I have to do a lot of convincing to get Frances on board with the idea of going to social groups. Usually, she will say things like, “I don’t mind groups; I just don’t like the people.” Though it sounds funny to us, she is quite serious.
She always has at least one group ongoing.
Of this group, the one that she has been going to weekly for several years, she says that she doesn’t like the people or the activities. We actually don’t give her the option of not attending. At this point, opportunities to socialize are opportunities to learn and to hone developing skills.
Also, at least once per year, her name comes to the top of the waiting list for a social group at the local children’s hospital (whose primary focus appears to be autism and ASD).
This year, the interventionists of the upcoming session asked if they could interview Frances on her own to determine her suitability for a group that starts this week.
I explained that she probably wouldn’t agree to an interview without me present and that the prospect of joining a group would not motivate her to be independent in this respect.
So, I had permission to be in the room while the interview was conducted. Her answers were not entirely predictable: she thought she had some friends (she doesn’t say this consistently), she liked to be on her own during recesses and lunch (she didn’t mention that she doesn’t know how to not be alone at these times), and she didn’t find this kind of group very helpful at any rate.
Near the end of the session, she truthfully said, “I’m really not much of a people person.”
Now, I completely understand this: she says it more often these days, and I believe her.
As clever and as smart as she is, however, she doesn’t believe Pink Cup Dad or myself when we tell her that social groups develop her social skills, that when she starts practicing and using her social skills she may enjoy interacting with people more than she does at the moment.
The reasoning behind development of these groups is that, as kids take social risks and interact, there are professionals on hand to intervene in order to start interactions, sustain interactions, and even end interactions. The children learn about cues and how to read them. They learn about what subjects are typically okay to discuss in different situations.
Personally, I like the groups even though it’s a struggle to get her to go; and, in this case, the parents will have their own concurrent group, too, which is a new development in the programming.
I jumped in at the end of the interview only to ask Frances if she had any questions for her interviewer about, perhaps, group size, the attendees, the activities or the expectations.
I also reminded her that there are times when she feels very lonely and that, perhaps, she could learn how to be less lonely by joining this one group.
I think that’s what did it; when asked a third time, she said she would give it a try. Yay!
The only downside is that this will mean that our time, from Tuesday to Saturday, will be busy: private group on Tuesday, horse riding lessons on Wednesday, hospital groups on Thursday, violin and flute lessons on Friday, and volunteering at the barn on Saturday. (She starts violin lessons on Friday just before her sister’s flute lesson.)
I’m actually starting to consider Monday to be a break! Except, of course, throughout the day during the week, there are appointments — one or two per day — that keep the girls and myself busy.
But it’s all good — it means someone (either Frances, Pink Cup Sister, myself, or, rarely, Pink Cup Dad) has access to a resource from which she or he will likely benefit.