My 5-year-old is in Kindergarten. I work at home and I pick him up from the bus stop every day.
Everyday, the first thing out of his mouth after school is, "Can I have a play date with so and so (person varies)?"
I really really want him to play with friends for multiple reasons - not the least of which being that I need to work, and I get less done if he's around - and so in spirit, I'm more than glad to grant his request.
In practice though it ends up being extremely painful.
First of all, I don't think we've ever had somebody come to our door asking to play with him. But, he's young, I don't know if that means too much.
More importantly though, I watch him play with kids and attempt to play with kids, and it seems like they don't want to play with him. I also watch the way he behaves around them, and for lack of a better word; he behaves "weird". Other words that may fit are "annoying" or "socially awkward".
Today, I watched him follow a girl who's his age asking her if she wanted to have a play date, while she literally ran away. It seems like he's not quite present with people and not responding well to social cues (I don't know what I should expect here - but he seems not to be doing well).
This general sentiment is echoed by his Kindergarten teacher. She says that he is often "annoying" to others, and often seems oblivious to social cues.
He has been evaluated by a psychologist who after watching a video of him interact with an intern for an hour decided to diagnose him with OCD, mild Autism Spectrum Disorder, and ADHD. I don't entirely disagree with her conclusion, but if it's that easy to diagnose complicated physiological brain issues then it seems like the diagnosis is the same as no diagnosis.
Regardless of what diagnosis he has, I still need to deal with this in real time. I don't want to suppress him, and I also suspect that anything I do will make it worse (I'm not saying this is true - that's just how it occurs to me), but it's now becoming too painful for me. I need to find a way to approach this situation more effectively - right now I find myself almost resentful of my child for "making" me deal with this.
I love my kid; and this post is probably less about him than it is about me. He's great. I find myself wanting so badly to help him avoid the discomfort that can follow social difficulties; and I am way too close to see clearly; but I want to find a way to interact with this so that I have peace and he develops appropriate social skills.
Addendum - I forgot to mention that we have already begun work with the school, and in my opinion (though I lack any basis for comparison), we have some extraordinary individuals working in our school district who really seem to be competent and caring. Also, we are sending him to ABA this summer for some of the time.
I suppose my real question is - what do I do now - in the moment - as this is happening? How do I interact with him about it? Should I offer correction? Should I just try to stop being so attached to how it looks, and let him work it out on his own? (Not that I am certain that I am capable of this).
I don't want to punish him; like he can't play with his friends - he has done nothing that deserves punishment - but at the same time, I don't want to just say, sure, go play with so and so; even though it seems clear to me that so and so doesn't want to play.
Or, maybe I'm trying to hard to protect him. I've always considered myself to have a degree of skill with thinking things like this through, and finding a sane and empowering place to come from - and if it were someone else coming to me for advice about a similar situation, I'm certain I'd know exactly what guidance to offer; but with my own kid, I feel completely helpless.