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I have a 10-year-old son who is slightly autistic - he has an assistant with him at his school, but is intelligent enough.

We are struggling to find a hobby that our son will enjoy and stick with. We tried martial arts, but he said he didn't like it. He seemed to like the scout movement for some time: he did beavers, then cubs, and now he has just started scouts. We tried him on boys brigade but he said that was boring so we stopped it, leaving him just with the scouts.

Now the scout leader has said he is badly behaved and finds scouts boring, and is trying to encourage us to find an alternative hobby for our son.

Our son says he doesn't want to do any hobbies, he just wants to stay at home. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any real friends; it is incredibly rare for him to socialise outside of school.

Our concern is that if he doesn't mix outside of school, that will slow his social development and he could have problems in later life. I am a bit more relaxed about this than my wife, who is really upset about it. She blames the scout movement for rejecting him, whereas I believe it is more like our son doesn't enjoy the activity so he misbehaves. Both my wife and I have had mental health problems on-and-off and I take antidepressants and the arguments about this issue are beginning to cause additional stress at home.

It is sometimes difficult to know what our son actually wants. I think sometimes he is just agreeing with my wife because it is what she wants to hear.

He is not sporty or musical. In the past he liked building models, e.g. with lego, but all he seems to enjoy is playing on his computer. Should we force our son to have a hobby, and how do we go about finding one that interests him?

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I'd check into computer camp. It combines his enjoyment of being on a computer, while being in a social setting and doing activities more educational, rather than aimlessly wasting time. –  coburne Jun 17 at 13:48
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"It is sometimes difficult to know what our son actually wants." It is difficult for him too. A lot of people try out many different things until they find a nice hobby. And even as an adult that often changes because you get bored with it. –  PlasmaHH Jun 17 at 14:20
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"playing on his computer" is not a hobby? –  Sebastian Negraszus Jun 17 at 14:54
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Anything you're forced to do isn't a hobby, as the answer below states. –  Carl Witthoft Jun 17 at 15:23
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How about something like a chess club? Another option, which may or may not be available near you, is robocamp. There are groups that build programmable lego robots and then they have sumorobot competitions. So it combines lego, computers and some socialising. –  Andrew Jun 17 at 19:38

23 Answers 23

up vote 24 down vote accepted

From what you're writing, you don't really want him to get any hobby, but a hobby where he can socialize.

If he's slightly autistic, socializing is the hardest thing for him to do. And it will be even harder if the socializing is in a context where he has nothing to talk about or isn't interested in the things people talk about.

You said he likes to use the computer. So basically he already has a hobby! I'd recommend exploiting that and not view it as something negative. You can have computers, and/or some more specialized area in computers, as a hobby that is social. There are many activities involving computers. LAN parties, clubs, associations, forums; there are lots and lots of communities involving tech-interested people.

I would try to have activities in not too large groups. At least give lots of opportunities for 1 on 1 socializing. Large groups can be intimidating and just cause him to go silent or worse.

I'd be very careful trying to create an interest where there isn't any. It could create resentment and not any real interest. I'm not saying not try new things, but don't push it too much. Use what he's already interested in and focus that energy into something more social.

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I'm not a parent, but as someone registering perhaps slightly on the autism spectrum myself, I would agree with this completely: I like socializing fine in moderation, but just anywhere. I have hobbies, unsurprisingly of a rather geekish nature (gaming, discussing books, that sort of thing), and I enjoy hanging out with other people who also enjoy similar things. Not everyone enjoys sports. (Though I actually loved soccer camp as a kid - this might have been partially because the guys running that particular camp were total geeks themselves. :)) –  neminem Jun 17 at 15:01
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned roleplaying games, a very geek-friendly way to socialize with peers (and to practice socialization skills in pretend.) Let him buy a RPG at a local hobby store and have him invite a couple guys from his scout troop for an afternoon. –  Bryce Jun 18 at 1:53
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This exactly! Gaming can be as social or unsocial as you make it. Sad part is, you won't learn a lot of (if any) useful skills from it if you go down the unsocial route. RPG games like D&D etc. would indeed be excellent, hard part though is finding people who want to join you. Good part though is that once you find them those are exactly the people who are extremely accepting to 'weird'/slightly different/whatever way you want to phrase it people. –  David Mulder Jun 18 at 2:42
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@DavidS. the problem is that although there is scope for making a friend, there is also scope for not making one. Someone who is introverted, very shy, or who doesn't see the point of friendships might easily remain isolated. –  jwg Jun 18 at 9:52
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For most typical children, being with others is rewarding in itself; for those with autism traits, it isn't; they focus on what they do, not who they do it with. So, finding some activity with friends is bound to fail; let him find an interesting activity for himself, then nudge him into a direction where this activity, together with others, might be even more fun. Do not force him into team sports if he isn't sporty; if he can't compete with the others, and they consider him a liability for the team instead of an asset, the resulting rejection will just intensify his desire not to socialize. –  Guntram Blohm Jun 18 at 16:24

A hobby is something you like. How do you force someone to like something?

Additionally, at the choice of hobbies there is an extra agenda: You want him to socialize.

I think you have a good point. The time he has now, as a kid, will not come back. Social skills he could be picking up now, will be harder to learn when he realises he's missing something.

Then again, you can't push on a string. As you write he's mildly autistic, I simply cannot comment because I am not an expert. So do seek expert advice. As for forcing him, that's clearly impossible. But you can force him to come up with a list of, say, 3 to 5 things he would like to try. The deal would be, and this would be clear from the beginning, that he can get out if he doesn't like it. Pressure will work counterproductive but perhaps this will work: He'll try one thing on his list and if he doesn't like it, he can get out and try another one ... once he's added a new item to the "list of things to try". So he is not forced to stick with any particular thing but he is forced to do something.

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Agreed that you can't "force" someone to pick up a hobby. The very definition of a hobby is that he's doing something he loves to do. As @user132193 suggested, you might be able to gently prod him into to trying a number of things, in hopes that he will find something he likes. Also be careful to steer him towards activities that are not solo, but involve at least a little socializing. Your son probably needs to start slowly and get used to interacting with others, so don't dump him into a frightening situation with a lot of people and a lot of commotion (like scouting). –  Phil Perry Jun 17 at 13:53
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A great answer, but it isn't always true that social skills will be harder to learn later. For at least some autistic people, they are able to learn social skills but to some extent by explicit 'study' and 'practise' - this means that they find it easier to pick them up when they have realised the purpose of learning them. Simply learning by 'being around people' when they don't have any motivation (and for instance, might see all non-factual conversation as pointless) is exactly what they can't do. –  jwg Jun 18 at 9:37

I was just extremely socially awkward as a kid, not autistic, but here's what I would suggest:

In Scouts (talk with the Scoutmaster and try to figure out what would be best), there are many different routes for him to take. I had my own tent that I would bring on all outings so I didn't have to share, and knot-tying was the hobby I worked on there. By the time I reached Eagle, I was more or less the one teaching all of the new scouts every single knot they needed to know (and then some). Possible hobbies he may enjoy here include knot-tying, whittling, fire-building, orienteering, and many more. I would encourage you to talk to your son and figure out which parts of Scouting he enjoys and which ones he doesn't, and see if you can't find a way to make his experience revolve more around those.

My guess is that in Scouts he is being picked on for being different than the other kids, and is acting out because of that (either that, or the Scout meetings/outings are either too structured or not structured enough). Try to talk to him and figure out if the other kids are being jerks to him. If they are, talk to the Scoutmaster and ask him to get the Scout leadership to intervene (in my, and many others' opinions, the adult leadership should only directly intervene in extreme cases. For something like this, the leadership should pull the SPL aside and help him choose the proper course of action. Scouting is about teaching leadership skills, and this could be a good learning opportunity for the SPL)

My school had an after-school computer club (where we would just play games in the same room as one another), you could see if he has that available to him.

Model airplane/remote control stuff may interest him.

If he takes an interest in computer programming, see if you can't find a teacher who would be willing to tutor him in it.

After-school science club (or math league, or something) may be interesting to him too.

If he takes an interest in electronics, you can either head over to electronics.stackexchange, or try out a local makerspace.

"He is not sporty" -- Does he not enjoy physical activity of any sort, or is it the competitive/team sports? Competitive sports can be especially stressful for people with social problems; they require communication, teamwork, and there's the stress of letting your team down, or being let down by your team. Jogging/biking/climbing/hiking (and in a couple of years, lifting), are all highly self-centered sports where he can focus on self-improvement rather than having to deal with a team. Biking may be an especially good fit (if you are running and get tired, you slow down to a walk, which feels like a failure. With biking, you can just slow down, and finish the ride without that feeling of failure)

Also, leverage his assistant. The assistant may have picked up on stuff that you have missed and be able to offer valid suggestions for what your son would enjoy.

The important thing is that you don't directly force him into anything. Want him to spend less time on the computer at home? Impose a limit on the screen-time (e.g. 1 or 2 hours/day) he has and encourage him to do something else. He may not put in the effort to research the types of activities he would be interested in, so having suggestions like above (and in other answers) could help him find something he enjoys.

With so few details on what he enjoys, what I've suggested are just activities which may be interesting to someone without great social skills (aka what I did/wanted to do during my school days). There may be something in there that he enjoys, there may not.

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Joined the site just so I could +1 this answer. It's almost like I wrote it myself. RC planes is a REALLY good suggestion! –  Jasmine Jun 17 at 23:15
    
Wonderful ideas! Swimming is another physical activity that he might enjoy. And if you wanted him to join a team, it is one that doesn't require as much team work as others, so is great for kids still working on the social skills. –  michelle Jun 18 at 14:03
    
What does SPL stand for? –  Jonathan Hartley Jun 20 at 14:47
    
@JonathanHartley Senior Patrol Leader. Highest youth in the chain of command for Boy Scouts (reports to Scoutmaster, reported to by Patrol Leaders). Gotta keep on top of those TLAs –  Ross Aiken Jun 20 at 16:21
    
"I was just extremely socially awkward as a kid, not autistic . . ." Perhaps you were mildly autistic. There's a reason many more kids are diagnosed today than in the past, and I'll bet at least part of the reason is that we see it now. –  Marc Jun 22 at 21:28

Even with neurotypical kids, it can be challenging to find a hobby or sport that they like well enough to stick with and really develop. Some kids find their niche right away, others have to try lots of different things to figure out what works for them and what doesn't.

I think you have two choices: build off of the hobbies he does have or try to help him develop new interests. You mentioned that he likes Legos - that's great! Are there any Lego clubs in your area? In our area, there are several Lego club options - ranging from a free club that meets and the library once a month and just builds together to a club that learns to build and program with the Mindstorm robotics kits.

You also mention that he has had behavioral problems in the scouts. Sufficient exercise might help. You mention that he isn't sporty, and that karate wasn't a good match. Have you tried other sports? You might have to try a variety before you find one that clicks with him. My own oldest child tried four or five sports before finding "his" sport. Keep in mind that different sports require different types of interactions between the kids, so while one sport may be too much for him, another may work just fine.

I also would consider using a little bribery. I know bribery can be a bad word in parenting, but used carefully and judiciously, it can be perfect in situations like this just to get a child started on something new. It sounds like video games are a motivator for him. Perhaps he could earn a certain amount of video game time for each practice/meet that he goes to. Or he could earn points towards the purchase of a new game. When kids start a new activity, it can be frustrating until they master it enough to start having fun. Little rewards can get them over the initial discomfort until they reach that point. Once they are enjoying the activity, you can scale back the reward, or change it to encourage further mastery.

Good luck!

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I think you're saying something different than you really mean. You say "he needs a hobby" but what you mean is "he needs a different hobby".

There are plenty of people without mental health issues who love nothing more than to spend their time on a computer, and plenty of people who do. It isn't a "problem" - instead, it's just another avenue that has its own risks and rewards.

The first thing you need to do is educate yourself. What does your son like to do on the computer? Is there common ground that you all like? Is what your son doing safe and legal? Who is he hanging out with on his computer? These are questions you would ask of any other hobby too.

The next thing is to educate your son. Teach him about how to be safe about who he talks to and where he goes on the internet. Teach him to treat his body right with regular breaks, exercises and stretches, eye strain, etc. Teach him that just like any community there are good people and there are bad people, safe and dangerous people. About what he can do to identify and avoid bad and dangerous people, and what he needs to do if he encounters them. Again, just like any other hobby.

Also, there are no less than 27 billion things to do on the internet. (I know that's true because, by the time you read this, that statement will be posted on the internet. And it said it was true.) There are so many social avenues, whether its online games, chat rooms, forums where he can express his art and writing if he has any, so much. If he has trouble communicating with people in person, this might just be the thing he needs to learn how to communicate with people in general. In time, he'll take the lessons he learned online and apply them in real life. (True story, I landed a job once after describing the system of 2,000 people I set up in an online game. Manager said I demonstrated true leadership skills.) Of course, if he learns bad social habits, those will also be amplified in real life.

Any thing good or bad that could happen in real life, like if he were playing basketball down at the park, could happen online. He will have positive and negative influences and you as his parent will have to monitor and step in where necessary. It's just that simple. But it sounds like you're trying to force him away from this wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. I hope you don't do that. =)

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They are not worried about the hobby. They are worried about his social skills. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 21 at 11:54
    
That's very optimistic, Thorbjørn, but they specifically state "We are struggling to find a hobby that our son will enjoy and stick with." while rather ignoring the hobby he enjoys and sticks with already. It's as if they consider "being in the house" to disqualify it from being a hobby. –  corsiKa Jun 23 at 14:44
    
The question explicitly say: "Our concern is that if he doesn't mix outside of school, that will slow his social development and he could have problems in later life." To me this describes social skills exactly. The hobby part of it is just what they currently envision could remedy the current situation. You are saying "computer hobbies are fine" but I agree with OP saying that for learning social skills they aren't. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 23 at 16:45
    
That's the entire problem, though. It's inappropriate in this day and age to suggest that you cannot hone your social skills with your computer. Some would argue social interaction via the computer is superior to what might be called "traditional" socialization. –  corsiKa Jun 23 at 17:53
    
Sure you can hone your skills through a computer. At least those which are possible through written words. Unfortunately, that leaves all the non-verbal ones, including body language. That is a nice skill to have if - as just one example - you would like to find your future spouse outside a chatroom. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 23 at 19:23

Just a short answer to make an additional suggestion to the ones already given, which I'm kind of surprised hasn't come up already: board, dice, card or other tabletop games.

Games of this kind often go down well with people on the Autism spectrum because they offer an activity with clearly-defined, easily understood boundaries. And it's obviously a pretty short step from computer games.

The big difference is that they are necessarily social: the majority cannot be played without at least one other person, and many really need more than one.

Hobby games are a world away from well-known family games like Monopoly: they're sleek, well designed products, often with compact rules and easily accommodated play times and yet are full of thematic colour and challenging strategy.

There are board gaming clubs in most major cities, and you'll probably find them to be entirely welcoming of people on the autism spectrum.

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I think this is a good suggestion! Modern board games are as diverse as computer games are. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 23 at 16:46

If he is only slightly autistic, then it is a good idea to try to find a hobby for him and even push him a little (not forcefully, more like guidance and example). After all everyone needs some free time to relax, not only to idle, but the brain actually demands it. With autism sometimes there is a lack of understanding for the needs of others and even oneself, leading to a state where the person knows that something is missing, he just can't tell what it is. This can lead to unrest or even misbehavior, while the solution is to just simply to find a fun hobby.

According to what you tell, I assume that he is S-type autistic, so understanding logical and systemic things is easy, while understanding emotional things is difficult. This may cause him to feel uneasy among other people just because he doesn't know or doesn't understand how social interaction works. It would be your task then to assist him on that, like other parents need to assist their children with math homework. And if you compare your son's reaction to social interaction to how other people react to math class, you'll see that it is basically the same, just a different topic, so nothing to worry about here.

Teaching emotional things and/or communication is as easy as teaching everything else, except that literature on it isn't that commonly available, as most people "just know" how it works. So you might need to get some help on finding adequate literature (if you have not already done so) or find a professional teacher if that is within your financial availability.

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I have Asperger's syndrome and I have known quite a few others who also has Asperger's syndrome. I'll share with you what I know about hobbies and social life for me and those others. Keep in mind, this is me sharing my own experiences and my own perspective on things. You can pick what you think applies and forget about the rest. I can't guarantee that any of this makes sense to you and your child but I'm hoping you can use at least use some of it.

I've compiled a short list of hobbies that I and my friends have (or have had). These might not necessarily fit your son but they will probably give you a general idea of what aspies often like (I can only assume the same goes for "pure" autism):

  • Programming
  • Math
  • History
  • War
  • Military
  • Music/theatre
  • Fishing
  • Learning certain things by heart:
    • The digits of pi
    • All the countries/capitals in the world
    • All the states/capitals of USA

The list goes on and on. As you can see, these are all things you can do alone. Generally, at least for aspies, it's not that we don't like being social, it's just hard. Certain social situations are much harder than others, though. These are things that can make it really difficult:

  • Many people (10+)
  • People I don't know
  • Sitting/being close to others (I love my brother to death and I hug him every time I see him but even that is hard)
  • Talking to or touching people I don't know
  • Girls (they make me nervous because I don't know how to treat them; I don't know how many times I've stepped on their toes when that was never my intention)
  • Small-talk (it bores me and I have a tendency to turn the conversation into something inappropriate or awkward which is even worse than small-talk)
  • Alcohol (I feel pressured to join in on the drinking even though I don't want to)

There is one more thing but this one requires a little more explanation. I don't want to feel pressured into being social. I'll be social when the time is right and I'm comfortable. Discomfort follows when someone initiates a conversation with me because that usually means I'm not ready. Also, birthday parties and other such almost obligatory arrangements usually make me feel like I have to be social, and that can ruin the whole thing.

Here's a setting where I'm always comfortable: When I'm in a place I know with people I know and not too many of them where I have the option to talk to people or just be if I don't feel like having an actual conversation, and the people there don't fill the whole room, if that makes sense. Some people, when you're around them you can just simply relax, and others will just drain your energy. I have no actual source for this but I have a feeling the energy draining affects us more than it does others.

Next on the list: develpment of social skills. I can understand that you don't want your son to left behind but to be brutally honest, he probably will. Social interaction, reading cues, expressing yourself clearly, and behaving appropriately are generally things people like us have to learn the hard way, and genreally this happens when others would probably call "too late". Until the age of 14 or 15 I had little interest in others, and when school ended (9th grade, 15 or 16 years old), one of the girls in my class encouraged me to spend the next year trying to be social, and that's what I did. In 10th grade I was probably the most popular in my class, and I do have a guess as to why that is:

  • I was smart so I could help the others with math problems
  • We all liked computers, and I was better at it than they were
  • In my attempt to help my classmates, I would ofte fail miserably trying to explain simple concepts and then turning them into long and complicated explanations that only I could follow. It was like a monkey trying to ride a bike. It was funny. This, in turn, gave me a pretty good idea of what people thought was funny, and I actually learned to be funny.
  • I tried to be somewhat impulsive

They liked me and I liked them which made me open up more. At one point my wallet was stolen, and I was afraid someone would steal my computer as well, so I did what any unreasonable person would do: I made a screensaver which looked like the computer rebooted and crashed again and again, and you needed to input a password to close it. Nobody touched my computer after that, and I made special copies to several different people who all thought it was the most brilliant thing ever. One day, one of my classmates had bought one of those dirty magazines, and in this was a link to a website where you could vote on which of twenty girls was more hot or something like that. It was a contest of sorts. He asked me if I could make girl number 19 win, so I made a small program that would cast votes on girl number 19. In that week we probably sent some 30 million votes on that girl (only 5 million people live in my country). Needless to say, she did win, and I was even cooler than before.

All I'm saying is, my hobby actually helped me later in life to gain popularity, and my hobby was computers. Another great point to make is that, since I had to learn all the social stuff the hard way, analyzing, studying, interpreting, reading between lines, I became pretty good at it. In certain situations I do better than most people because I can read more cues than most people can (a test I once took confirms that). Even expressing emotions non-verbally has become a great tool that I use in everyday conversations, and it really livens up the situations. I've also become pretty darn good at pretending to enjoy some forgettable conversation with a random stranger, and I feel like every time I do that, instead of deceiving people, I'm putting smiles on their faces, and I like that. Even if I won't remeber the conversation, I'm hoping they will. Being social has almost become an art form that I have to understand in order to paint a real picture, and that, I believe, gives me a few advantages that I often see "normal" people lacking.

The gist of it all is, autism in any form has it's ups and downs but I'm sure your kid will be fine. When the time comes, even he will want to explore the social world. Maybe putting him together with other kids like him will speed up the process but I'm almost certain it will come automatically, just give him time.

Here are a few other things that I want to tell you that I wish my parents knew:

  • Bad grades do not necessarily mean a lack of skills.
  • Be firm, not tough.
  • Reason over authority. If he asks why, always have a reason. "Because I said so" is the worst thing you can say to a person with an autism sprectrum disorder. This will relieve your kid of many headaches, I'm sure.
  • Your kid is different, and he feels different, I can assure you. I have yet to meet someone like me who did not feel different. So don't treat your kid like he's different, just affirm that he is and that he's loved.
  • Remember, extrovert people recharge in other's company, and introvert people recharge when they are by themselves. Alone time - even in the company of others - can be a good thing.
  • Social norms and daily/weekly planning, even if it doesn't make sense, is still important. Shower and eat regularly, have a set bedtime, brush your teeth, etc. This seems obvious to everyone else but I have met several people where eating, brushing your teeth and showering just isn't part of their routine so they forget about it.
  • Your kid is awesome. All of my friends lie on the autism spectrum because they're just that much more interesting that most other people.
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As other answers have suggested playing on the computer can be a hobby.

However, you want him to be able interact socially. The good news is that there are a lot of social interactions to be formed online, and they can be lower pressure than being face to face. Now, you do need to worry about safety, especially since some people in the autism spectrum can be overly trusting, but I think constant communication with you is the best defense.

As for a great place to get started? I would check out Scratch which is a programming language designed for children. The logic will appeal to his left brain, the pieces of code snap together like Legos (another great hobby, if not social) the creative nature will surely benefit him, and there is a great community which works to create some pretty amazing products.

There are some other amazing resources online, and it is a great way to connect with people.

Now, there is another aspect which is his physical requirements. You may need to push him slightly in order to get him to be active enough, I might recommend dropping the social part if that is too challenging and try hiking (by which I mean anything from a half a mile gentle slope to whatever he can handle). The nature is calming, so is not having to talk all the time, and he will learn a appreciation for nature. It may also help him maintain his calm.

Other than that, if he shows an interest then let him pick it up. You can suggest options (sometimes he might not know what is avalible) but pushing too hard will not get you anywhere.

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Sorry, learning to program can be a great hobby, but it really isn't a 'great way to connect with people'. Lots and lots of people program and have other technical hobbies but are still isolated and socially awkward, in fact they can end up even more alienated by the fact that they can't interact in a socially rewarding way even within 'geek' communities. –  jwg Jun 18 at 9:41
    
@jwg That is actually the beauty of Scratch in particular. There is a large collaborative community... and that is not a surprise because one of the major goals of the Scratch program is facilitating collaboration –  kleineg Jun 18 at 13:22
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I agree that just diving into a technical hobby without any social support can be a bad idea. At the same time though, there are hundreds of meetups in the tech community. The last one I was at was very socially fulfilling as well as intellectually stimulating. Watching people interact about the things they love, you see the barriers disappear... we forget that they are there. –  kleineg Jun 18 at 13:28
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Learning to program certainly can be a great way to connect with people who share that hobby. The internet was built by people who love to code, sharing the tasks, checking each other's work. Much of the socialization occurs online, but there's a healthy community out there developing open source software. –  Marc Jun 22 at 21:51

I'm not a parent (also, I'm only 21). However, I was always pretty shy outside of the home when I was a kid. What I enjoyed the most was being on the computer (even at the age of 10), and learning how to program, how to design, etc. Too many people see computers as just something that's a waste of time for kids, but I'm now a (successful) front-end developer because of it.

I wish that I had the opportunity to go to some sort of computer-related camp, or class/program. There are plenty that exist, or you could go to http://www.meetup.com/ and try to start your own? I think that if your son likes playing on the computer, you should try and make that playing into something productive. Programming is a lot of fun, and he may enjoy it.

(also, I didn't like boyscouts either. It's not for everyone)

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Most people don't look at computers as a waste of time for kids, quite the contrary. However, when that is all the kids do then it is a waste of their childhood and stunts their development. Moderation! You are only a child for a short period of time, you'll be an adult for a LOT longer. Do KID things while you are a kid. You can't go back. Adults without proper social skills tend to have a harder time in their adulthood than those with social skills. You are only 21, but you'll learn that your social skills will have a MUCH larger impact on your career growth than your technical skills. –  Dunk Jun 17 at 21:37
    
@Dunk, Also it's not the case that learning those social skills and doing those "kid" things would necessarily stunt your technical learning; I did kid things and have (IMO) excellent social skills, and yet I'm a successful developer. I'm even earning market-rate for my skillset despite not having a completed degree. –  Brian S Jun 19 at 20:33
    
@BrianS I also do not have a degree and earn market-rate. Funny how that works :p I'm glad our industry allows it. –  Nick Dugger Jun 19 at 23:19

Speaking from experience, IT is pretty much an ideal hobby for someone with ASD. It will stand him in very good stead later in life, and may spark his interest in other topics such as maths, neuroscience, robotics, physics, etc.

As an ASD person he's probably only going to enjoy socialising with people with shared interests, people he can have interesting conversations with. Could he learn programming? Perhaps get him on a code camp, or an after school code club.

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+1 for socializing within shared interests. –  kleineg Jun 18 at 13:36

My brother was in the same position as your son, and my parents found a great activity that he really enjoyed: he began music therapy.

Basically he would go and play an instrument with the instructor (he chose bass, but it could be anything) and they played together, any songs he wanted, just for half an hour a week. My parents too had to force him to get off the computer and go, but he ended up grudgingly enjoying it.

I agree that only playing on the computer without other hobbies isn't good for social development, but music is a productive activity. There's social interaction with the instructor (mostly one-on-one), and you can meet the other kids who come to play, and even play music as a group with them. He doesn't have to be particularly musical to go. I'd say you should "force" him to go to something like this, but not something like scouts--my experience makes me think your son is probably upset by the other kids there. (other kids can be rude/unfriendly to people who act different).

Another option would be programs designed for kids with autism. Cooking class, a program at a farm, any activity that is small and allows him to interact in a friendly environment will be beneficial to him and help him be more comfortable around other kids.

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Contrary to all the other answers, you most certainly should force your son into additional activities if your son won't take the initiative to become a well rounded person on their own. Times are different from just a few years ago. Video games of today are awesome and time consuming. 12 hours each day can fly by in the wink of an eye while playing them. I would say that most boys (if not the overwhelming majority of them) would be perfectly happy if you gave them a computer, an internet connection, some video game consoles with good games and left them alone for the next 20 or 30 years. That's obviously not healthy for a person's development but that's what most boys would do if left to make their own decisions.

On top of that, parents who let their kids spend all day on computers find raising their kids to be extremely easy. So the trap is there on both sides of the fence.

However, "good" parents will do whatever they can to ensure their child develops into a well-rounded and hopefully "well-adjusted" adult. This very well may involve FORCING your child to do activities the kid says they don't want to do. Too bad!

Of course if you force them to do activities that they have no talent in then it will be a losing cause. The key is for you to identify those things that your child has some talent/potential in and make them participate in those activities. It may take some time but success will breed interest and interests will turn into hobbies.

In some cases you may have to tie-in video game/computer time with their having a "good attitude" at the activity. Otherwise, you'll see them moping instead of participating just to get back at you for forcing them into the activity. But the potential of losing video game/computer privileges does wonders to get them to "pretend" to enjoy themselves. It is remarkable how frequently "pretending" to enjoy yourself eventually turns into really enjoying yourself.

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Far be it from me to classify your son but perhaps he does not like being too social, being bored easily and slightly Autistic it sounds like he could be very intelligent. So here are some ideas : Outdoor: Buy a 'flexifoil' power kite, fun, solo activity, good for fitness and strength, hours spent out in the sun and wind. At the same time he's learning about the weather, physics etc.

geocaching http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching is also a good mix of tech and outdoor fun.

Back indoors : Perhaps an electronics set, an android phone, cheap robotics etc. seriously consider the advice given here about computer programming ( look up appinventor) http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/,

You might think about motivational media, ted.com is worth a look.

Passion for life comes through interest. You can not force him to be interested in something. In fact as others have said here, it will probably have the opposite effect.

I would have made a great musician if my parents hadn't forced it down my throat like a daily chore. The only thing I was interested in was being a rally driver, my parents hated this idea , so I became one - one of the best in the country for a while.

Think about what makes him laugh, when is he totally focussed on something. Introversion is not a bad thing, most people suck anyway :)

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Most people are awesome Bob :) –  chim Jun 18 at 10:54
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Yes, they are :) –  hopeless bob Jun 18 at 11:00
    
You're awesome Bob :) –  chim Jun 18 at 11:02
    
His parents have determined (or at least, believe) that their son is lacking in social skills. I would suggest hobbies or pursuits that are not solo, but need some interaction with others. The whole point is to gently introduce him to some degree of socializing, to pick up those crucial life skills. They don't want to dump him into the deep end of the pool (lots of people, lots of commotion, like team sports), which can be terrifying to someone with ASD, but let him wade in from the shallow end little by little, with support and encouragement. –  Phil Perry Jun 18 at 13:35

I have a nephew with two great parents, and they enrolled him on a horse riding course especially for children with autism. The kids benefit greatly from this and my nephew absolutely loved it.

You'll know yourself if this is a viable hobby for your son, or if he might enjoy horseriding without the therapeutic setting.

Involve your son in the decision.

Not all martial arts classes are the same, some are very technical and some are more energetic, your son might enjoy the more energetic classes as most people can't be bothered with boring intricate katas, but enjoy hitting pads and getting fit. Also some "Sensai's" have Napoleon complexes that result in them insisting that everyone calls them "Sensai" and behaves like a 16th Century monk while in the class. Try Tae Kwon Do.

He could take a break from scouts and go back in a few months after trying something different for a while. Any child's behaviour changes and develops over time and although he's not enjoying scouts now, he might enjoy it more in a few months.

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autismspeaks.org/blog/2013/03/08/… (one in New York) but the one my nephew went on was in South East England –  chim Jun 18 at 10:56

I'm a parent of a 5 year old and I was diagnosed being on the scale some time ago.

Let me recommend two things that I would have found helpful as a kid and we're finding works well for my son (also on the scale).

First and foremost - do not attempt to force certain hobbies on your kid. It doesn't work and won't be a hobby. Lord knows I went through enough times of that.

Find things that can be both fun and useful. My son loves PS3 and computer games. We've rebuilt several of each of them together. LAN party? He helps set up. We're also tinkerers - working on small engines, etc. Whatever you do it needs to be something that engages critical thinking first, and then a lesser degree of creativity and socialization. Doing it in the other order spells disaster. In general the smaller the group and the more focused on knowing what will be done ahead of time the better.

If you really want him to have face time, if he gets into it look into D&D, pathfinder, table games, etc. Again it's critical thinking first, creativity, socialization (in that order).

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Sounds to me like he wants more independence and less parental oversight. He ought to figure out for himself what he wants to do, probably something that will allow him to support himself as soon as he's old enough. Don't knock what he chooses to do unless it hurts other people or his health. Your love and care and concern could be suppressing him and making him powerless to be self-motivated.

He should do what he wants, and when he needs help should feel free to come to you. If you raise him well, he shouldn't hurt anybody out in the real world when he becomes a young adult but if you don't trust him out in the real world when he reaches that point then just continue what you're doing until you all feel confident enough, because you're doing FINE for now.

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Your son is at an age where he should be exposed to as many things as possible, if you can at all afford it. Chess, Karate, powerlifting, legos, basketball, he may be interested in one today and another next month. That's okay. This is how he will find out what he likes to do. Like I said, as long as it's no strain on the family there's no harm. I will say, however, that playing video/computer games or watching tv is no hobby for a 10 year old. Computer Programming, however, is another matter entirely and is something worth exploring.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the more constructive things he is exposed to, the better. Encourage whatever he is interested in, and show interest. Did you attend the scout meetings? This is crucial, because if a child senses parents just shoot them off to a different form of daycare, and aren't encouraging them, they may lose interest even if they enjoy the activity. If the scouts rejected him (and you know this for a fact), this is correctable by addressing the pack leader or finding another pack, again if your son is actually interested.

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You need to distinguish between the different things you want to achieve, and find separate strategies for each one. Vague activities with several related goals, although normally how we approach social interaction (not 'I will go to this party to look for a wife', but 'I will go out in order to have fun, and maybe make some friends, and maybe I will meet someone I want to go out with...') are the problem here. He doesn't know whether he is being instructed to do sports, or to get out of the house, or to talk to other children, or what, and so he doesn't know how to comply. This is scary in itself, before the activity has even started.

If your goal is to get your son to do something other than sit in his room and play computer, you can and should encourage him to find a hobby. It could even be something computer related such as programming (if you just want to make sure he isn't playing games all day), or you could enforce something physically active if you are worried about his fitness. @user132193's suggestions are useful here. You need to let him choose, while informing him about what is possible, and encouraging him to persist with the things he tries. However, it is quite possible that he will choose something that meets your requirements but doesn't involve any social interaction.

If you goal is to make sure that he develops social skills, you need to work on these with him. This could mean that you manage some social activities with other children, also that you try and help him understand how to behave in certain situations. You have to be prepared to work with him in what might seem like a 'cynical' way on improving his social skills and making friends - discussing strategies, plans and situations before and after interacting with other kids. (Think of it as like learning a language by living in a foreign country - you pick up a lot just through exposure, but you have to go home every evening and look up the new words you've heard in your dictionary.) You also have to be ready to justify to him what the point of making friends is. Again, he might fulfil your requirements, without going beyond them - doing some amount of socializing, but without wanting any more or seeming to take much pleasure in it. You can create opportunities for him to have a close friend whom he spends a lot of time with, but you can't make this happen.

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In my own experience, I remember stopping playing football (soccer) because I didn't enjoy it at the age of 13 when basically all I ever did was playing soccer. I felt like I had enough after I suffered a broken leg during a game. I tried coming back to my level before my broken leg and gave up a few months later.

At that time, when I told my father I was getting sick of football, he told me "Okay, what you wanna do?" and I went "why not try tennis instead?" and he went "Okay let's go then".

The next day I was meeting the football coach telling him I was giving up and it was good bye. In a day or so I had just given up on approx 8 years of football.

Back in the days, I felt like I was lucky my dad (who was so much into football) agreed with my decision and never second guessed me. Nowadays, I really regret he never asked me WHY I wanted to stop, why didn't I like what I did for so many years (my entire life back then).

He probably felt like "okay he's not into it anymore let's not push him". But he should have. I'm not blaming him though, he had other things in his mind for sure.

My point is, don't just take your son's boredom for actual dislike of his hobby. Maybe there's something you can simply change by discussing it and he might be back into his hobby more than ever. With more wisdom and looking back at it, all I needed was some hope that I could get back to my top-level and even better. But when I, alone, started to doubt it, I got bored and the lack of second guessing you have at a young age should be brought to you by your parents.

Maybe it wouldn't have changed anything, maybe I would've still gone for tennis but maybe I'd still be playing football now and my life might have been different.

What I'm trying to say is don't let your son quit anything he does just for the sake of it being boring for some time. Try to get into his thoughts as of why it has become boring, what has changed, what is different from the time he enjoyed it.

Now, for sure, I don't have any knowledge about autism so what I'm saying might be way harder or even impossible. But it's worth a shot in my opinion.


Another point about computer hobby: I've been playing computer games for pretty much 12-13 years now and met incredible people on the internet doing so. I was very comfortable talking to people over the microphone, but I really sucked in real life. Until one day, when I joined a student movement and got to know a totally different myself.

So yeah, computer can be a good educational hobby but real life social skills are only granted to those who socialize in real life.

Cheers and good luck to you, hope I could help a bit.

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You dont force a hobby on a kid, you try to stimulate him having a hobby. Just try to figure out what he wants to do next time and accept the possible outcome of him never having a specific hobby. His hobby is doing different things.

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If he enjoys using the computer and building things, try to get him interested in RPG Maker (or other similar easy to use Game development software, if they prefer other genres).

Making video games gives a WIDE variety of skill sets, including writing, programming, critical thinking and planning, at least some degree of artistic mindedness (either by making your own assests, learning to modify existing pieces, or at the least knowing what you need so you can get it from someone else). It also encourages you to read and otherwise expand your horizons to so that you can make better games.

And since it also includes a license to sell commercial games made with it, you can even make money off of it eventually and learn business, advertising, managing money etc.

It's one of those simple to learn, difficult to master things, where you can quickly throw together simple games to practice your writing and basic planning stages and as you become more familiar with the engine can do all sorts of interesting things to stand out and attract an audience.

And since all game development is basically the same, the core skills learned therein can transfer to other engines (usually the only difference is programming language used and less stuff pre-loaded so it requires a bit more work to set-up your game's framework) (I made the leap to Unity without much difficulty) when/if the limitations of easier but more limited development engines become problematic.


A hobby is literally something someone does for enjoyment. You can't make someone pick up a hobby. It's fine throw stuff around to see if anything sticks, but if there isn't much interest with something, don't force the issue.

Just judging from the post, I'm of a similar temperament (though I wasn't officially diagnosed with AASD till 11th grade). My hobbies include reading (prefer fantasy, but also some Sci-fi, as well as historical fiction), video games (prefer RPGs, strategy games, simulations, and builder games (like Minecraft/Space engineers), though I also occasionally like to break things up with adventure, puzzle or fighting games), building models (especially Gundam models and Warhammer 40k miniatures), Blacksmithing, and cooking. I'm also a solo game developer (working primarily with Unity now, though I still occasionally dabble in RPG Maker if it's sufficient for my purposes), as well as a writer.

I first found RPG Maker around 6th grade (at the time only boot-leg copies were available in my area), and it proved an excellent creative outlet, that I had started making more complex games by the time I reached High School (including a interactive novel based on "How Much Land Does A Man Need?", by Leo Tolstoy as part of an English 3 book project (it was set-up like a play and followed the book mostly on rails the first play-through, but finishing it unlocked "Improv Mode", which allowed the player to change the story at certain places that resulted in different endings). I had planned to make a epic rpg (based on a book I was writing) as my senior project, but due to a rule, you couldn't do the same thing as someone in the last 4 years and a guy the year before had done video game development as his project (I ended up doing Japanese Swordsmithing and made a Katana instead).

I only have a couple friends who share similar interests that we meet up usually once a month to hang out for a day or two to play video games or watch movies.

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I will start this off by saying I am 19, so I do remember a lot of things that I did when I was ten. Your son enjoys being on the computer which I personally do not find as a bad thing, depending on what he is doing of course.

When I was younger I had few friends. I spent most of my time playing video games. I actually played MMORPG's. I met a lot of people and I would go to school and things and always talk about World of Warcraft.

Then one day, out of the blue, someone actually knew what I was talking about in class and that lead to us actually hanging out and becoming best friends for years.

Soon after, in junior high, Halo was the thing and I met a group of friends that liked playing it also, so we hung out every day and played. I still see them to this day. Eventually the whole gaming thing died out for some of my friends, but it always kept a spot in my heart.

It soon became my passion and I am now turning it into a career (I am currently attending NEIT and becoming a programmer specialized in video games). Since it died out for them, we started to do other things like play sports in high school and go out on crazy adventures.

So don't knock computers and gaming out of a valid option. You just have to know when it's too much and he's actually not socializing and making friends from it.

Also remember the importance of online gaming; teach your son to be safe while online!!!

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