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Those of you with children with HFA - do you teach them about making conversation?

(50 Posts)
ToffeeWhirl Mon 01-Dec-14 01:13:59

I'm just noticing more and more that DS1 (14) 'lectures' us when he talks. He is bright and funny and interesting, but I do sometimes feel a bit panic-stricken after a while because he can talk endlessly about his latest obsession. I've been wondering recently if perhaps I'm not doing him any favours by letting him talk non-stop; maybe I need to teach him that conversation should be two-way. But I don't want to hurt his feelings or make him feel that I'm not interested in what he says, because I am.

If I do try to put my own viewpoint about something, it often triggers another one of his obsessions and then he's off on a new subject and I'm wishing I'd kept my mouth shut.

Does anyone else have this issue with their child? And has anyone tried teaching them to have a conversational exchange instead of to lecture?

PolterGoose Mon 01-Dec-14 06:29:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zzzzz Mon 01-Dec-14 07:51:06

Yes. I do it with all my children however nt/ASD I think they are. "Conversation" is just verbal "sharing" and needs teaching just like any other form of sharing does.

OldAntiquity Mon 01-Dec-14 10:46:00

My ds1 (age 10) may be ASD, but at any rate he does go on and on about whatever he is obsessed with. When he was littler I let him go on and I zoned out as it was basically the stats of whatever card game he was into and just made vague noises when he paused. But for the past year I've been teaching him. We're at the stage now where he goes "I'm boring you aren't I?" (football statistics from the 20th century) and I say yes and he continues!

I started from the position that no-one else is likely to want to listen to him go on as much as I do because I'm his mum and that some of his obsessions are more interesting to me than others and perhaps his dad would like to hear x obsession as he's more interested. Which has helped with people are different and like to hear different things.

It's tough because DH most obviously is on the spectrum and having read stuff I am as well. I've learnt all my conversational skills from observing other people. Sometimes I hear myself using phrases I've heard other people say which freaks me out, though I'm not at a level of acceptance of myself to say it's echolalia. But anyway, I have a lot of the theoretical knowledge I can pass on and when he's with me in new situations I make lots more of an effort to model good conversational skills for him because I don't want him to end up like I was.

Anyway, I would say teaching conversation skills is massively important, and like zzzzz says, for NT children too. And different kinds of speaking, public speaking, job style conversation, proper friend conversation, the fact you may not get to a proper friend if you don't do small talk first. I have a friend who enjoys listening to me go on about religion and feminism, but I wouldn't have got there if I hadn't improved my conversational skills to become friends in the first place.

clangermum Mon 01-Dec-14 10:50:06

Mine is at the stage where she doesn't really want to hear this from me. Is there a dvd or app around conversational skills anyone can recommend? She doesn't 'do' books, though can read perfectly well. I almost feel the best thing would be for her to watch a sitcom where this sort of stuff is being dealt with, where she doesn't feel she's being 'taught' iyswim.

bbkl Mon 01-Dec-14 11:29:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

streakybacon Mon 01-Dec-14 12:59:17

Yes, I have done this a lot with my 16 year old. I need to be very firm with him sometimes and point out how bloody boring he is being, otherwise he'd never get it. IMO he needs to understand how unpopular he could make himself by not developing reasonable conversational skills. I know a lot of people with autism aren't particularly bothered about being popular but I've pointed out to ds that it's in his best interests to be liked because he will gain if people like him, for example his work experience placements that have been offered for this reason, employment references etc. It's not just a social requirement. When he understands the point in a certain required behaviour, he will give it a go, otherwise he'll not bother.

I agree tv is excellent for this, and for emotional recognition/non-verbal communication. We avoid removing the enjoyment by watching the programmes first for pleasure, then revisiting them for 'work', which helps.

Years ago BT had some dvds available on their website about developing communication skills in children and I got a few. There are some about two families, the Muddles (who communicate badly and are always in a confused mess as a result) and the Crystals (who communicate well and have much better lives). They are interactive so lots of opportunities to pause and discuss. They're no longer available but I could make copies if anyone is interested.

ouryve Mon 01-Dec-14 13:08:04

Definitely. Particularly about the non-mind-reading bits of it. We're still at a fairly basic level of formatting reasonable requests, instead of making statements (he can converse on his pet topics, but becomes rather belligerent on his pet hates eg adverts). So we still have to prompt him when he comes out with something like "I'm thirsty." Sometimes I'll reply "I'm your mum, how do you do, Thirsty." or "That's a shame." Even though we know what he wants, we have to try to convince him to communicate clearly what he wants and not assume that we know. It's a steep learning curve for him.

ouryve Mon 01-Dec-14 13:09:48

My 40 year old brother's still at that stage, Antiquity grin Last time he did that, it was on the subject of camera lenses.

OldAntiquity Mon 01-Dec-14 17:21:28

ouryve grin Hopefully ds1 will get the hang of stopping talking before he's left home!

500smiles Mon 01-Dec-14 17:47:14

Yes we have to do a lot of this. Thankfully he has a group of geeky friends that he can talk at with to his hearts content.

PolterGoose Mon 01-Dec-14 18:04:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

streakybacon Mon 01-Dec-14 18:28:09

Same for us Polter. Comedy has been an amazing learning tool for ds. Most of it is about social boundaries, when to cross and why some comedy crosses safely and some doesn't. How to tell the difference, what to be influenced by etc.

zzzzz Mon 01-Dec-14 20:21:54

My preference is for more surreptitious education. I've been thinking for dome time that a "syllabus" of books and running in parallel films/TV would be an invaluable resource.

What I do is provide the fodder (books DVDs etc) and then highlight the parallels with real life as we hit them.

So for my nt dd we read "the Oregon Trail", "To Kill a Mockingbird", "I am David", "Animal Farm" and watched a documentary about "Gandhi" and another about "Mother Teresa" then thought about "leadership", "responsibility" and "honour". Sounds very geeky, but then we are! grin

For ds1 a strange combination of "Timothy goes to school", "You've been Framed" and various disney horrors are providing fodder for "friendship issues", "what's funny and what's not", and "circus skills" grin

Ds2 needs "how to be proud of who you are" and "being a good person will win you recognition in the end". He struggles to read so it is more challenging.

ToffeeWhirl Tue 02-Dec-14 00:00:53

It's very helpful to hear how other people handle this issue, thank you.

We do use humour to handle it, like you Polter, as DS is now able to laugh at himself (sometimes). But there are other times when he's so passionate and earnest about a subject that I feel it would be mean if I broke the spell by admitting to him that he's going on too much about it. He doesn't have any RL friends to chat to at the moment (he lectures people chats online), so we are his only source of social contact until he goes to his new school (a painfully slow process because of his anxiety). However, I'm aware that we won't help him make friends if he hasn't learned to have a two-way conversation, so I probably need to get over this feeling or I'm not helping him.

zzzzz - I like your description of conversation as 'verbal sharing'. Think I might borrow that to use with DS at an opportune moment.

DS does sometimes realise he's going on about something and asks me if he's boring me, but then - just like OldAntiquity's DS - he just carries on!

I suppose one of the main problems is that DS is very out of practice at being in a social setting (he's been out of school for three years now), so he hasn't had the chance to observe other people conversing, as you have done, Antiquity. I'm hoping being back in a school setting will help him with that.

clanger and bbkl - I really like the idea of using a sitcom as a springboard for talking to DS about this. He used to watch 'The Big Bang Theory' - I wonder if he'd agree to watch it again with me...

streaky - if I pointed out to DS that he won't be popular unless he learns better conversational skills that will be a disincentive! He had a brief flurry of popularity at primary school and found it terribly stressful. He can only cope with one or two friends at a time. However, he might relate to the need to learn conversational skills for work and interviews. The BT DVDs you mention sound interesting, but DS is probably too teenagey and cynical to watch them now. Might have worked a few years ago.

ouryve - this rings so true: 'becomes rather belligerent on his pet hates'. I dread triggering any of DS's pet hates.

Thanks again - good to hear how other people handle this issue.

clangermum Tue 02-Dec-14 16:42:35

streaky what emotional age would you say the DVDs are suited to? I might take you up on your offer, that's really kind. dd is 12, emotionally probably around 7 though

Big Bang Theory - will have a look at that. I know someone watched the IT Crowd with their teenage dd and that sparked some conversation.

streakybacon Tue 02-Dec-14 18:56:13

Muddles and Crystals I'd say about 8-9 years.
There's also Communication Skills for Young Citizens which is for 9-13 years, and Good Coach/Bad Coach which is for 7+.

I'm happy to copy them if people give me dvds to burn to, though probably would be after Christmas now if that's ok.

Georgethesecond Tue 02-Dec-14 19:03:14

DS2 is NT but when he was younger I did have to explain that he needed not to talk at such length about Pokemon. I explained about taking turns to talk an dlooking to see if the other person was bored. Surely kids on the spectrum would need more of this type of explanation and modelling.

clangermum Tue 02-Dec-14 19:46:54

That's great streaky, have made a note to pm you in the New Year.

Just found speech buddies blog on speech buddy.com which has an interesting bit on using TV shows for social pragmatics

clangermum Tue 02-Dec-14 19:52:05

The post is How to Use TV as a Speech Therapy Tool for Social Pragmatics

Gatheringthoughtstothink Tue 02-Dec-14 20:58:21

Like others we use humour, puns are a favourite here.
Sometime we ban talk of XYZ for the evening, he seems to make up for it the next day.
Anything observational works well here, Mr Bean has always gone down well with my three who have autism. One of the reasons I think He is a hit it because he doesn't speak but still manages to get his thoughts across.

ToffeeWhirl Thu 04-Dec-14 00:20:07

After listening to DS talk this evening, I finally managed to intervene and suggest that he try asking me about my day, as I'd asked him about his. He was very apologetic and listened patiently whilst I talked a bit, then said, "Right, can I carry on now?" grin

Still, it's a start.

streakybacon Thu 04-Dec-14 06:26:59

To be fair Toffee, that's what most people do - they're just a bit more subtle about it wink.

ToffeeWhirl Thu 04-Dec-14 09:51:16

That's a good point, streaky grin.

Georgethesecond Fri 05-Dec-14 18:46:17

Yes - that's fine. I expect you'll have to do it lots more times grin

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