Schools can’t teach social skills; you can teach workarounds

There is still no treatment for social skills in school-aged kids that is approved by the FDA because there is no evidence that the treatments kid get in school make a difference long term. Schools provide interventions to kids who are annoying the teachers so they stop doing whatever is annoying.

Luckily, it’s okay because kids with autism do not need to interact with “normal” people because they will not have to do that as adults. Everyone I know with autism surrounds themselves with people who are like them. University of Cambridge is studying large cities and university towns to test whether autistic people congregate in certain locations. (Hello NYC optimizers!)

And, even surrounded by people we like, one of our favorite things to do is watch other people socialize — in a way where we can feel like we are part of it but we don’t have to figure out how to participate. As a parent I’ve always been like this also: when my kids are getting along I like to lurk, and enjoy from a distance.

I have a hard time with normal people, but normal people are never going to connect with me. I don’t really have much to offer them. I am too different from their comfort zone.  The only thing I learned about school was how to avoid most social situations. Mostly school wasted my time because it was either being quiet and listening or socializing in loud rooms, but what I’m best at is having a conversation about ideas or playing sports. (Note: this is what most boys are good at. It’s why girls do better in school.)

Everyone in my family have autism and even the ones who went to top universities did not learn any social skills from being in school. At best, school teaches really smart kids that they get rewards without having good social skills. And maybe that’s  for the better, because the kids who are popular in school end up struggling to have friends in their 20s.






4 replies
  1. Anxious
    Anxious says:

    I have one anxious, overachieving girl and now a boy.She could manage in school and plays sport which helps.I don’t know what I will do when he turns 5.I talk about homeschooling but think I might isolate him.I’m lazy to start again with the social conventions to help him fit in.

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      I used to think helping kids fit in was helping with playdates, helping to go to friends houses, etc. Now I realize (mostly from research) that helping kids fit in comes from parents actually fitting in. So being part of a community. If the parents do that, the kid is part of a community. That’s fitting in. I don’t think I understood that before — how much starts with me.


      • Anxious
        Anxious says:

        I need to make an effort then. I used to work in a local community centre, did beach clean ups, fundraised. Dad is convinced all theses things are designed to take advantage of people willing to volunteer. And others are getting paid in the background. It’s difficult to read this situation.

  2. Minami
    Minami says:

    The most useful things I learned in school was mostly how not to gross out/annoy other autistic people. Like, don’t pick my nose, don’t pull out wedgies around people, don’t kick other people’s chairs, belching the alphabet isn’t funny, etc. Like, autistic people do a lot of things that rub other autistic people the wrong way, and it can be helpful to learn to get along with them.

    School was where I met other autistic people who I still keep in touch with. One of the people I hang out with every week is someone I met in middle school. I think school can maybe be okay for that.


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