Autism and Navigating Social Circles Solo
There’s huge difference between five and fifteen.
What do I mean?
I’m discussing a rather typical issue for a teenager, learning how to navigate social circles.
And, learning how to do it solo, without mom (or dad) around.
At age five, I was much more present, first hand, to navigate my son’s social circles. To assist, to teach, and to protect. I was either present or informed by facilitators of how my son navigated social contacts.
Then what happened?
He grew up.
He’s a teenager now, he’s fifteen.
These days, he goes out into the world more often without me around than with me (or dad) around.
Much of the time it’s his choice.
He doesn’t want mom around when he’s at a Smash tournament, for example. He’s trying to fit in, be “one of the guys,” and have some freedom.
It’s much more typical than autism.
Does autism play a role?
Of course it does. Just like it did recently.
What really happened, in hindsight, was I have to remind myself that I need to let my son navigate his own social circles.
He was at a local Smash tournament and approached a player who had recently lost a match. He wanted to talk to him about what happened.
Now, when my son first began to play in these tournaments, he had to learn to leave players who had just lost alone. A lot of them are pretty…well, pissed off post-loss.
He did learn that rule and he knows the gaming community etiquette now.
This is where autism does play a role.
My son was playing a side game and when he was done he saw that one of his fellow players had lost a match. He likes this fellow player and explained to me that he has had a decent relationship with the player. He thought he had waited a reasonable amount of time, post-lost, especially since he was playing a side game.
He approached the player and tried to talk to him.
Well, the player yelled at him to “leave him the *^%$ alone.”
He made a scene, apparently.
I was not there to witness it and my son explained to me that he thought he was okay to approach him.
He told me what he said to the player to set him off.
Later on, the player also got angry when my son just looked at him.
What did I do?
Well, I did have to discuss a few things. One is that perhaps the player did take it too far when he got angry at a look by my son. I did have to know about that part of the situation because it was entirely possible that this person is indicating an escalation of some sort.
Second, I had to talk to my son about his opening line. I felt that it had put the player on the defensive, especially when he was still sore about a loss.
Third, my son does believe that everything’ll be fine. He’ll apologize to the player the next time he sees him, and believes things will be fine.
So, my son is trying his best to navigate his own social circles.
All well and good.
He’s right to do so. Solo.
What else happened?
Towards the end of our discussion, my son also informed me of other “bad” situations he had gotten into. One situation confused him because there was a player who just to talk to him and then suddenly stopped.
Another was a player/tournament leader who had to tell my son to stop talking. I think this was just a case of someone who runs a tournament and is busy.
Yet, that’s the autism part of it.
My son does sometimes go into a type of verbal diarrhea, especially when he’s talking about something that really interests him.
And, a busy person is busy.
My son still struggles with social cues and reading body language. He knows he has to improve in those areas, but he still gets easily distracted.
He says he’s learned from this most recent experience.
What did I learn?
I do need to let go and allow my son to make his own mistakes.
Yes, I have to monitor (mostly from a distance) whether a situation appears to be escalating. I told my son that it is still my job to make sure no one is threatening him.
But, besides that…five is no longer fifteen.
I have to allow my son to navigate his own social circles…solo.
Make his own friends, and even his own enemies. Make his own decisions when it comes to how and when and where to talk to people. Test boundaries, maybe. Learn from his mistakes, always.
Also, be a good friend. Be polite and listen to others. Improve at reading people.
If someone has an issue with him, try to handle it. On his own.
If the person doesn’t want to be friends, for whatever reason, that’s okay.
The bottom line, I have to allow my son to do these things on his own.
With my son, it’s not all autism. It’s growing up, learning, and becoming his own person.
This mom needs to let it happen naturally.
As best she can.
Autism and Navigating Social Circles Solo
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