Our son, like many AS children, is interested in other people. Wants to make the connection with them, but can’t always figure out how to make it happen.
When he was little, we used to let him loose in a play area. Very shortly, he’d be back, saying the other kids had ignored him or didn’t seem like they wanted to play.
It’s not a new story. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone out there in the same boat.
So we gave him missions. Yes, secret-agent-type missions. Things like: go in, locate two friendly-looking people, and report back. Then it would be to approach those people and ask them their names, remembering to offer his own name in exchange. And so on.
He loved it.
It gave him a concrete goal, rather than putting him in the confusing, chaotic social world without any support. If the kids got him involved in a conversation, or started a game, he knew he could report back later. If something unforeseen happened – say, an unidentified child made friendly overtures – he could follow up on that and report back with additional news.
For us, it was the perfect opportunity to introduce social skills like:
- Practicing what to look for in a prospective friend
- Saying Hello, Hi, etc. to others
- Giving a name, and asking for a name in return
- Asking – and responding to – questions like “how old are you?” which in kidspeak really means “I want to play with you”
For a shy day, scouting missions worked great. Just observing and discussing what the other kids are doing builds communication skills and helps to reveal those vital clues that unlock social understanding.
Missions work. They can help the goal-oriented mind accomplish everyday tasks, such as greeting friends, getting supplies, accomplishing work, or finding someone to talk – or play – with.
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