My 10 year old son has been in special ed for several years now, in a mainstream class with a parapro. His official diagnosis is sensory integration disorder, but he has been in occupational, physical, and speech therapies to assist him with mild developmental delays. He's actually doing quite well in school now with the help he's been given.
But it has come to my attention that my parenting skills could use some work. One of his behaviors is that he will get very focused on one topic. He will go on and on in detail for hours about just one thing. I have a very hard time redirecting his conversation, and sometimes even just getting a word in edgewise when he's off on one of his monologues. I become bored and frustrated, and don't want to interact with him.
It has become so much easier for me to just plop him in front of a computer game to keep him occupied, because this hold his attention. But one of his therapists mentioned that I'm using the computer as a "pacifier" instead of really spending quality one-on-one time with him. Unfortunately, it's true. :(
So what are ways that you engage kids in play and conversation when they are very hard to communicate with and redirect?
My ds can be like this. I try to show interest and than work to change the topic. Or I will talk to him about a topic that he enjoys however isn't his "favorite". Dh instead learns everything he can about the topic so they can actually converse. Both of these methods combined work well but on their own were not as successful. My way demonstrates to ds that sometimes the conversation needs to be of interest to both parties. Dh's way shows ds that his interests are important and allows him to actually converse not just monologue.
Does ds have any interests that you can build upon? Can you learn about his interests so that they are something you can build conversations on?
Also we have had good success with playing board games as one-on-one time.
I echo another poster who noted that playing board games is a great way to share time without worrying about the conversation you are having.
I would also agree with the poster who noted that while we don't know your child he could have pragmatic language problems, either because he can't recognize your disinterest or does not care that you are disinterested. This rises above the level of sensory issues and may help you and him if you investigate why he has this issue in the first place so you both can get good support. This issue can go along side ADHD or Spectrum disorders so it is worth looking into.
Iy son who has PDD-NOD, a spectrum disorder, occasionally has trouble this way when he loves a topic and wants to share what he knows, like his love of all things Yu-go-oh. I tell him directly (it does him no favors to avoid this conversation...and makes me feel really badly too if I avoid him, I totally relate to your problem by the way!!!....) that momma isn't interested in Yu-go-oh, it's a topic for him and his friends to share, but I appreciate how much he likes it and respect that about him. I remind him it's the same as momma's love of music. I don't talk to him about singing, how to sing why I sing etc. and remind him that he would be bored, right??...because it isn't his interest. I have to remind him of my perspective but at that point he will listen to me and stop the conversation. At this point, it's a familiar conversation in my house!! I also tell him what I do like talking to him about. The more directly I speak with him the better. I don't take for granted that he know...I assume he doesn't, always. I tell him I like talking about how his day went, what he does and talks about with his friends, what his school work is etc.
He's a good age for a social skills class. In my DD's social skill class, they worked on how to have an exchange in a conversation, how to read body language, etc. It was really good for her, and she and I would have practice conversations later. She also developed a taste for board game.
We have a routine at dinner where each person says one thing they are grateful for, and then we talk about it for a second, and then it's the next person's turn. This is easier with 3 or 4 people than with 2. As a parent, it feels more natural to me to teach my kids to listen to each other than to listen to me!
Another thing is to set boundaries. For me, it is reasonable to learn a little about my DD's special interest and talk to her about it a little. But I set lines. It works for me to think about how long I'm willing to talk about something, and then to gently close the conversation. "I like talking to you about this, but right now I need to _______________"
I don't think any parent is on 100% of the time. I just don't buy it. I think it's less obvious is typically developing children. My kids are close in age, and my typically developing child spends more time away from home and needs less guidance to entertain herself when she is home. I would recommend you not beat yourself up! Build in a couple of times a day when you take some time to really connect with him, but don't aim for perfection. The therapist has most likely never lived with a special needs kid 24/7.
We talk for a few minutes in the morning and then again right after school. We talk at dinner and work on conversation skills. I read a chapter of a book to my kids every night before bed, and the often becomes another time for us to talk. We plan a "family fun" activity every week.
but everything has pros and cons
My son who has Aspergers is really into Mario games right now and will play his dsi all day even forgetting to eat or drink if i dont insist. We have to put limits on it, which is very hard for him. I dont have any real advice, as I am trying to figure this one out myself, but I just wanted to say I understand completely what it is like to try to communicate with your child about anything other than their special interest. It can be very frustrating. The other day coming back from school my son was running behind another kid who was on his bike, monologuing EXTREMELY loudly to the other child about Mario games, and how he would let him play his game but he would have to come to his house, and on and on, lol. I think he was trying to make friends with the other boy, but the boy was very obviously not interested. Listening for advice as well as how to connect and break the obsessiveness of these interests.
I had a lot of success with finding related topics to the special topic. For example, right now DS is extremely into waterfowl. So then I mentioned a new duck sanctuary that there are plans on opening and what plans the community had on having a wildlife park. That tied into a local college program and a little about town planning in general. So in the end, I got a little break from hearing just about ducks and we got into more of a general discussion on the environment and community responsibility.
One thing that helped DS (as Linda mentioned above) was social skill classes, and what he worked on the most was broadening his range of topics. Knowing some basic rules does help, although his motivation to follow some of these social rules is poor. I find that if he's with a good conversationalist, he's more motivated to be thoughtful of not monopolizing on topic choice. I try to model being a good conversationalist myself, and I occasionally (if we are in private) say out loud what I'm doing "Gee son, I got so excited I didn't let you talk there. What were you about to say?" "Sorry, I've been going on a bit much about the garden, haven't I?"
Busy keeping up with three children and an awful lot of chickens!