Sunday, June 29, 2008

Practical Socialization

I have long felt that while supporting Buddy Boy in his socialization skills by taking him to socialization classes was a good thing, that he got just as much good (and perhaps more) from the times I have taken him to McDonald's Play Places. When I take him to a Play Place, I try to let him go out and negotiate for himself, just giving him some tips ahead of time, reviewing casually some things afterward, and intervening (and sometimes hightailing it out of there) only as necessary.

While Buddy Boy's great little surprise the other day is a "one off" for now (we're back to standard conversation mode), he did up and demonstrate a skill yesterday I haven't seen him do before.

We took our annual outing to our local park's carnival that they hold every year in June. We have to pass this fair getting to our house, so there's really no way that we can just forget about taking the kids.

Buddy Boy has always wanted to go on some of the "big kid" rides, and this year he's tall enough to qualify to ride. We went in the late afternoon. It was a pleasantly cool day for this time of year around here (about 76F/24C), and while there were some people there, there weren't a lot of older kids there yet (I imagine they all come out after dark, just like we did when we were young).

The first ride Buddy Boy wanted to go on was this one "The Egg". It's kind of like a ferris wheel, but you can lock the car so it goes upside down. Because of the way the seat belt is configured, they won't let you ride it alone. We happened to run into one of the counselors from his school, who was there with her daughter. We asked her daughter if she wanted to ride on that ride, and she said yes. So we had Buddy Boy ask her if she wanted to ride, and they rode it together.

Next Buddy Boy wanted to ride on the ride pictured up top that flips you upside down (over and over again-I think it's called "The Whiz"). This is neither my nor Liz's cup of tea, and again the ride would not let anyone ride in a car single. There was no one else waiting to ride, so we told him he could wait for someone else to come along who wanted to ride. Next came the part that surprised me.

Not wanting to wait all day to ride, and seeing a couple of older kids walking by, Buddy Boy started going up to them and asking them if they wanted to ride on this ride with him. I was flabbergasted. This was something I've never seen him do. This is the kid who doesn't know the names of most of the kids in his class (even by the end of the year), who I only extremely rarely see approach other kids at school functions and the playground, and hardly says a word if someone approaches him. Yet he initiated contact, made his wants known, and successfully persuaded another kid to ride with him on the ride (with the other kid supplying his own tickets-no bribe involved).

He not only did this once, he did it again when we returned to "The Egg" ride for another go.

Now Liz was not as impressed as I was. She quite rightly pointed out that these interactions were more in line with going up to a shop counter and asking for something (which he has done before), and not really actual give and take conversational socializing, making small talk and all. But I was impressed none the less.

I am reminded of the old joke that is often attributed to Winston Churchill:

Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course...
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

The fact that (with sufficient motivation) Buddy Boy demonstrates that he'll initiate conversation with strangers (kids his own age, even-much harder for him than adults) gives me hope that he already has the essentials for achieving success in high school and beyond. I just have to help him identify the right motivation.

One other surprise. While I was getting him into bed he said "You know that Black girl that I rode the ride with. It was nice of her to ride with me. And she was kind of cute." I was amazed. Someone that wasn't blond? Who would of thought?


Niksmom said...

I was nodding my head as I read your words about finding the right motivation. Then, I cracked up over the blond comment! Sure sounds like BB is growing up in many, many ways! Boy, are you and Liz going to have your hands full in the not-too-distant future! ;-)

Mrs. C said...

Yay! Congrats!

CS said...

Never underestimate the power of motivation! My son does all sorts of things when he is motivated. Buddy Boy may have been waiting a long time in his mind to get on those rides and he was determined to find a way. My son is now tall enough to ride those rides that require you to be at least 42" tall but I'm still apprehensive to let him ride them at his age (barely 5). I haven't been tested yet this summer so I reserve the right to "change my mind"

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Very brave too! Some of those rides are quite scary, I think. I bet you are very proud.

Club 166 said...

Yea, the girl thing was out of right field, all right.

Of course finding a girl that likes robots, tractors, and time machines might not be easy, but who knows?

@Mrs. C,
Thanks! Hope you're feeling better by now.

Usually we use motivators (it's such a nicer word than bribes, don't you think) to get all of the usual things (rooms picked up, reading done, reasonable behavior, etc.). But it is remarkable how powerful this intrinsic motivation to ride these rides proved.

Buddy Boy first rode on a little "kiddy coaster" when he was two, and loved it. He has no fear of rides.


farmwifetwo said...

Once upon a time, I use to worry about whether it was "appropriate or NT-like" b/c that was drilled into my head by the ABA Therapists.

Now... it just is. He could make his wishes known, find someone to help him accomplish that task... who cares if it's true conversation or not.

I think he did amazing.


Daisy said...

This is amazing - and thrilling. I love it when Amigo acts his "age" socially; it's so reassuring.

Ange said...

ah, the things that motivate us to push our boundaries. i work for ice cream.

Sharon said...

Nice story! Buddy Boy is so smart and brave.

Re. finding the girl, my daughter Lady likes robots and time machines, but I'm not too sure about tractors! Also she's missing the blond hair, but that's not so important any more. ;-)

Liz Ditz said...

Thanks for sharing BB's successes with us, and your joy in him.