Forced versus Natural Socialisation
by April Jermey, Aug 2017
SOCIALISATION. Yep, that dirty word.
I've been thinking on this a lot, and I'm still compiling and sorting through my thoughts on this. I apologise for the rambling in advance!
School forces socialisation on children, so I'm going to refer to it as 'forced socialisation'. That is, where children are forced to socialise 30+ hours per week with their age peers and teachers. This is not a natural social setting, and not one that is emulated ever again in life. It's a setting that presents children with a unique set of challenges. How to get along with people you'd rather not spend time with being one of them. Now, while that isn't a bad skill to have, it's not one that needs extensive work, in fact, schools set children up for 12+ years of practice and revision in this skill, which can be hugely frustrating. In real life, we would just limit contact with those we don't want to see, and be polite when we can't avoid them.
Someone said to me recently that at family gatherings, his home educated children are the only ones who want to socialise, the schooled relatives just want to watch tv. I replied that maybe the 30+ hours per week those kids are forced to socialise have worn them out, they simply don't have the mental energy to socialise further, and are needing some down time.
Now, as parents of ASD children, we know our children are often frustrated by other childrens' behaviour, far more than NT children can be, or at the least they struggle with ways to deal with that frustration. Forcing social situations on them that stress them out can be more detrimental than helpful. While it's not a bad thing to challenge them occasionally socially to help learn coping mechanisms, maybe we the parents need to challenge
ourselves on our perception of our childrens' social needs.
A lot of home educators worry themselves about their kids needing to make friends, and spend time with children their own age. We can't help it, we have this ingrained belief that having friends is important, and we look automatically at age peers to fit the bill. What if it's not important for your child to have friends? What if your child is content without friends?
My NT daughter makes friends with everyone she meets, she is 5, and her friends are from all age groups, I don't know how old the lady she befriended at the nursing home is, but yeah, she makes friends with everyone.
My ASD son hasn't made a close friend ever, but he's okay. He really is okay. And I'm learning to be okay with that too. I'm realising that all these years I've had this sadness watching him with peers, sad at not seeing the interaction blossom into close friendship. I'm learning to trust him. If he wants a close friend, he'll make it happen. And if he's content without a close friend, I can be content for him.
The lesson for me as a parent? Stop forcing socialisation. Stop assuming what my children need. Trust them to tell me what they need (words and actions), and follow their lead.
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