content with one really good friend at a time, but try to encourage a 'reserve' with a few playdates etc. It could happen that child c moves on from your DS and I'd want to have someone else in reserve. It doesn't matter so much child c's developmental stage, it's just getting those NT interactions going. Your DS can play with his brother at a more advanced level.

I'm a bit biased as my DS2 had one friend in his class full of football crazy boys who also hated football. It was fantastic for my DS for a few years. Then his friend moved away and he had no-one in the class on his wavelength at all. All nice, supportive kids, but my DS didn't 'get' their games.

Ben10WasTheSpawnNowWeLoveLego Tue 18-Oct-11 15:20:13

I'd be happy if DS (also 6) had any friends at all sad

I don't really know what is "normal" for children of this age given our current experience. It sounds like he is very good at forming a very strong relationship which I would see as a very positive thing as most of us in adulthood don't have a whole band of very very close friends, normally one or two with the rest being less so. smile

ThePumpkinofDoomandTotalCha0s Tue 18-Oct-11 15:34:08

I imagine your analysis of this is right, but playing devils advocate, I wonder if it's more that rather than DS2 only wanting one friend full stop there's an availability limit iyswim to the type of child who appeals to your DS2 as a friend, i.e. in terms of the social ability coupled with less complex use of language?

thinking back to my DS at school - I'ld say he does tend to focus on one child at a time with friendships, possibly it is easier to manage one friendship at a time iyswim, but he's a bit of a friendship serial monogamist - so if one child leaves etc, he does find another one to pal up with iyswim....

dolfrog Tue 18-Oct-11 17:40:19


What follows is a generalised description of what may happen with children who have Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which may or may not apply to your DS2.
APD is a listening disability, or not being able to process all that you hear, to help fill in the information gaps children who have APD have to develop alternative compensatory cognitive coping strategies to best guess the missing bits of information.
Most who have APD develop compensatory lipreading skills, body language reading skills, some also mistakenly try to become more sensitive to sound stimuli and can become oversensitive to loud noises, and some hear or process a wider range of sound frequencies.
learning to understand and to be able to respond to alternative communication system when you can not successfully follow speech, means that you need to able to understand the more subtle form of communication used by others which are included in lipreading, and more especially in reading body language. And most have to learn these alternative communication skills on a person by person basis.
This means that most who have APD have a small circle of friends, and they seek out those who best understand and/or match their communication needs. In a group situation APDs tend to be on the outside looking in, and can have problems following group play especially when the rules of the game can change easily and quite quickly usually by word of mouth.

You may also find two articles which APDUK published in APDUK Newsletters No1 and No.2 "Controlling the Chaos" and "The Trouble with Strangers" of some interest.

This may or may not help.

lingle Tue 18-Oct-11 18:35:18

Thank you for those helpful responses.

Ellen- yes, a very pragmatic approach. We do need to have a reserve. I need to steel myself a bit more.... it was really emarrassing one day last term though - he announced that he didn't want to go to child b's house he'd been invited to sad child b's mum was furious with him and child c. so it's really tempting to just count my blessings and not bother.

Ben10 - sad fingers crossed for future friendships for your boy smile

"pumpkin" - as ever, I am intrigued by your devil's advocate take on this. And let's hope DS2 also has the ability to be a serial monogamist when the time comes. He's never been dropped as a friend since starting school - he's more been the dropper- so he may be in for a shock.

Dolfrog - thank you for your post. oh if only I really understood what his SN were now in the way that I used to understand them. It's possible that it's about auditory processing though I doubt it. But something SN in nature is causing this. He told me he didn't want to play with child b any more because "child b is just nice and I don't know how to be nice back". Whereas child c is, apparently, "funny" and he can deal with that.

Maybe I will just have to keep getting it out of him in dribs and drabs waiting till he can tell me exactly how it feels. fingers crossed. thanks again.

coff33pot Tue 18-Oct-11 19:20:14

Could it be down to just plain communication? The reason I am wondering this is this is a interesting thread.

DS has one friend only that he classes as his friend. He lives down the road and hardly ever comes to the house but does every so often. This other child hardly says anything at all or agrees or disagrees in a very quite voice. They charge around here like I dont know what but more alongside iyswim. Same at school, they say hi to each other and charge around alongside about 4 feet apart in the play field.

DS has social and communication issues. He speaks fluently but way too eccentric for others to understand. Some words he comes out with baffle me!

Also he is very wary about who he lets into his world childwise so to speak.

So could it be a case of right now this friend fits into his category of relationships and learning?

Maybe going totally potty here though!

bialystockandbloom Tue 18-Oct-11 20:31:41

<disclaimer: this is just a personal observation about my own ds, and I have had a couple of glasses of wine, but here goes>

I sometimes think children who are quirky/hfa (I know yours isn't btw)/bit shy/not-quite-nt-but-unclassifable seek out those other children who complement them. A sort of instinct for those who 'get' them, but also who might somehow have the skills that they themselves lack.

Or, as totalchaos put it "there's an availability limit iyswim to the type of child who appeals to your DS2 as a friend, i.e. in terms of the social ability coupled with less complex use of language?"

In this light, it's interesting that the boy your son has chosen has poorer language skills but better social skills. Maybe your ds2 instinctively knows he can 'learn' from this boy? My own ds seems to make a beeline for other boys in a similar way.

Also if a child doesn't fit the normal 'boy' mould, then it's understandable they would prefer one or two close friendships, rather than be the centre of a gregarious bunch.

He sounds lovely, and tbh I wouldn't even be worried about this.
But it's nice to see you on the board again smile

lingle Wed 19-Oct-11 11:40:59

"could it be a case of right now this friend fits into his category of relationships and learning?"

"your son has chosen has poorer language skills but better social skills"

thank you, I think you may both be right, and I like the idea of Bialystock's wine smile - I should have popped in last night, instead spent an hour being told (again) I hold my violin all wrong which is why the notes come out wonky.

Do you think that, logically, he simply must be using his relationship with his brother as the model that he is trying to replicate? I mean in the sense that they say girls tend to grow up and seek out men like their dad? (if they like their dad). Both his brother and child c do the lion's share of social initiative-taking when they are together and like physical comedy -and Ds2 appreciates their skill. Whereas with child b, who was gentler, maybe DS2 had to perform at a higher level than he was comfy with.

thank you again. Off to the dreaded harvest festival now - his latest anxiety- tried to make him laugh off the fear this morning by telling him I actually weed on the floor during our harvest festival when I was 6 out of sheer terror.
and on that lovely thought I shall leave you smile

coff33pot Wed 19-Oct-11 12:02:44

Yes he could be using his brother as a role model. I know DS looks upon DD that way. Trouble is the tips he is picking up is through I Carly!! grin

I am laughing at the Harvest Festival story I do hope you managed to contain yourself this time grin

lingle Wed 19-Oct-11 12:29:39

yes, I tried to cheer him up by suggesting I might do it again (and, again, fail to convince people that it wasn't me).

lingle Thu 20-Oct-11 19:53:52

hello again everybody.

well whatdoyaknow....

best friend child c is off with chicken pox, and DS2..... found someone else to play with! same child, two days in a row. I was really pleased.

I told the teacher (it was parents' evening tonight) and she said that this substitute playmate is "another child c" with a very similar language-poor profile.

So ladies, it appears that you were right - DS2 has a "type" of child that he can cope with <dons trilby and feels like a successful Sherlock> smile

coff33pot Thu 20-Oct-11 21:43:17

Elementary my dear Watson!! grin

What useful timing in the midst of gathering evidence!

ThePumpkinofDoomandTotalCha0s Fri 21-Oct-11 14:38:41

ah now that doesn't surprise me at all - that when best friend is unavailable, DS2 suddenly becomes more motivated to find another friend to play with wink

lingle Sun 23-Oct-11 12:12:10

you are smart pumpkin. And this has made me feel more cheerful.

I have a nightmare afternoon coming up though. Ds2 is invited to a little girl's party (first of the term). He doesn't want to go because child c still has chicken-pox and "he only likes boys". But the twist is that the little girl has some SN and I know exactly how much this party means to her mother sad.

Am telling Ds2 he has to go because otherwise the little girl will feel sad. He understands that but still doesn't want to. He's capable of sulking there for a good hour and won't let me leave him.

Thank god for school.

coff33pot Sun 23-Oct-11 12:43:21

I wouldnt normally say this........but for the little girls sake..............bribe him grin

lingle Sun 23-Oct-11 18:03:50

well exactly coffeepot. there are times when it's not just his needs I have to think of.

Party was a big success for the little girl you will be pleased to hear. It was ultra-girlie and DS2 was the only boy there and is a fully paid up member of the gender police - so refused to join in learning the hip-wiggling dances - but restrained himself and sat quietly except when he got to play with hostess' big brother- so got praise and computer-time later. There's a time and a place to enlighten him about gender politics and today wasn't it smile

coff33pot Sun 23-Oct-11 19:29:23

Aww thats great! grin proper little man smile

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