Friendships

G is having difficulty navigating the tricky world of friendships.  He sees the school psychologist with a neurotypical peer once a week to work on social skills and has developed a close friendship with this boy.  The trouble is, G is starting to suffocate the boy.  I witnessed it myself, I went to G’s class to participate in reading time to honor Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  There was 15 minutes of silent reading and then 15 minutes of reading to someone else.  The kids were told to pick partners and G got up, walked over to the boy, stood way too close to the boy and wouldn’t move away until the boy acknowledged G and agreed to be his partner.  During this time, G refused to talk with me or be my partner – he was focused like a laser on his friend.  Later that same day, G had a meltdown in PE because the boy would not agree to be his partner in an activity.

At our trimester conference this week, I brought up the topic of G’s friendship with the boy.  The adults all agreed that while the boy really likes G and they have fun together, G is starting to exhaust the boy.   So we came up with a plan to introduce a third boy to the weekly social skill lessons.  The teacher recommended three students she thinks would be a good fit and will ask if they are interested.  Last night, I laid the groundwork by notifying G that starting next week, he would need to take the boy and one of the three to see Miss L and further suggested that all four boys would start taking turns in the future.  He informed me that he didn’t need to take anyone else, he only needed the boy. 

We began a minor dominance struggle where I started to tell him to either take two boys or no boys to see Miss L.  But something stopped me.  I decided that being honest about the reasons might be the way to go.  So we sat down and I quietly spoke to him about Asperger Syndrome, explaining that for him, it meant understanding the unwritten rules of friendship is difficult.  I explained that the boy really likes being G’s friend, but likes having other friends too.  I talked about how everybody needs a break sometimes and used DH and myself as an example, telling him that we are best friends but sometimes need to be with other people or to be alone.  G disagreed, saying he only needed to be with the boy but conceded the point that he has trouble with understanding friendships and behavior.  I got him to agree to trust me to tell him what those rules are for now.  And then he agreed to invite a third to his meetings with Miss L, selecting one of the recommended students. 

This situation makes me feel very anxious.  G has a strong desire to socialize and play with peers and will notice if he’s left out or shunned.  We’re working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen by teaching him what we can and fostering understanding in his classmates.  But there are limits to what we can do as adults.  I’m worried we’re reaching that point where the other kids give up on G because it is too difficult and awkward for them.  I’m holding my breath, hoping this new plan of introducing new boys and letting the original boy take a break will work.

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Published in: on March 3, 2011 at 10:27 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It sounds like you handled the situation well. From what I’ve seen, heard, and read, it’s not uncommon for people on the spectrum to understand and define friends as “people who do what I want”. Since he likely has difficulty understanding that other people have feelings, too, not to mention knowing what those feelings might be, “rules of friendship” sounds like the way to go. Yes, it will always be difficult for him, but the more he learns the rules of friendship now, the better his future.

  2. You handled that very, very well.


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