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 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. 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!)