Ironically, I now realize that have social skills issues too.

It seems strange to me now, as I approach 40 soon, that I am just realizing I have a lot of social issues to deal with too.

When I first started working with children with Autism and other social skills difficulties over a decade ago, they were very hard for me to relate to. I just couldn’t figure out how these kids ticked and how I could possibly help them. I hardly learned about Autism in grad school and even during my fellowship year at hospital clinic, I veered towards working with children using AAC, not children with social difficulties.

Then I became the Speech Pathologist for one, then two self-contained classrooms in which approximately 50% of the students had low-functioning Autism. And then, for whatever strange reason, my low-income neighborhood school started attracting many, many students with Autism. Way more than statistically should be at a typical neighborhood non-silicon valley school. At it’s peak this year, 20% of my regular education students were moderately impacted by children with social communication disorders.

So I’ve created TONS of materials to work with kids on social communication:
Super Social Skills
Princess Social Skills
Magical Social Skills
Social Skills Stories
and even Social Homework

So how does this fit in with my own social issues?

I’ve always known that I hate the telephone. I hate the social cues required, the need for small talk, the need to answer questions without thinking about them and generate your own questions. Last night, however, I realized that my social anxiety goes much beyond the phone. I tried to attend a fundraiser party for the kids’ school. I was told how much fun it was and how there would be lots of people to talk to and raffles and games.

I had to go alone since my husband is too ill to attend things like this and it was for people 21 and older only. I lasted less than 10 minutes.

Even though I had friends there and I could see them, I just couldn’t step up and join their conversations. I didn’t want to sit awkwardly alone at a table with no one to talk to and nothing to do. I started tearing up within 5 minutes. At that point, I figured that I couldn’t even tell my friends I was leaving. I just had to go. I bawled the whole drive home and for 30 minutes after I got home.

I don’t know why it is so hard for me to attend social events like this or why I can’t do small-talk at parties. When my husband was healthy, we would awkwardly sit together at these parties and chat. When I can bring my kids, I sit and chat with them.ย  All four of us seem to have the same social anxieties at events (although none of us are biologically related!)

I do know now why I’ve avoided this fundraiser for the last few years as well as all of my staff parties. I just wish I could have fun when others have fun at these events! (Note: I don’t drink alcohol at all. If I did, I think that could be the magic cure to some of these anxieties!)

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14 Comments

  1. I hear you! Although I love talking to friends, I really hate trying to make small talk at a party, etc. I find it so hard to extract myself from an awkward conversation. I much prefer to be a hermit at home. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I often feel the same and I think it does have something to do with the alcohol issue. (I also do not drink alcohol.) I don’t go to these events unless I have mentally prepared myself for a boring and lonely evening, or I make sure I go with friends and stay with them the whole time. If it’s a family-friendly event I make sure I take my children because at least then I know I’ll have someone to talk to! You sound quite similar to me on this issue.

  3. My husband has social anxiety and I am fine when I’m with people I know, but dislike being with/around people I don’t know that well. The biggest thing for me is the awkward silences when you don’t have anything to say to the other person/people Because of that, we much prefer it when we can bring our son along. We refer to our son as “the buffer” because people would rather talk to him than to us, lol! (BTW, he is a complete social butterfly and will make new friends everywhere he goes. Not sure where he got that from!)

  4. I’m the same way about talking on the phone, and I have to force myself to engage at big social events. If friends are going to celebrate their birthdays at bars or with big groups, I tend to just say I can’t come. I’d much prefer a quiet conversation with one or two people instead of having to float around the room somewhere.

    Maybe we’re both just really introverted? I’ve wondered about my own social skills, and then I’ve wondered if my knowledge of social skills disorders makes me over-diagnose myself… like being a med student who thinks she has serious physical ailments… Who knows? At any rate, I’m sorry you had such a tough evening. I hope tomorrow is a better day!

  5. Oh, my heart aches for you to feel so alone in a room. That’s awful.
    Do you think the combination of young kids, confined husband and demanding job make it tougher to connect socially? It seems to me it would.
    I know I felt so socially stunted when my boys were babies and I hardly ever left the house…

  6. I can totally relate. I often thought that if we had had kids, my ability to attend events would have been easier. Maybe not. I think that you mentioned that you are slowly tapering off of a medicine. I believe that I might be able to relate to you on that. I recently finished my 17 month taper off of Lexapro. Anxiety isn’t fun, but sometimes certain medicines aren’t as wonderful as they claim to be. And I still experience withdrawal symptoms that I understand will eventually leave. Anyway, thank you for all that you do. You are among friends, here!

  7. “we are what we do” Oprah said that I just happen to believe it!

  8. I think you and I could be long lost sisters. I realized a long time ago that I didn’t have the ability for the ‘chit chat’ (or whatever you call it) needed for parties, lunches, etc….
    I have to force myself to engage or I sit in silence.

  9. Totally understand, especially about the phone! I’m so glad we have texting now. That’s probably why you’re such a great writer though! You definitely have a gift when you’re blogging ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I can relate to some degree. I also wonder about the introvert factor. Do you know what you are on a Myers-Brigg test?

  11. I definetly understand! You all are going to think I ACTUALLY DO have autistic tendencies, but here is my “social issues” story. I have figured out that I have a very low sensitivity threshold. When I am at a dinner party or when 4 or more people are over at my house I have to take what I call “social breaks”. I go in a room by myself for 5 minutes or so every so often because I get so overstimulated and full of anxiety. My husband is VERY good at being social and can make friends with anyone! So he has kind of MADE me start talking to people more. BUT in all reality, I am fully content with just standing next to him chat with everyone as I listen. I have noticed I am an observer at first, then once I have found my “place” I then will step in and join a conversation. I just know that about myself now, so I nor my husband doesn’t give me a hard time about it anymore.

  12. another thing that gets my anxious is when what I call “big lights” or overhead lights are on at the same time as a loud radio or a loud TV. It just too much for me and it gets me so anxious that I start to get snappy and really uncomfortable. I think on some level we all have “social issues” =D

  13. When I read the title, I thought…Don’t we all?!
    I hate the phone…but not in the same way as you. I don’t mind receiving calls. But I don’t like to make calls. It somehow feels like I’m annoying the person I’m calling. Like I’m interrupting whatever they were doing. But I don’t feel interrupted when someone calls me. I know weird.

  14. Classic introversion. Not everyone is made to enjoy uber social situations–and that’s fine. Just know when you can fake it and when you need to take a break.

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