View Full Version : Socializing your "weird kid"

03-07-2013, 03:39 AM
We'll be (officially) starting kindergarten this fall with my almost five year old (when did that happen?!). She was diagnosed with a speech/social delay when she was 24 months and while her language has improved, she remains a social odd duck. She's friendly to a fault with most adults, meanwhile most kids have no idea what to do with her.

She's a kid who only recently started asking to join other kids while playing, and even then not so often. Most of the time she plays very independently but seems to like the idea of kids being around, kind of like background noise. Otherwise, she'll join older or younger kids when invited or asked but always on her own terms.

I know we'll be getting pushback from our family and her current teachers about taking her out of a traditional school environment. Frankly, I see putting her in a classroom with 25+ kids much like throwing her into a shark tank and maybe its my own experience as a child but I DON'T want to put her through that.

But I want her to have the opportunity to make friends without being "forced" to make them or feeling lonely in a crowd because she's unable to. (Again, my own trauma as the "weird kid" who couldn't make friends coming out.)

If you have a weird kid with social issues, was it enough to keep them social through homeschooling groups like coops, park dates, etc.? Help!!

03-07-2013, 07:40 AM
Since your post reads like I could have written it myself about my own son, I will just say this: you are absolutely, 100% right when you say you don't want to "force".

I am constantly walking a fine line between setting up social things for my son to try, because I know he gets nervous and is shy, but I also know he has a good time when he's given the opportunity to play with (slightly older) kids. I always, ALWAYS say, "If you want to", and sometimes it's a yes...other times it's a no.

The big thing I've noticed is that, through not pushing and since we've been homeschooling, he's grown more confident in his friendship abilities, so he's not nearly as resistant to social events as he used to be. I imagine around age 9 or 10 he'll be to the point that he'll be ASKING for outings on occasion.

Another thing: adult relationships count as friendships. That was a big one for me to learn. The one reason I like him having time with kids, though, is so he has a chance to just be silly without so many rules. But he definitely gravitates toward adults and older kids.

Everything in their own time :)

03-07-2013, 08:28 AM
My advice would be to - if possible - find a small, steady group for her to come into her own with and to really invest your time and attention to that. My kids aren't super quirky, but I feel like except for cheerful social butterflies who are naturals with their peers, that's just better for most kids and I'm very, very glad we have done that.

Accidental Homeschooler
03-07-2013, 08:45 AM
It took us a year after starting to hs to sort of find a group and what we did in the beginning was just be at the library when we knew that a couple other hs girls were going to be there. It started with three and pretty soon we had five joining us for that one afternoon a week. And we just built from there. It was kind of hard at first and went slow. But now I feel like we are in a pretty good place with friends and socializing.

03-07-2013, 08:47 AM
It's not unusual for little kids to play side by side and not really WITH each other, too. I've only recently noticed kids actually starting to talk *with* each other fairly recently--like in the locker room, or even when playing--and that's at 10. I do think it's different for girls though, but four is still very young.

03-07-2013, 09:19 AM
Honestly, that's really not all that abnormal. Also, just like adults some kids are more social than others, and some like background noise without participating. Do you have a local support group to turn to for small playdates? Usually at this age the kids play separately more than together (unless maybe if they have school or preschool experience) but it's a gentle way to start.

03-07-2013, 09:20 AM
Dd is 11, and really is hitting her stride in her relationships with other kids. We tried playgroups when she was in the 3-5 range and it was much the same as it is with your daughter. She wanted kids around, but not too close. It's taken a long time to find the right "small, steady group" but it's made the world of difference. The same kids, all a little quirky in their own right, and the friendships are slowly growing. :) School would have been a nightmare for dd. I have zero doubt that we've done the right thing for her by homeschooling.

03-07-2013, 09:33 AM
My son is super quirky. He rarely fit into a group as school. Now that we're homeschooling, he's finding kids like him everywhere we go. Because we pick activities that interest him, they are automatically filled with other kids with the same interests. He is much more social now than ever before.

03-07-2013, 09:46 AM
I will say that one danger I see is that there's a fine line between a slightly quirky and young kid not clicking with a group and the parents just needing to move on and a kid just needing a really, really long time to find their place in the group. I've definitely seen some kids take a couple of YEARS to warm up and really get into the group and I think if the parents hadn't stuck with it they could have blown it off and put it on the rest of the kids as not being a good fit when actually sticking with it was the right thing.

03-07-2013, 10:15 AM
My Tuna doesn't like to play with friends her own age. They bug her. She prefers her own company. She has two friends in scouts that she sees weekly, and she enjoys that interaction. But she doesn't go looking for any other than that. And I leave her alone in that regard. It's her choice. So she's my little weirdo and I'm okay with it staying that way as long as she is.

03-07-2013, 01:47 PM
My son is similar. He likes being around people, but that doesn't mean he wants to do anything with them. At one group we tried for a while, he would come in, circle the room silently, and then go hide behind a couch. Nobody was supposed to notice him. If and when he came out from behind the couch, it was to talk to me. The kids were for the most part good and usually ignored him, but there were a couple who found it all very disturbing. Eventually DS asked to stop going to that group. If she's comfortable in an environment, then I wouldn't worry and I'd let her come out of her shell in her own time; if she's uncomfortable, she'll likely tell you. I wouldn't push anything. Just keep showing up and let things develop :)

03-07-2013, 03:39 PM
Two words: smaller groups. Even 13 in preschool was too many for DS--he needs to be around one to four other kids (and he doesn't care if they're two or twelve). If there are kids milling everywhere, DS gravitates towards the moms--so we do playdates with just one or two other families.

03-07-2013, 04:55 PM
My Boy is an extrovert in a house of introverts (he "recharges" by interacting with us - which is completely draining to the rest of the family, poor kid), but put him in a room with a large number of kids and he gets over stimutated and freaks out. We are still working on finding a solution. I really like quabbin's advice.

03-07-2013, 08:24 PM
I think everyone else is weird and if your kid is being herself then she's normal.

It really shouldn't matter what anyone is like, because there is no normal. If defining normal is your daughter getting along and bonding with another kid then she's normal, because everyone is capable of doing that. I don't think everyone actually relates to everyone, I think most people relate to a few people....but others are really good at faking it or forcing it because they feel pressure. Your daughter could find that person she relates to anywhere, not just in school. From what I've heard, Kindergarten is the new 1st grade. They are pushing academics and leaving hardly any time for recess (a school nearby gives the K's only 15 min per day). Is the comfort of being herded like cattle through an institution with other children really the best way to 'make friends'? Surely there are better ways. I'm not saying it couldn't give your daughter something, you could luck out and it could be exactly what you needed. But at least with homeschooling you have a choice as to how those meetings occur. Sorry, I just can't stand public education today! and I truly believe your daughter is not weird, is completely capable of making friends when the right ones come along.

03-07-2013, 11:46 PM
If you have a weird kid with social issues, was it enough to keep them social through homeschooling groups like coops, park dates, etc.? Help!!

Did it help? Don't know yet; jury's still out on that one. :)

If you look in Webster's under 'quirky', you should find a photo of my kid. She, too, had an expressive speech delay (first word at 26mo, but was signing like a bandit at 18mo) that greatly inhibited her ability to interact with kids her own age. She went through speech therapy and, while it helped with the clarity, it screwed with her prosody. Adults and older teens patiently give her the time to get her words out, but kids her own age just give her the 'WTH' look. At 4/5yo, she was more interested in parallel play because she just didn't click with most kids. There was one girl in her co-op, though, who 'got' DD. I was floored when we went to the playground one day and the two of them spent almost 3hr running around playing "pet store" and "fairies". It is a very rare moment for her to click with another child like that. She bonds almost instantly with any adult that speaks with her...she's more than happy to chat up strangers. We use that to our advantage...when we're out and about, we encourage her to interact with cashiers, wait staff, medical staff, clerks, etc. She's in charge of placing her own order in restaurants, asking for items, paying for whatever is being purchased, and in asking questions. It helps her. I don't think it matters how old the other person is. I still count it as socializing if she has a positive interaction with another human being.

When it comes to interacting with kids her own age, however, she is Michigan J. Frog. The more kids there are, the more quiet she becomes. It's like she's watching a movie if there are more than 3 or 4 kids. Tonight was her 4H meeting and there were 14 kids there before it was over with. Before the meeting, it was just her and two new girls. At one point, I thought I was going to cry because she did the most unusually 'normal' thing (for her): she leaned over to peek under the table, sat up straight and told the girl next to her, "I really love your shoes!" OMG. And then the girl smiled back at her and thanked her. Then my quirkmeister had to go and ruin the moment by breaking into la-la song. When the girl shot DD a questioning look, DD matter-of-factly explained that the "merfairies" (these are her imaginary hybrid creatures that have fairy wings and dolphin flukes) had arrived and she was happy to see them. Oh well, weird today, zillion dollar author tomorrow. Worked for Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. :p By the time all the other kids showed up, she went back to being her observational self.

I have come to accept that DD will most likely never be typical. Her DNA is doubly-damned. I'm Abby Normal and her dad is a tad left of center. She can't help but be odd. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Shoot, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie...they weren't exactly social butterflies. I prefer to shoot for well-adjusted. I want a kid who's happy with herself...bugger what everyone else thinks about her. I know more ex-cheerleaders who were married to the quarterback and they ended up popping Xanax and vodka just to get through the day. Nah, popularity isn't everything. I just want her to be happy and healthy.

So far, I don't see where any permanent damage has come from her being 'isolated' from the classroom experience. I can, however, say that I'm pretty sure we've dodged the scenario where DD's depressed because other kids are picking on her, no one will play with her, the teacher doesn't like her because she's too high maintenance, etc. All the usual PS crap. Added to that, we've also missed out on the bus ride where she's subjected to weirdness from kids much older than she is, she hasn't been sexually propositioned by a 2nd grader (oh yeah, that DID happen...saw it firsthand when I taught in our local crappy schools), and she hasn't been subjected to much of the inappropriate conversations that she'd hear from the poor kids who live around here (moms who hook for a living, dads who are in prison, 'uncle' who comes to visit overnight and carries a gun, etc.). Plunking a kid down in a public school gets them exposed to other kids, BUT there's no guarantee that those interactions will be positive interactions with quality kids and adults. By homeschooling, we control (for the most part) who she interacts with. For the kids who are not socially gifted, this is a huge perk to homeschooling.

If I had a Ouija board, I'd gladly tell you how this all works out. Alas, we're just crossing our fingers and doing the best we can. So far, things are doing 'okay'. I don't believe homeschooling has hurt DD's ability to socialize. About all you can do is try it. If you feel that it isn't working for your child, you can always put her in a school Getting in is easy...it's the getting out that can be tough. :)

03-08-2013, 08:41 AM
My boy is similar. He's 10 now. It's taken a long time for me to fully "get" that what would be a dismal social life for me is a perfectly fine social life for him. Before doing anything to "help", I now try to remember to ask myself if it's something that's actually bothering him or if it's something that would bother me if I were him.

When it comes to convincing people that this is right decision for your kid, the only the only people you have a responsibility to is yourself, your kid and possibly a parenting partner. Take that family pushback burden off yourself, sister.

03-10-2013, 12:42 PM
My son has fine motor issues that means he gets speech therapy, occupational therapy (for writing) and has done vision therapy. His vision was such that he was seeing double much of the time. He loved to hug, needed to touch everything, and moved constantly so that he could see one of things. He rarely looked people in the face and often misunderstood when he did. He is behind socially by a couple of years. Still has a hard time making friends compared to his brother and sister. He is ten.

I remember the strange kid in school. He was super smart, but odd socially, probably a lot like my son. Every one accepted him, but he really didn't have friends. I moved in 7th grade, but I think it was like that through high school. No one was mean...they just weren't friendly to him. I always felt a bit sad for him, but didn't know what to do to be friends. (Girls and boys weren't "just" friends after kinder, sadly. One of those bad school culture things.)

When people say that going to school will cure all the strange kids who homeschool, I think back to this kid. He was strange to us, and was strange all the way through. It didn't help him to be more social with kids his own age. A strange kid will be a strange kid.

Smaller groups do seem to help my son. This year he was involved in Destination Imagination, with a bunch of other homeschoolers, and it was a good experience. All of them had their quirks, but it did help my son to be an equal in that small group and to be a part of a team.

If he were in regular school these days...I suspect he would get teased a lot. He is a sensitive kid who wants to please, and I think that would be hard on him. Homeschoolers seem to have more strangeness or are at least more tolerant and willing to play with kids outside their own age, which is helpful for my son.

03-19-2013, 06:12 PM
If he were in regular school these days...I suspect he would get teased a lot. He is a sensitive kid who wants to please, and I think that would be hard on him. Homeschoolers seem to have more strangeness or are at least more tolerant and willing to play with kids outside their own age, which is helpful for my son.

This is why I get so anxious when I think about putting my daughter in a classroom. The "strangeness" never goes away. Sometimes the class being "tolerant" of the strangeness but still not having friends means that you end up invisible. I am counting on the "strangeness" of other homeschoolers to be an advantage for my daughter.

03-22-2013, 11:03 AM
My youngest will run up and say I am homeschooled, are you? When at the park in the middle of the day.

Sometimes he gets frustrated because because all of the kids at the park are 5 or under.

One day I managed to meet up with a larger group of homeschoolers at the park. All of the boys ran and played while all of the girls (including my own who is the older) hung out and looked for clovers. It seems girls take more time to bond.
So even though you have issues it does sound all very normal but i know experiencing in person is different. At the same time my oldest is always saying she wants to play with others and hang out more with others but when I put her in the same room she suddenly gets shy. She is an outdoor type of girl so finding outdoor types of girls is hard.
I have seen so many girly girls who barely can take 80 degree heat. Not that that is a bad thing but something I have noticed. Mine isn't afraid to get dirty but most are. But also we are military and move alot so she does get to try tons of different things and gets to meet more people. Eventually, she will have friends she will want to keep in touch with and have sleepovers with. All in good time.