Aspergers / dyspraxia
He’s doing well at school but finds it hard to make friends
Children who are experiencing some kind of developmental disorder tend to find social interaction more difficult than most, and tend to be slower in their development, so they do often find themselves left behind. Typically they tend to relate better to adults, maybe find one firm friend, who is often similarly marginalised, and for some this is enough. It is important to remember that social interaction is very important to most children, but may not even feel relevant to many children with Asperger’s Syndrome, so try to assess whether they are happy with their situation, and in any case remember to encourage what does exist already.
If there is a need to help your child make friends, it is best not to go for big unstructured groups, and much better to go for small groups, organised structured and some focus on activity that suits your child. So your strategy is less likely to succeed if you invite 15 children to a party at your house than if you invite one for a sleep over. Also, remember to let them develop a style that works for them – it may be enough for two kids to sit next to one another on computers, not talking for hours.
Being good at something is a great playground currency, so if football is important it may be useful to get some ball skills lessons so she or he can learn to be a really good footballer, although team games are generally very difficult for a child with a developmental disorder to manage well. Clubs and groups such as the cubs and scouts can work for some – uniform, ritual and leadership are all present in these organisations.
In the end, your child will develop a level of social ability, though it may be slower to develop and it may be less comfortable for him or her than you hoped for. If mixing and being with the others in the playground becomes a big problem (and it can), it is sometimes best to make the school find an alternative way to spend playtime than teaching him such things as ‘well hit them back’ (he will get hurt and frightened) or ‘just get out there and find a way to get along’ (he would if he could). If you are not comfortable with what is going on intervene in some way and remember that social ability comes from the child – all you can do is stage manage learning experiences, not teach the skills of socialisation directly.
And lastly, if bullying occurs, demand that the school step in at once to stop it in any way possible, as it can be the most destructive thing imaginable and the experience can dog a child through later life.
If you would like to talk to someone about Learning Difficulties please contact the Childalert expert Bill Goodyear - go to Community Childalert experts for details