"I am trying to get my 11 yr old son to participate in group therapy. When it is time for him to go in, he flips out and gets so upset that he physically gets sick. What are some tips to help him with this?"
Social anxiety isn't something that only affects children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. It affects children with all kinds of mental conditions as well as those with physical issues, weight issues and other differences that mentally or physically distinguish them from the general populace. The distinction may not necessarily be a real one but could, and often does, only exist in the subject's mind. Social anxiety is so great an issue that it's considered to be the third largest psychological problem in the world today.
Social anxiety isn't limited to difficulty meeting people in face to face conversation but also includes:
- Being Watched
- Instant Messaging
- Recording (video and photo Cameras, microphones, etc.)
- Simply Going Outdoors in Public Places
- Social Occasions
- Telephone Conversations
Aspergers kids tend to walk a line that varies between total fear and no fear, depending largely upon the individual. Some Aspergers kids aren't afraid of face-to-face verbal interactions but just aren't very good at it. Constant negative feedback however can often tip the scales.
The best ways to reduce social anxiety, particularly in the school years, revolve around "jumping straight in" – regardless of how scared the individual might be. This doesn't work well at younger ages (5 and below), where such fears can lead to meltdowns, but it's quite acceptable for school-age children and teens.
When I was at school, I had a "buddy" teacher (a teacher who became a good and trusted friend). One day this teacher picked me out of the class and said that he had noted that I was good with history and thought that I should join the debating team. He gave me a couple of days to sign up on my own – but I didn't. Then he joined me up and informed me that I was now committed. At first, I was a little annoyed but he made it clear that he thought it would be good for me and that he would be supporting me all the way.
The teacher led me on with the promise of replacing me when a suitable person could be found. Of course, now I can see that it was all a ploy and I went on "debating tour" and was forced to confront my demons.
Around the same time, the teacher suggested that I take "drama" as one of my elective subjects. I had absolutely no desire to act and I really couldn't see the point of drama but he told me that it was an essential skill. In retrospect, I have to agree.
There's absolutely no mistaking the importance of public speaking and acting for children with Aspergers. Amongst other things, it helps you to lose the "monotone" in your voice – a feature that Aspergers kids are famous for. It also prepares you for "acting the rest of your life".
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook