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Social events and ASD children in the holidays

(9 Posts)
amber32002 Tue 05-Aug-08 12:41:05

In case it helps anyone trying to work out why their children hate socialising in the summer holidays:

"Amber at a party as an adult

I plan every detail like a military operation. Date, time, place, photos of place, work out where I?m going to park, who will be there, are there photos of who will be there?

I get there at 7.30. The door opens, and there?s the hostess. She goes to give me a social kiss (arrghhh! Physical contact from strangers hurts). She says something to me but the shock of the kiss has wiped my mind completely. I think of something to say, trying to remember to smile, nod, say something appropriate like ?you look lovely ? that?s a really nice dress/top/scarf/whatever?.

In through the door?and there?s a wall of sound as deafening as a rock concert, just from people speaking. A sea of faces, but I don?t recognise any of them to start with, even though I?ve met many of them before. I wonder what?s the right thing to say to each person when I don?t even know who they are? This could be embarrassing.

I decide I need some time to recover from the entry, so ask if I can do something useful for a minute (no eye contact, it?s easier). I?m handed a plate with something on it. What on earth am I to do with it, though? Eat something on it? Pass it to people? Which people, where? Now I?ve got a problem because it?s curried something and the smell is really strong and overloading for me. I take it in both hands (since I?m quite likely to drop it otherwise ? my co-ordination?s not brilliant), and walk into the hallway, to be greeted by a flickering energy saver bulb. Only I can see the wretched things flickering. Other people can?t. It?s me having very sensitive senses. It?s like being in a disco, and again totally overwhelming. I ask some people if they?d like whatever it is on the plate, still trying to balance it, still trying to cope with the wall of sound and the flickering and the smells. I?m now reaching a point where I?m pretty exhausted, but I?ve only been there for five minutes.

How do I join in with a group?! Where do I stand? Not too close, not too far, and what do I say? I can never work out whose turn it is to speak, and against the wall of background noise I cannot hear what they?re saying. There?s arms waving, faces making different expressions, but I can?t work out the body language. I can?t hear the tone of voice either. I can?t tell if ?Thank you very much? is said sarcastically or not. Is this person happy or sad, or angry with me because they?ve asked me something and I?ve misunderstood what they said? I have to guess. Neither can I switch attention backwards and forwards between people that fast. This is harder for me than running a marathon would be. I want to talk about something that interests me, but if I do, people leave. Already pretty shocked by everything else, I make my excuses after a couple of minutes and try to find a quieter corner. Only three more hours to go before it wouldn?t be rude to leave?only three more hours?however am I going to manage this?

I make it to the end, partly by locking myself in the loo for a few minutes from time to time, or finding a quiet corner in the garden to sit by myself before venturing back into the chaos. At the end, I have to remember to say the right thankyous and do the social kissing thing again. If I?ve not balanced things well enough, I?m going to run out of all energy and not be able to talk or get home?which is the scariest thing imaginable for me, so I have to do all I can not to overload myself and shut down. I really want to be there and meet people but they have NO idea how difficult this is for me. The next day I have to do nothing social at all. I have used up two days-worth of energy just doing that one party."

Tips: Take a hobby, find them a quiet corner, let them find a way to interact on their terms, only do one mad day at a time, not two in a row, help them work out the body language and tone of voice if you think someone's getting cross with them. Every little helps.

Mamazon Tue 05-Aug-08 12:46:30

that was brillaint, thank you Amber.

I can actually see my son in this sort of situation and behaving in exactly the way you describe.

he could never articulate what is going on for him the way you have, its nice to hear ot from his POV though.

kodathekat Tue 05-Aug-08 13:00:39

Yeah, thanks Amber

It's a fine line to negociate between going along with my DS's preferences to totally avoid social occasions, like the village gala's children's disco (didn't bother trying this year) and giving him the opportunity to experience something which he may well turn out to like.

School are doing alot to help him learn how to join in with other children. As a parent, I long for him to have a friend, an ally in the world. But knowing him as I do, I know how much he doesn't understand about social interraction and how hard he tries to avoid it.

One of the saddest things that happened recently was after he went to the cinema. Next day at school, he went skipping up to various children to tell them what he'd seen. Because he doesn't know how to engage people and because the kids are so used to him just making strange noises and not conversing, not one of them took him on. He tried and tried, but no one paid him any attention. It must have been so confusing for him. I cried all the way home...

amber32002 Tue 05-Aug-08 13:56:01

Kodathekat, your poor son. He must have been very confused indeed that people didn't want to know at all. Does the school have a buddy system for the children so that they have someone to tell their news to?

And drat, I've realised that mumsnet doesn't know how to do apostrophes from Microsoft Word and it's filled it with question marks. Sorry 'bout that folks.

deeeja Tue 05-Aug-08 15:47:10

Thanks Amber that was very helpful.

Aefondkiss Tue 05-Aug-08 22:02:35

good tips Amber, thank you.

koda, that brought tears to my eyes, I think it is the hardest thing for me re my ds's asd (no dx yet) is seeing his peers interacting normally and he tries to engage and just can't do it, in a way that they can relate to. I know it is my anxiety, that my ds doesn't really understand but sad

Mamazon Wed 06-Aug-08 01:16:50

I used to describe my son's problems with social skills as if he were in a bubble. he desperatly wants to join in with games and be accepted but he can't quite make out what people are saying to him through this bubble and others can't quite get him.

its like an invisible barrier.

bullet123 Wed 06-Aug-08 10:53:38

Ds1 loves parties. Sometimes things get too much for him and he needs some quiet time, but he loves them normally. He tends to run around with a huge grin on his face. Doesn't understand the games (when playing musical bumps he kept racing round long after the other children had sat down) but you can tell he's enjoying himself. I have noticed he gets a lot more upset at social events that are just family gatherings and my theory is that with the children's parties there's either something he can do himself, like softplay, or there are games with set rules that he can join in with help. Whereas with the family gatherings everybody is just talking and wandering round the place. We give him some crayons and some paper now which helps.
I like to get a chance to see people, but I easily get stressed by social events. I tend to use my lads as an excuse for not socialising if things get too much ("oh dear, J's running off, best go after him"). Alcohol helps to block out some of the external factors bothering me, but obviously I can't drink all the time.

bullet123 Wed 06-Aug-08 11:00:09

Forgot to add that much of Amber's accoutn rings true for me. The main exception is that a lot of the time I find myself automatically shutting myself off from other people and what they are saying and what is around me. I miss noticing a lot of things because of this. So I won't worry over how someone was saying something because a lot of the time I'm just trying to concentrate on understanding the words without getting distracted or losing understanding. When I took the lads to tollder group for over two years (Ds1 for less of that time but Ds2 continued going and he's now in playgroup) I never spoke to anyone else there unless someone approached me. I find initiating things very very difficult and placed in an environment with loads of other people it's nigh on an impossibility.

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