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Advanced Social Skills Training (a.k.a. Adapting to an Arbitrary World)

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I know a lot of kids and adults that have a variety of diagnoses, labels and non-labels, adjacencies and traits. To me, it’s all about connecting with the neurodiverse… and occasional coaching to improve quality of life.

But the road to connection has not come easily for me; I’ve developed several adaptations. (Some may call them “social skills”, but I prefer to think of them as adaptations to a somewhat socially-arbitrary world).

And I can understand the myriad reasons why someone would resist developing these types of adaptations!

For one, you might have historically experienced loneliness and bullying and not even want to try anymore. It could be hard to imagine a positive social interaction, so maybe you’re not motivated to jump through any hoops that are not of your own design.

Besides, you’ve been asked to jump through too many hoops from too early of an age… and you want ease, acceptance, and even celebration of who you are.

Or perhaps you’re authentically not interested in adapting to this seemingly arbitrary world.

It seems impossible anyway, right?

You may consider yourself highly considerate and polite, and yet still, people call you rude. Maybe you’re noticing that many people don’t like having simple facts pointed out. What’s up with that?

It can be so lonely and disheartening living in a world where very few others try to understand us, yet everyone continuously asks us to understand them.

As an Autistic therapist whose special interest is communication… I GET IT.

And I’ve developed some adaptations of my own.

For example, due to my own asynchronous development around facial recognition (I know faces very quickly, but the social context can be lost on me at first), I now review in my head the names and roles of all household members every time I knock on a door, no matter how long I’ve been friends or family with someone.

And when I was younger, I thought kindergarten’s “show-and-tell” was representative of how the whole world worked. I have some coins and stories with which to do both, but I’ve learned to ask questions of my potential audience before embarking on my performance.

Honestly, these types of adaptations have made my life more enjoyable and far less anxiety-provoking.

Does any of this resonate? What “social skills” do you or your kids still struggle with? Let me know in the comments below.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Paula Prober February 1, 2015, 5:55 pm

    I love this: “adaptations to a somewhat socially-arbitrary world” It’s so great to have you as a resource, Bob. To have you speak from your own experience as an Aspie therapist is so helpful. For you to list the challenges you face and then the adaptations you’ve designed to cope would make a great set of posts. (or a book?) I’m forwarding your blog to a friend today!

  • Elizabeth February 2, 2015, 7:22 am

    Bob,
    It was so helpful to hear the specific impact of past hurts on the thinking patterns of the person, as well as the strategies you developed for yourself.
    Thank you

    • byamtich February 2, 2015, 7:38 am

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for the comment. You are very welcome. By that, I mean, I am glad that what I wrote was helpful to you.

      best,
      Bob

  • John February 2, 2015, 10:20 am

    I would like to know more about helping my child get less mad instead of more mad when we try to get him to be less mad

  • Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies February 3, 2015, 1:51 pm

    “It can be so lonely and disheartening living in a world where very few others try to understand us, yet everyone continuously asks us to understand them.”

    YES! I love this post, Bob. I’ve never thought of social skills as adaptations but they are!

  • Elizabeth Z February 3, 2015, 5:44 pm

    “…you’ve been asked to jump through too many hoops from too early of an age…”
    Yes! Yes! I LOVE this post, Bob! I’m definitely interested in either a call series or (and?) a book.
    DS6 struggles with saying hello, even to kids he knows well. Part of that is fear that they won’t respond in kind. That extends into play situations, often because the kids are playing a game with rules he cannot accept (why do there have to be bad guys and good guys? none of us should have to be a “bad guy” to play!).

    • byamtich February 3, 2015, 6:10 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. I think it is so great that you are there to process his fears with him. One negative interaction, or even the prospect of one aspect of an activity not being aligned with the highest of standards, can be enough for some to walk away and never return. I long for a world without bad guys! The true work is to help these kids develop their leadership skills, to keep their visionary goals as they engage with the world.

      • Jackie February 9, 2015, 3:12 pm

        Love this one!
        I’m so glad I found you again. I came across your blog about 2 years ago, maybe 3, and was inspired by your courage to tell your story and really try to help kids understand that they can feel different and connected at the same time. I’m impressed to see how your work has grown, and is growing. Thanks for the work that you do, Bob!

        • byamtich February 9, 2015, 4:25 pm

          Thanks Jackie! “different and connected at the same time” is my favorite seven words of the moment.

  • Michelle February 5, 2015, 9:46 pm

    Echoing all the love for this post because it resonates very deeply. My daughter and I both struggle with the most elementary of social skills, with conversation being the most difficult of all.

    • byamtich February 6, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Conversation can be so challenging! For me, the most complicated task is interrupting. I know that we can interrupt for connection and efficiency, but interruptions can so often result in hurt feelings.

  • Wendi February 7, 2015, 3:32 pm

    Love this post too! I’d like to learn more about how to teach my son about teasing, the positive kind of course! He thinks all teasing is bad, when sometimes a friend is teasing him because that friend is trying to make a connection.

    • byamtich February 7, 2015, 9:23 pm

      Yes! Teasing can be so complicated. I never know what is real and what is kidding. Literal thinking is in my bones, as I describe in a previous blog. It can be so hard to understand other people’s intentions.

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