Introverted 4th grader

Our son is a great little boy who really seems to lack social skills, especially in groups and on the playground. He engages well 1:1 with peers or his sister but it’s awkward and painful to watch him stand by himself at a birthday party while the other kids are laughing and joking and chasing each other around. They don’t bully him they just ignore him. He’s not good at sports but he’s a pretty strong artist and does fairly well in school. He just seems to be missing something. It’s kind of hard to imagine he might have ASD but I guess it’s possible. We’re going to have the speech therapist observe him. I don’t know if he can learn the social dance that others do naturally. We try to remind him to say hi and give him ideas to talk about with friends. I’m not even sure he wants to learn! He seems pretty content just observing from the sidelines.This whole thing bothers me more than it seems to bother him. I actually like the company of introverts and I don’t want to pathologize his personality but I also fear him missing out on the joys of friends and fun. He’s going to be in middle school soon and that just seems so intimidating for a loner. I don’t think we’ll be able to arrange play dates in 7th grade. Anybody else have a kid like ours? What are your experiences?

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RE: Introverted 4th grader ()

Shelly Hansen in Oakland helped our son a lot at that age.your son might also need support before going to college, social demands change rapidly then.

Good luck!

RE: Introverted 4th grader ()

I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but this sounds a lot like me when I was a kid. Although I did have a select few close friends as a child, I was generally very shy with other kids and would take a lot of warming up before I felt comfortable enough to jump in and play. I also sometimes just preferred to play alone. My mom used to say that when she would pick me up from daycare she would see other kids come up to try to play with me, and I would kind of just ignore them. (I still sometimes suspect I might be "on the spectrum" myself, but I've never sought or had a diagnosis.) As I got older, my shyness developed into pretty serious social anxiety. At a school dance or other kind of social event, I often hung out on the sidelines: I never knew what to say or do with my hands or body. I'm sure I would have benefited from some therapy with a compassionate and sensitive psychologist, and it seems likely your son might too.

More to your point, I also think that my parents' anxiety about my anxiety was absolutely part of the problem. I'm not sure I would have so thoroughly pathologized my own shy- and solitariness had I not been made to feel like it was something to conquer rather than just another part of who I am. So I would urge you to tread lightly on the topic. Social anxiety and awkwardness are often not things you can just get over, and trying to "fix" them can sometimes merely heighten their discomfort.

Finally, I just want to say that while my early junior high school years were socially excruciating, things started looking up for me by high school. Perhaps this is not true of your son, but I found that what was best for me was to have a few very core genuine friends and not to worry too much about engaging in big groups or events. As long as I had a buddy to navigate these situations with, I was fine. (And I think that if I had not been made to feel like there was something weird about hanging out alone, I would have been fine just observing by myself as well.) I have by no means missed out on friends and fun—I just tend to like them in smaller quantities than many others do.