Raising the Socially Awkward Extrovert

extrovert: noun. an outgoing, overtly expressive person.

awkward: adjective. causing difficulty; hard to deal with.

You see the dilemma, yes?

hands-220163_1280
Me! Pick me! I know! I know!

You know this child.

He pushes his way to the front of the line, to the front of the class, to the front row of the photo. His hand is the first one up, his answer shouted out before he’s actually called on. He sings the loudest, dances the most exuberantly, appears the most confident.

That’s my child.

I love him to pieces.

His desire (and demand) to be noticed is commendable.  How many of us would rather shirk in the sidelines?  He makes me proud on a daily basis for his passion and confidence.

He also worries me.

We all know this child is – let’s be honest – kind of annoying. He’s the one the teacher initially appreciates, but eventually gets frustrated with. He’s the one the other kids start to dislike because he comes off as a know-it-all and interrupts them constantly.

My worry is that my child won’t pick up on these social cues. He won’t realize when he should keep his hand down so others have a chance. He won’t realize he’s actually blocking someone else when he rushes to be in the front row of the picture. He won’t realize that when he’s shouting out answers, he’s actually disrespecting the teacher.

My son has autism. The social world doesn’t make a lot of sense to him. He wants to be a part of the world – oh, yes – but he struggles with how to do this in a way that respects others. He misreads cues. He assumes others know what’s in his mind.

As an example, he told me a few weeks back that “Johnny doesn’t like me.” When I asked him why, he said, “He doesn’t want to play with me.”

Yet, the very next day as I was dropping him off at daycare, Johnny walked right up to my son and said hello.

My son didn’t acknowledge him. I tried to ask my son why he didn’t say hello, but I couldn’t get him to look at me or respond. He had already moved on to the next task. My theory is that, in my son’s mind, he had said hello. He assumed that Johnny knew he was happy to see him.

But what happens when kids stop saying hello because they don’t get a response or even the acknowledgement of eye contact?

What happens when my son becomes more than just a boisterous little boy whom we can forgive because he’s four and simply becomes that awkward kid who’s always making a scene?

These are the thoughts that race through the mind of a mother whose child has struggles, but is brave and outgoing, nonetheless.

While nerve-wracking, I recognize there are far worse issues he could be facing.

But I’m a mother. Forgive me if I continue to worry.

What worries do you have for your child? 

 

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This post also appears on Sammiches and Psych Meds.


~Chaos Contemplated (for now)

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18 thoughts on “Raising the Socially Awkward Extrovert

  1. Omg I have that same kid!

    You know, the one where people say, “Oh he’s not really autistic…he’s so Friendly!” ”

    Right now, my guy is in 7th grade and he is on top of the world. He seems to be totally accepted at school on his own terms, which is kind of a miracle, but one I gladly accept!

    I worry terribly about the day when he starts to notice that his peers are doing very different things than he is. It’s a different, older-kid litany than yours.

    Anyway, here’s to our awkward extroverts!

    Love,

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get the SAME kind of responses from friends and family. “Do you think it was a misdiagnosis?” “Um, no. Did you see him just lick that table?” Lol. That’s fantastic about your son feeling so good and accepted at his school. I hope it stays that way for everyone’s sake.
      Great to hear from you Full Spectrum Mama! 🙂

      Like

  2. My son misses lots of social cues also, and I understand the worry completely! He has lots of friends but, like your son, doesn’t always realize that he has to say “hi” and play with them. He also has this need to be in control and in charge. Just today we had to leave the pool with him in tears because two boys were playing in “his” area and he couldn’t accept that. Friends groups and social skills groups have been very helpful. Good luck on your journey! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessica,
      Thank you so much for commenting. It’s always nice to hear that our struggles are not unique. I agree that social skills and play groups have been immensely helpful.
      Good luck to you too! 🙂

      Like

  3. My older son (autism) is now in middle school. I was terrified for some of the same reasons you listed. But as he’s gotten older and more aware of what is normal/not normal, right/wrong, he is taming down a bit. He is embarrassed about the stories we tell of his early years (up through age 6 or 7)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bring up an interesting point. I wonder what my son will (and will not) be embarrassed about when he’s older. Thanks for reading, and giving me hope he’ll learn to self-regulate in the years to come! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, Lisa! I wonder: do your two kids get along since they are opposites in terms of how they interact socially? My littlest one (he’s two) is shaping up to be a bit more timid, but it seems to work really well for the two of them being buddies.

      Like

  4. How do I start counting the worries I have! We actually did group OT for social issues to help my son learn that how he was interpreting things wasn’t what was actually happening. They would video tape the session and then play it back for all of the boys so they could learn from each other. It was amazing.

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds really amazing! I hope we can eventually do something like that for my little guy. Heck. I think anyone could benefit from something like that! Thanks for reading (and organizing. I love participating!).

      Like

  5. Great post, and a very honest worry. Although my son is on a different part of the spectrum than yours, I’ve known many kids on the spectrum like this. I think as he gets older, you’ll find ways to show him how to be true to himself, while at the same time, learning the social “rules” that will be important as he grows. I’m cheering for you and for him along the way!

    Like

  6. Wow, you describe it so well! This description is exactly why it took until my son was 5 1/2 to finally get a diagnosis, (he’s almost 8 now.) I try to get him in as many social group type settings as possible. My oldest son is now 26, and looking back he was totally on the spectrum, but he was ironically in all of the help he needed, OT, Speech, and Social group preschool setting. As a younger kid, he definitely had the social issues, but now that he is older….you would never know….so I can only hope and pray that the same happens with my little one. Thanks for sharing your journey and thoughts! 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love hearing what everyone else is experiencing. It does seem like the general public assumes autism means nonverbal, so many assumed my son couldn’t possibly be. There’s SO much more to it though. Best of luck to you too and your two boys! 🙂

      Like

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