Every day all of us have to deal with people. In one way or another, we need to be able to communicate our needs, be clear, calm, and concise. Also, as human beings, as social creatures, need to be able to get along with other human beings. This is as important for children as it is for adults. This is something that is truly difficult for a lot of exceptional kids. Anxiety eats away at them all day long, and dealing with their own emotions can be overwhelming, never mind handling talking to and interacting with other people.
Michael, like most exceptional kids, is challenged socially, and not in the way you think. He is extremely social in general, but it is super difficult for him to make friends and interact with new kids. With adults it is a little easier, but even then he will tend to freeze up and often fight me to go into new social situations. We have this issue sometimes with new extracurricular activities or summer camps where he does not know anybody. He will get nervous about going, and we will have to remind him how he will be fine if he uses his strategies.
But what kind of strategies work for Michael and a lot of exceptional kids? Here are 5 that our family uses and that work for many exceptional kids:
- Do a family Google expedition to find strategies or get them to find strategies: If your child loves doing searches on Google (and/or you do) the two of you can look for videos or pictures that can help your child put a picture to their feelings. Once they can do that, it will be easier for them to figure out what can help them try something to calm down, especially with you at their side. They will feel empowered by looking on their own too.
- Write a Social Anxiety Story for your child: If they are older and respond to stories, try writing a social story that can briefly explain to your child what they are feeling and, as their parent you know them best, what they can do or change to feel better.
- Write a Comic Strip where your child conquers their anxiety: This is similar to a social story, and your child has the starring role as well. You could do a panel by panel description of what they are battling, what they try, what works, and show them victorious over their fear in the end.
- Do role playing with them pretending you are a potential friend: Again, they need to be older, but you can act out what a social encounter is and help them find the words they would need to use when meeting someone for the first time and how to express themselves in a situation that may be challenging.
- Expose them to new situations regularly: This is a tough one and you will get LOTS of protest, but it is important to throw challenges (within reason), your child’s way so that they can conquer fears on a regular basis. Encourage and gradually bring new situations their way. You will see how much easier things will get if they are constantly exposed to new things and people. They will learn to slowly get out of their comfort zone into something new.
Exceptional Parents, what has worked for your child to bring them out of their shell? What has NOT worked? Remember, you are the best judge of how far and fast to push your child into trying new things to conquer social anxiety. Always trust that you know best. You are their number one advocate. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com