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Do you have a child that struggles with social awkwardness? Maybe he or she wants to play with other kids, but doesn’t seem to get the cues right, or overcompensates and gets weird looks from the other kids.
It’s hard as moms watching our kids struggle like this.
I know this so well, having watched both of my boys struggle with social awkwardness, sometimes resulting in being made fun of or getting rejected by their peers.
After many conversations, my oldest son has seemed to find his way and has a great group of friends.
My youngest son, however, is still in this thick of this battle and seems to struggle more than his brother to make friends.
He is introverted and is often exhausted by people. (He probably gets that from me!)
I have often found that during playdates, after a period of time, he will abandon his friends to go do his own thing; it’s enough for him just to have someone in the same room.
He doesn’t feel the need to actually play with them.
The problem is, his friends don’t understand what is going on inside of him, which results in them becoming better friends with his brother than him.
This has left him often feeling lonely and left out.
It was recently recommended to me to try doing social stories with him, to help him learn appropriate ways to ask friends to play with him, how to behave in social situations, and what to do when he feels overwhelmed.
The problem was finding the right social story for him.
Many of them focus on meltdowns, which are no longer an issue for us. I wanted one that helped him to know how to behave when friends come over to play.
After lots of Googling, I still came up empty-handed, so I decided to make my own.
Here’s the thing: as a mom of two boys with MERLD (aka Developmental Language Disorder), I know that social awkwardness is something many MERLD parents witness with their kids.
It’s not that their kids don’t want to play with others, it’s that they just don’t know how.
Their struggle to understand language makes engaging with other kids difficult since language is the foundation for social interaction.
Some kids, like my oldest, overcompensate for the awkwardness by laughing too loudly or forcedly at jokes to help them feel like they’re apart of what’s going on.
They may be stubborn and bossy as a way to keep things in a familiar territory for themselves.
Others may find all of this too exhausting, so they shut down and withdraw, while simultaneously feeling the disappointment of needing social interaction but finding the decoding process simply too much for them.
It’s up to us as parents to help them navigate these unfamiliar waters, until they become familiar.
My youngest son has a birthday coming up, and it’s his first double-digit birthday!
Typically, we do smaller celebrations, since our sons are born in the fall and winter, and our house is too small to do big parties. But, we allow them to do bigger celebrations for the big numbers.
So, he has made a list of 10 kids he wants to invite to his party.
He can’t wait!
And so, to help prepare him for a big crowd of kids, I created this fun and colorful social story to help him to know how to engage with his friends.
How I Use Social Stories
After printing out the social story and making it into a small booklet, we will sit and read it together.
I will often go through it slowly, adding in my own words and explanations for why we do certain things or behave in certain ways.
I will explain how behaving inappropriately makes others feel, but how an appropriate behavior can make things better and more fun.
Then, we’ll act out the social story.
I try to do one social story several times before moving on to another.
If I find a social story to be a particular challenge for him, I may ask him to create his own social story. He is very creative and loves storytelling, so this is always a fun project.
If your child doesn’t like drawing, you can ask him or her to create a scenario using Legos or dolls to act out and practice appropriate social behaviors.
You can act out different scenarios to practice reading social cues, and to teach them how certain behavior result in different responses from their friends.
How to Download the When My Friend Comes to Play Social Story
To download and use the When My Friend Comes to Play social story, simply type your email in the form below. You will be directed to a Dropbox page where you can download the social story to your device.
Have you ever used social stories with your kids? Have you found them to be effective in helping them learn to interact more easily with their peers?