Advanced search

Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.

How to handle DD's ?HFA friend

(25 Posts)
UrbanSpaceMum Wed 17-Apr-13 12:06:58

I can see on here there are a few threads about autistic kids and their friends. I'm looking for ideas how to handle this situtuation.

My 5 yo daughter's best friend (also aged 5) is very difficult to deal with. She is intellectually very able and socially "active but odd". Her speech can be fluent, but she is usually giggling and repeating words or phrases over and over, making rude gestures and screaming. She seems fixated on being naughty eg repeating swearwords for over twenty minutes instead of playing like other children do. Her parents are well aware and have told me about some major steps they have taken to modify her behaviour. They have not said she has been diagnosed.

My daughter loves her friend, and tends to take on some of her gestures and sayings. I keep finding myself telling her "stop copying T". When they are together, my daughter does not challenge her friend's odd behaviour but accepts it and joins in. I think the parents think my daughter is not good for their child, while at the same time being glad their daughter does have at least one friend. (T has been explicitly excluded by other children in their class and other parents have commented on her difficult behaviour.) The parents have rather embarrassedly mentioned that the pair of them together have sometimes been extremely naughty at their house.

I'd like to talk to them about managing the girls' behaviour together, and having a "zero-tolerance" rule where the friends have alternating playdates once a week, but either one gets sent home immediately for any misdemeanour at all eg the first swearword. I'm sure that with a strong supportive structure, both these little girls could grow up into lovely young women. Right now, we don't have the structure in place though.

If you are a parent of a similar child, what would you wish I would do in the circumstances? Is there any way someone could approach you that you would find helpful, or would you prefer no approach however kindly intended?

Goblinchild Wed 17-Apr-13 12:12:26

Ummm I think that if you want to do a playdate, then you should invite the girl's mother too and let her deal with her child.
You don't know enough about either the girl as an individual on the spectrum, or the autistic spectrum in general at the moment, and your comments rather demonstrate that.
Are the parents pushing for a dx? Have you read any literature, either from the NAS or Tony Attwood about the condition?
You seem to think all she needs is a firm hand and guidelines. hmm

zzzzz Wed 17-Apr-13 12:13:37

Do they think your child is the root of the swearing?

Why do you think the child is autistic?

TooBloodyFedUpForWords Wed 17-Apr-13 12:28:37

To be fair to the OP I think she is acknowledging that she doesn't know how to deal with this. Go a bit careful with the mum, she may be in denial. Maybe suggest you go out together with the girls and chat and see how the land lies. I have a 5 year old wit ASD but I wouldn't dream of sending him on a play date unaccompanied. I not tell peeps about his dx in general, but I do if they come to our house but it can still be difficult because although most parents will say oh don't worry if his behaviour is off, I can usually tell that they do mind!

UrbanSpaceMum Wed 17-Apr-13 12:31:54

Wow, that was a quick response.

I've known the child for three years. She's had around 400 playdates at my house or in the park. We've had quite a few playdates where either parent or the nanny was present, or I stayed at the friend's house.

I have read Tony Attwood's "Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome" cover to cover, at least twice, plus about a dozen other books, possibly more, on autism spectrum. I have considerable personal experience dealing with autism. I don't think diagnoses are helpful and they can be harmful, and I'm not aware of any effective treatment for autism other than a highly structured supportive environment.

zzzzz Wed 17-Apr-13 12:38:08

Why don't you think dx is helpful? hmm
Do you think that about all dx or just neurological ones?

Have you tried structuring the play dates?
Does the child find it easier with more adult support?

Does the child's mother think she has ASD too?

The bottom line is you are reinforcing the poor behaviour if you don't address it. I'm finding it hard to understand what information you are looking for.

TooBloodyFedUpForWords Wed 17-Apr-13 12:39:41

Hi my older son has a young lady in his class with a DS dx. In the very early days she had some inappropriate and challenging behaviours. My son was fascinated by this and copied many of them. I think at that age he just thought how much FUN she was! I was pretty laid back about it and felt that as he got older he would recognise the differences, which he does now and he is very kind and supportive of her. I do know that some parents complained though, horrible peeps IMO. I had no idea at that stage that my younger son had ASD, but I think it was a good learning curve for my older son and he is a fantastic big bro. I do also wonder how many parents have complained about my younger son :-(

TooBloodyFedUpForWords Wed 17-Apr-13 12:44:29

Ps sorry I digressed a bit. The trouble is, you might come across a bit too much if you wade in with strategies, what if the mum doesn't even know? Tricky. By the way, I think diagnosis is hugely helpful, but you can't really tell the mum to get a dx or not - it's her call. I have a friend with son same age as my lo, i think he is ASD, not affected as much as my lo but she is defo in denial and actually refers to my son's weaknesses as evidence that her son is okay. It's not my place to challenge it, but it is frustrating, I don't want to see her get into greater probs as he grows.

Goblinchild Wed 17-Apr-13 12:45:11

A highly structured environment tailored to the individual child's needs and attempts to minimise the triggers that stress the child, yes. Very helpful.
However that wasn't the impression I got from your first post, and I apologise if that is what you intended to mean.

Sunnymeg Wed 17-Apr-13 12:50:40

I would definitely invite the mum to come as well, but put it more as an invite for her to have a coffee and a cake whilst the children play. If the child is as difficult as you say, then Mum might be glad of the break as well. Also she is more likely to open up in an informal situation.

cansu Wed 17-Apr-13 13:05:49

Given that you don't know that she does have HFA, I would approach the parents and say that you are concerned about the naughty or difficult behaviour of both girls and ask what their take is. They may tell you that their dd has HFA at that point. If they aren't interested in enforcing any rules then you will need to decide what you are prepared to put up with and go from there. If you decide that any swearing will result in the play date ending then that's fine. Communicate this to both girls and then enforce it. If you suspect that this is not achievable for your dd friend then you will need to think about what is reasonable. what do you do now when the girls swear? Do you say then that it isn't acceptable? Do you give them a warning? I am guessing they don't swear in class or do they?

coppertop Wed 17-Apr-13 13:17:14

Tbh I think the best thing you could do is forget about the other girl's behaviours and work with your dd on what to do if her friend does/says XYZ.

The girl might be saying these things because she likes the reactions she gets from those around her, or it might be that she says them because it's a compulsion, or something else entirely. If your dd eventually learns to not join in and go off and do something else instead, it may be easier. If the girl no longer gets a particular reaction, the swearing may lose its appeal. If it's something she can't control, she will be able to get on with it without an audience.

I'm not sure there's much else you can do really.

UrbanSpaceMum Wed 17-Apr-13 13:19:45

Thanks, TooBloodyFedUpForWords. My daughter isn't entirely neurotypical either, and I think that's why they tend to be more extreme when they are together.

Sunnymeg, that's a good plan. Actually from what the mother has said to me I think she's bursting to talk about it. A couple of times she's told me all about it in the school playground. I've been the one to hold back really, because I dread saying the wrong thing - I was born with my foot in my mouth. I'd hate to come across as "complaining" like FedUp describes.

Goblinchild, I try to talk in terms of concrete actions. It might come across as incomplete, but that's where as I say the "supportive environment" comes in.

Inappropriatelyemployed Wed 17-Apr-13 13:28:04

You don't know that she has autism and seem to be blaming the other child for all the 'naughty' behaviour.

Firstly, they are 5! I think it is a tad early to consider what lovely young women they might become. Don't get ahead of yourself. Sort out what you can sort out - your environment.

Yes, structure and boundaries are important but they are for all chidren - there is nothing specific about autism there. And you can't set these boundaries for another person's environment. This is not a matter of advising on autism but of interfering with someone else's right to parent however they want.

Control your environment. Keep them in your view. Set them task rather than unstructured play. Limit the visit in time to an hour or so. Many children at 5 can't cope with being left to it socially and things deteriorate rapidly when visits go on endlessly.

Advise the other parent what you are doing and you could suggest that they do the same in terms of length of visit etc

But I don't see talking about the other child's possible autism is any business of yours.

UrbanSpaceMum Wed 17-Apr-13 13:32:42

cansu if either of the girls swear etc I tell them to stop, and distract them with eg questions about their day, suggestion for an activity. My daughter stops swearing and is easily redirected. Her friend carries on.

coppertop that is the strategy I have been following. The trouble is the friend's behaviour is so often almost continuously unacceptable that the consequence would be my daughter would not play with her - like the other 28 kids in the class. That seems cruel, and I don't believe kids should have to deal with this by themselves.

insanityscratching Wed 17-Apr-13 14:09:12

I'd echo what Inapporopriately says you sort out your end and your rules and consequences for your child. Keep visits short and structured, demonstrate appropriate behaviour to your dd and advise what she should be doing as I would imagine your child's friend's parents will be doing with her.
It's perfectly acceptable to say in this house we don't say those words maybe we could say fiddlesticks (or some equally ridiculous word) instead. Usually the dafter and louder the better but zero tolerance is going to inflame the situation all round IME.

Dinkysmummy Wed 17-Apr-13 14:15:13

Can you not find a day when the kids are at school and have a coffee?
Let her talk about what she is bursting to talk about and be there as a friend.

It took a friend whose daughter is 5 the same age as my daughter to talk some sense into me and pull me out of denial and get me to the point of approaching the GP and asking for their help where she is concerned.

My daughter is generally shunned because she shouts in the children's faces and won't let them make decisions in her games and her behaviour is (in the 'pc' words of teachers and friends) challenging.

Just tread carefully. You may have known her for 3 years but this is her child, her baby and any (however true) observations may be seen as critical as the protective instinct where our children are concerned sometimes overrules logic.

I am however intrigued as to why you don't think a dx is helpful

zzzzz Wed 17-Apr-13 14:45:47

I'm not sure letting her behave like this s really any better than not playing at all. You are after all not modelling acceptable behaviour, so she is having the negetive behaviour reinforced.

As so,done has said up thread, even nt 5 year olds require quite prescriptive supervision, surely with 2 non nt children you would expect o be providing more 1to1 support? hmm

When you say you are anti dx does this mean that actually neither child has been seen by a peadiatrician? If you think there are neurological differences in your child why would you not get appropriate assessment?

MareeyaDolores Wed 17-Apr-13 15:01:59

DS1 (asd and adhd) has a friend who nearly got diagnosed with ASD at the same time, but his parents felt 'not enough impact on daily life' to qualify, and CAMHS left him with an open appointment if that changed.

What worked for us was talking about our problems, saying what we were doing about them, finding joint strategies we could both use when the two boys were playing together, and (most importantly) very carefully avoiding giving each other any advice.

MareeyaDolores Wed 17-Apr-13 15:03:36

If ds was doing something unacceptable, the dc were separated until the moment had passed. It did mean I had to go to most of the play dates though.

MareeyaDolores Wed 17-Apr-13 15:06:48

I dread saying the wrong thing - I was born with my foot in my mouth
Same here, bu inclination. So often I say too little instead, when I do talk, being quite open and apologetic about my lack of tact works well, as does asking the other person to please just tell me when I've over-stepped an unseen line

PolterGoose Wed 17-Apr-13 15:58:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

insanityscratching Wed 17-Apr-13 16:13:30

I've had lots of challenging children come to play here as I helped out in school, they were drawn to me hmm and I'm a soft touch when I'm asked by a child if they can come and play with my children.
What has worked here have been that my children were to follow the house rules regardless of what their friends were doing or there would be consequences and full on adult led entertainment whilst the more challenging children were here.
So quick snack as they arrived (hunger feeds bad behaviour) , then activity where they prepared some part of dinner whether that was making pizza faces, rolling and cutting biscuits, making and decorating fairy cakes. then dinner (no pressure to eat anything they didn't want and would make toast and beans if they preferred whilst wrapping the food they'd made to take home for them to show off to their mum)
Another activity where we'd make something like batman masks and capes, fairy wings and crowns whatever was in vogue really and then a trip to the park (our home is fifty yards away at most) back for a drink and then home.
Never really had any horrendous behaviour tbh and certainly nothing worse than ds with autism and challenging behaviour had done many times before grin

moosemama Wed 17-Apr-13 18:38:36

I agree with others who have said take control of your own end of things, set your own rules and boundaries in your own home and set up playdates within those limits. Then work on your own dd's responses to the other child's behaviours.

I personally feel structured time and 1:1 supervision is probably a must in this situation and for ds1, who is 11 and has AS, he has only started going on playdates without me in the past year or so. When he was younger, myself and the other mum would have a coffee together in the kitchen whilst supervising an activity the boys could do at the table and eventually we were able to sit and have a natter while they played in the next room. As Insanity said, it has also always been clear that the house rules do not change just because a friend is visiting and the consequences for my dcs for breaking those rules will be the same, regardless of the what the other child does.

I would also say, that from my own experience, whilst it's really kind of you think about the other child not being excluded, not all friendships are a match made in heaven. Ds1 made a firm friendship with another boy in Reception and it wasn't good for either of them. The other boy was obviously not nt either, but his parents were not concerned about his behaviour, which was often out of control and inappropriate. Ds1 was so pleased to have a friend that he would mimic and copy the other boy's behaviour and also do anything he told him to - eg throwing a stone at a teacher. The two of them seemed to wind each other up almost to fever pitch. Ds and I had lots of conversations about good and bad choices and appropriate vs inappropriate behaviour, we discussed what good choices he could make when his friend did x, y or z, but ultimately I had to make the decision not to actively encourage the friendship. I never told ds not to be his friend, in fact I was at pains to reinforce what represents a good friend (including not agreeing to do anything that broke the rules and would get either child into trouble) but didn't encourage playdates etc. The boys remained friends at school and are still friends now, but both boys eventually found best friends who brought out the best in them.

I don't usually interfere in my dcs' friendships and have never needed to with my other two dcs, but ds1 lacks the social skills to manage all his relationships on his own and I feel it's part of my responsibility to help him develop healthy, appropriate relationships, as well as teaching him how to handle less than ideal situations and relationships. I have had to get involved in ds1's relationships a couple of times over the years, eg when has believed he had a good friend, who was actually a violent bully.

UrbanSpaceMum Sat 20-Apr-13 11:18:56

Thanks for the thoughts. We had a playdate yesterday that went well. The only thing I did different was I kept reminding myself the friend is only five, even though she looks like a 10yo. That probably wasn't the only thing, as I say, the parents are well aware and have told me about some big changes they have made, perhaps they are finally bearing fruit.

Round here most nt 5yos do go to play dates unaccompanied.

I think the question to dx or not to dx is a whole other thread.

Join the discussion

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

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: