Thursday, July 10, 2014

Colin's Socialization Skills

When you have a child with special needs that is in the school district, they get assessed on everything, right down to their social skills, self-help skills, etc.  Even though all of these areas are assessed and given a numerical value, these are all often things that Chris and I observe on a regular basis with him and is not something we need a number to tell us where his strengths and weaknesses lie.  

Throughout the past 2 years while in preschool, a common theme that would show up in discussions about Colin in meetings regarding his socialization was that he would often prefer to seek out conversation or activity with the adults in the classroom versus the kids his own age.  They would also discuss that this was something they were working on, particularly in centers, in teaching Colin how to approach a child his own age, initiate conversation and play with them. 

Chris and I have always noticed that Colin has had difficulty when it came to his socialization skills.  When Kailey first came home as a baby (Colin was just shy of his 2nd birthday) it took a really long time before Colin would even acknowledge her existence.  He seemed to show no interest in the fact that she now lived in our house and was not very apt to help or interact with her.  While I know this is actually pretty common in general with kids around that age, we were very observant of this.  I would say that it really took almost 6 months (when Kailey became more interactive) for him to really start to initiate any sort of play with her.  Through the years, we have watched their relationship change and grow and have seen the biggest change in the past year.  They would often have a lot of parallel play while together, but this slowly started to change and now we see really great socialization between the two of them in ways that are initiated from BOTH of them.  Originally, Kailey was always the boss and created the activity but we now find that Colin will initiate more activities and tell Kailey what he wants of her.  For the most part, they play really well together both structurally and imaginatively and it makes us feel encouraged.  We know that Colin feels the most comfortable with her so we are hoping that he will slowly take the skills he has learned by playing with her and apply them socially when at school or in other places. 

For years now, I have always been the most observant in the ways in which Colin socializes with kids his own age in settings in which we have set up with friends of ours.  We feel lucky that Colin and Kailey have a lot of really great friends that they have playdates with and play with on a semi-regular basis.  However, I am always acutely aware of Colin's difficulties when it comes to even these settings.  For the most part, we have always been able to attribute these difficulties to the fact that his communication has never been on the same level as peers his own age.  Overall, kids don't really pay attention to this and have an ability to continue on regardless.  I have had kids ask me why Colin doesn't talk as well as they have gotten older, but this is quite limited.  However, even now when Colin's communication is booming, he still has difficulties having a conversation or playing with a peer because when asked questions or spoken to, he often can't answer in the way that another child would typically answer or continue to carry on this conversation.  I think this causes difficulty in sustaining an interaction and causes others to lose interest (or Colin himself). 

I think because of this, we will often find Colin choosing to play independently off by himself when the rest of the kids may be grouped somewhere else.  This is something I have always noticed whether it be in this type of more social situation or in the classroom (both in public school or daycare). 

While I understand that even this is something Colin just needs to continue to work on and practice with, it can be difficult for me at times to observe and see him off by himself.  I feel bad for him that something as simple as interacting with peers is a challenge and I hope that as time goes by and other areas start to improve, this will as well.  I feel the worst for him when he DOES try to initiate conversation and he isn't heard or understood and then his attempts "fizzle out" and one or both of the kids involved lose interest and move on to something else. 

Instead of letting Colin just go and play in the ways he wants to, I often have to closely monitor him and make sure that he is also playing appropriately when he is actually interacting.  For example, some of the behaviors I talked about yesterday will start to emerge when he is just trying to be silly, but in certain situations this is not always appropriate and other kids don't always like it. 

Just like most areas of development, we will continue to work with Colin on this and help him so that one day, this comes naturally to him just like all of the rest.  I get the most excited when I see great, positive interaction with Colin and other kids because I really start to feel encouraged.

As I mentioned before, we feel encouraged because of how his socialization is improving right in our own home so we are looking forward to those same skills being used outside in more social situations.  We will find that when Colin will come and ask me or Chris to do something, if we remind him or ask him to find Kailey and ask her, it's almost like a lightbulb clicks on and he will react with "oh, ok!" and then find her.  This has also taken some learning on Kailey's part and SHE often has to be reminded that she's not always the one in charge and that it's ok for Colin to initiate something once in awhile. 

Again, this is ANOTHER reason why the inclusive Kindergarten environment is important to us so even something as simple as socialization will continue to be worked on with Colin.  Sometimes the best teachers are your fellow peers...

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