I’m reaching out to others like myself, who are starting to challenge our community’s absolute belief in the supreme goodness of formal socialisation for all children; the unquestioning belief that all children must attend kindergarten and school, playgroups and playdates.
To the parents of children that are introverted, anxious or different in ways that make socialising with other children stressful;
To the caregivers of Autistic children who, by nature of their diagnosis, are also expected to participate in special ‘social skills instruction’ through groups and individualised therapy;
To the parents observing their children become anxious before socialising, withdraw or act out during social activities, and meltdown or shutdown for hours afterwards;
To those on the flipside who are worried that they’re not socialising their children enough;
To the introverted parents, the homeschooling parents, the Autistic parents, who are being asked “how will you socialise them?”
It’s OK to say NO.
It’s OK to limit playdates and extracurricular activities.
It’s OK to refuse social skills training.
It’s OK to homeschool.
It’s OK for your children to prefer time with trusted caregivers over playgrounds filled with children.
It’s OK to observe and listen and respond to your child’s needs for time away from other people.
It’s OK because we know many adults impacted by the trauma of their school years, or childhood therapy designed to reinforce pro-social behaviours;
It’s OK because we know that too much socialising causes too much stress for some children, and too much stress for some children causes harmful impacts to their brain and body that last a lifetime.
It’s OK because we know from research that the best foundation for social and emotional wellbeing is sensitive and responsive caregiving- the way that we scaffold children’s experiences with the world and support them to develop important interpersonal skills and resilience for life. Being respectfully connected is enough.
If you’re still not sure if it’s OK to say NO, here’s some more information about socialisation and Autistic children. The information also applies to many other children who find socialising stressful – <3 Briannon Lee
* For downloadable and printable PDF, click here *
Full text of infographic
Socialisation & Autistic children
Briannon Lee www.respectfullyconnected.com
Information for parents, caregivers and those who support the social & emotional development of children
You need to socialise Children! It’s good for them! Especially Autistic children,
Are you sure socialisation is always good for Autistic children? Some children seem stressed when they have too much time with other children.
Socialisation STRESSORS for Autistic Children
I am away from home where I feel safe with a predictable caregiver, routines, sensory and physical environment.
Environments where children socialise are noisy, bright and have strong smells. They can be painful to spend time in, and mean I have to focus even harder on the children around me. It is exhausting.
My brain is still developing and I might still be working on the precursors to complex play and social interactions with my peers (such as self-regulation and executive functioning). I may get frustrated and act out.
My peers are all unique, and unpredictable. They sometimes play differently to me. I am highly sensitive to their emotions, smells and sounds. My peers might be fun, but time with them is stressful.
Early experiences of stress & children’s brains
* Social skills training
* Early childhood programs
* Forced playdates, playgroups or activities with other children
* Long childcare or school days
–> STRESSORS for Autistic children
Triggers the body’s stress response system – a cascade of hormones produce changes to the body (e.g. fight-or-flight response)
Short-lived stress can be good, or tolerable, for children’s brains (particularly within an environment of supportive relationships with adults)
Prolonged activation of the stress response system, changes how the brain responds to stress & predisposes people to serious psychological and physical health issues later in life
Every child is unique and the extent to which chronic stress has lasting adverse effects is determined by their unique genetic characteristics, caregiver relationships, and life experiences.
How can we support Autistic children’s social and emotional development?
If ‘socialising’ is causing intolerable stress for Autistic children, it is harmful for their development.
It is OK to set limits or say NO. Research indicates that SENSITIVE, RESPONSIVE CAREGIVING lays the foundation for ALL children’s social and emotional development
Sensitive, Responsive Caregiving…
1. Shapes the developing brain
2. Provides scaffolding to help children practice emerging interpersonal, executive functioning and emotion regulation skills
3. Buffers against stress & is critical to developing RESILIENCE
Neurodevelopment is a complex topic. Information here sourced from research summaries & resources at developingchild.harvard.edu
To read more about sensitive and responsive caregiving of Autistic children, go to www.respectfullyconnected.com
Developed by Briannon Lee for Respectfully Connected, please credit when sharing & do not reproduce without permission.