Q: My 10-year-old son has autism. He speaks all the time. He interrupts us all the time and doesn’t seem to see the signs of others when they are upset about it. When reviewing with my daughter, he answers the questions in his room and tell her that she is not good (don’t understand that it’s wrong and apologizes all the time and says “I didn’t know).
At school, he interrupts the teacher. At the end of everything he says, he wants to add personal things that aren’t related to the question. When somebody says something that he knows is wrong, he will argue on the subject and repeat and repeat. He is really intelligent but doesn’t seem to understand simple manner. With friends (he has very few), he is always in their bubbles (us too) and talks about himself all the time. He tries to make them laugh by doing things really stupid and saying stupid things. He acts like a kindergartener. I really don’t know any more what to do. Please help me!
A: Some kids, autistic or not, have trouble relating to peers. Either they miss social cues or they don’t know how to control their enthusiasm, and that causes friction. As you’ve seen, your son is struggling with knowing how to share his own knowledge and sense of self with others, including authority figures.
Here are a few ideas to help him out. For the teacher, visual cues might be better. I taught a class of chatty first and second grade girls one time, who wanted to constantly share personal stories all the time. Giving them each a set number of paper tickets (one ticket equaled one story) allowed them to decide if they wanted to give up a ticket to tell a story. He might benefit from the same thing in the classroom.
Have his teacher give him three slips of paper or sticks or something tangible that represent three stories he can tell during that day. When he starts to add personal things, the teacher can simply say, “Do you want to give me a stick for that?” If he does, she takes the stick, and he can tell his story. When the sticks are done, so are the stories. She can say, “I’m sorry, you’re out of sticks. Save that story for tomorrow.” It won’t be perfect, but I think it will help him be able to share in a more limited time and give him a visual cue that he’s done with stories when the sticks are gone.
For his peers, he would probably do better if he has some practice, either informally at home with role playing different friend scenarios, or signing him up for a manners or socialization class for kids, which are popping up all over the place nowadays. If you can find a class, that would make it not Mom/Dad telling him what to do, but someone else who is guiding kids who want to learn how to be better friends.
At home, you could use a modified stick approach by having a “talking stick” at the dinner table, for example. Whoever has the stick is the only one who can talk, so you pass the stick around as others have a chance to talk. This is another visual cue to help him remember not to talk when others are talking, plus it gives other family members time to share as well
Above all, remember that while he can improve and do better, but it will take some work on his part with your guidance.