Special-Ism’s Q & A: Problems with Friends

We recently received a query from Lisa, one of our Special readers:

“Hi, just wondering if you have any advice on keeping a teenager with Asperger’s, ADHD, and chronic Depression protected from people he thinks are his friends, but who can easily convince him to do stupid stuff that gets him into serious trouble with the law. He’s at that age where trying to convince him to continue therapies and find new friends is becoming very difficult.  Thank you!”

We reached out to four professionals and individuals knowledgeable on this topic to help Lisa with her problem. Each offers a unique response.

Gavin Bollard is a dad who discovered that his own differences were due to Asperger’s while researching his son’s diagnosis. He blogs at  Life with Aspergers. Gavin suggested,

“This young man would benefit from interaction with NEW peers in new social situations. An alternative group of friends to engage with away from school may be just what he needs.

Consider a good scouting group as they are designed to assist kids in helping each other. Be sure to look for a scouting group that is supportive. Over the age of 11, the scouts tend to be less supervised so perhaps a special needs group may be more appropriate. Scouts offers high moral and leadership values and it isn’t limited to any one skill, such as sports like soccer or baseball.”

D.S. Walker focuses on bullying issues and can be found on her website. She is the author of Delightfully Different, the story of a young girl with Asperger’s who experiences bullying. D.S. commented,

“It is hard to control our children’s friendships once they are teenagers. First, make an effort to get to know them by inviting them to your home. That way you can try to influence how they behave. You also want to know the parents of your child’s friends. You mentioned your son has already gotten into trouble with the law because of these ‘friends,’ so it may be too late to consider this.

Try to get your son involved in after-school activities that this group does not do or find a mentor for your son. Children often listen to others easier than they listen to their parents. Confirm background checks first and make sure you meet the mentor too.

Another option might be to have someone from the police department talk to him since he has gotten into trouble with the law. Many police departments have groups that work with troubled youth.

I found a helpful article from Michele Borba, “What to Do If You’re Concerned About Your Kid’s Friends. She offers more severe alternatives to prevent potential tragedy. You know your child best and you will have to decide what option is best based on the knowledge you have.”

Barbara McKeon, M.S., CCC-SLP, Director of Aaron Academy offered,

“People become part of the larger community through the development of healthy relationships. Nowhere is this as significant as in the middle and high school years. It is during this time that students learn to navigate the social nuances, develop a shared vocabulary and reflect who they are based on who they perceive as socially important. Students with disabilities are equally concerned with developing a social scene but are not always equipped with the tools to do so successfully.

Limited language skills in students with disabilities impact comprehension of that shared vocabulary–teen slang changes rapidly. Limited theory of mind in students with disabilities impacts the ability to see another’s perspective–social nuances are missed. Limited ability to read non-verbal cues in students with disabilities affects the speaker-listener dyad–they become the butt of jokes.

Added difficulty to this complex profile is a growing resistance to treatment, particularly if that treatment sets them apart even more from their peers. For middle and high school students trying to navigate the social realm it is critical to provide integrated, on-going, meaning-based social skills training that teaches effective decision making and problem solving within the context of their daily lives. Too often remediation is based on a set of unrelated activities, an interesting approach to students who are already unrelated. As educators, as clinicians we must embrace a model that uses context for developing relationships, teaches social problem solving and promotes positive, effective interaction with others.”

Kathryn Gruhn, MA, CCC-SLP is the writer of My Baby Compass, a program to assess your child’s progress through important milestones. Kathryn stated,

“Consider involvement in a program of art, music, horseback riding, scouts, summer camps, etc, where the social interaction has more adult input but is still open for the children to interact. When looking at a group, it is important to know the children within the group prior to introducing the individual.”

Thank you to everyone who took the time to thoughtfully reply to Lisa’s query. If you have some advice for Lisa, we’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment below. If you would like to ask our professionals your own question, please contact us.

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Special-Ism About Special-Ism

An "Ism" is our coined term synonymous with a “challenge”. Many children, with or without a diagnostic label, experience various challenges throughout their developmental years which are impacting them in the classroom and at home. At Special-Ism, the Ism is our focus. We do not look at the diagnostic label, instead, we look at the Isms and offer solutions no matter the diagnosis.