I don't usually post here, though I sometimes read. I have a seven year old who probably has Asperger's but has not been diagnosed. He's behind in being able to relate to peers and adults and I really want to help him with social skills. He's homeschooled for a variety of reasons (so no IEP) but he does see kids every day in various classes or activities. He has a 5 year old brother with whom his play looks completely normal (and they play well all the time) but he seems not to know how to act with other kids no matter how often he's with them. He's very verbal, and when he meets adults they mostly focus on how "smart" (I hate the label) he is rather than the fact that he doesn't know how to take turns in conversations or express empathy for various situations. He's a bookworm and introvert, but so am I. I think my childhood and young adult life would have been easier had I had better social skills.
So where do I start? Therapy? Some sort of evaluation? Books? What has worked for others? I don't want to change him but I do want to give him better tools for social interaction should he choose to use them.
My son attends a social skills group in NJ. I'm not sure where you are located, but they do exist.
I attached the link to give you an idea.
Hope that helps!
There's a book on that:
Social skills class is one of the best things we've done for our DD, and it didn't require a dx. We found it through a center for autism. Start searching, start asking questions, and even if you aren't asking the right people, they may be able to get you to the right people.
The kind of evaluation where these things are figured out is a "Neuro-psychological evaluation." You could start by asking your doctor for a referral and your child may need to see a developmental specialist.
And this process can take time. Often, there is a wait list. My advice to get the ball rolling ASAP, even though you homeschool. Should your child need to start school for any reason, he might qualify for accommodation, but getting it in place requires a solid dx. Besides, you'll get all kinds of other information about him through the process which will help you parent him better.
Social skills classes are great, but no one teaches social skills more effectively than a savvy 7 year old girl. Is there anyone in your homeschool community who could befriend your son and help him? It wouldn't hurt to ask around.
You could start therapy while you pursue a diagnosis: I'm still working on finding a social skills class. I recommend a clinic like this one, though it can take about 9months for an appointment.
One thing our therapist recommended was a family game night.
Stuff we've done to work on social skills with my spectrum kid:
1. Speech and language therapy. DS has deficits in pragmatic language, receptive language, expressive language, and social skills. The speech-language therapist has worked on all of these with him. We've been doing this 1 time per week for two years. It's been extremely helpful.
2. Speech camp - we've done this for two summers. Our camp is 6 weeks long, for 4 hours, one day a week. They combine OT and speech to work on social skills in a group. It's been extremely helpful.
3. We've gone through the Social Skills Picture Book with him at home. I don't know if it helped, but I'm sure it didn't hurt. (My neurotypical five year old was fascinated by the material, BTW, and I'm pretty sure that the NT kid found it useful.)
4. We used the Transporters videos. It's a DVD program designed by Baron-Cohen's research lab that is designed to teach ASD kids to recognize emotion from facial expressions, which is an important social skill. I think it was helpful.
5. We put him in gymnastics at the Little Gym and karate. The structured environment allowed him to get used to other kids in a more structured, less challenging environment. It helps.
I've seen the Superflex curriculum referenced a number of times and it looks good. It might be something you can do with him as part of his homeschooling.
Sometimes SLPs will have social skills groups for kids and you might be able to do that.
SuperFlex is awesome. We used it at home one:one. When DS was at summer camp, we would spend the drive there and back discussing how the other kids at camp, as well as he, had been demonstrating behaviours described by SuperFlex characters. Social understanding is about perspective, and SuperFlex allowed DS to understand what was driving him and others in various situations. He has a dollar store photo album with cut-outs from the book (it comes with a CD-rom you can print from), so he could page through it and review the characters (ie RockBrain is a rigid thinker, EnergizerBunny is a whirlwind...) Garcia Winner has a number of different materials which are all very good, but the SuperFlex is a comic-based curriculum that appeals to kids. Social Detective is also good, and talks about expected and unexpected behaviours.
What's worked for us is to provide very clear, descriptive, direct feedback and coaching. We practice perspective taking all the time (talk about tv, talking about something in class, with sibling etc - how do you think she felt when ____ ; I noticed she looked down when that other kid said that, why do you think she did that?). DS did a social skills class and a couple of social skills camps when he was 7.
Are you pursuing a diagnosis? Neurological differences can include a host of variables (ie he could have a language disorder in addition to/instead of an ASD), and this can change what forms the best approach. Depending on where you live, it can also lead to access to services and therapies.
Another fan of Superflex. My DD has been in a group working through this method and it's working well for her. For older kids, any of the stuff written by Michelle Garcia Werner is amazing. She's a total guru in the field of social thinking. http://www.socialthinking.com/ If you can work with anyone who's been to her seminars or lectures, it's a benefit.
Thanks so much for the suggestions. I will definitely look into the links above. Superflex sounds great. Michelle Garcia Werner lives about an hour and a half from here- you'd think I'd be able to find someone who's been to her seminars (it doesn't look like she does private practice).