Dear Frowny Parents of the Playground,
My daughter has dyspraxia. Along with many, many other symptoms it means that she is clumsy, uncoordinated and often socially awkward.
Yes, it would be so much better if she could approach your child at the start of the school day with a “Hi X! How are you today?” But she likes to hug. I know not everyone likes to hug or receive a hug, but she just happens to be a hugger. She doesn’t just hug anyone; she hugs people she likes or that she wants to develop a friendship with. Of all the kids in the playground, she picked your child to hug! You should really be honoured. You’re doing such a great job at parenting that you have a great kid who my daughter wants to be, or remain, friends with. Good job!
However, your skills as a caring human being are lacking a little. Why frown when my child awkwardly approaches and just smiles because she can’t think of anything to say? Why not say, “Hello X! Looking forward to swimming today?” You have social skills. You can do this. You can help to make her feel less awkward. She’ll reply, and she’ll reply in a friendly way because that’s the girl she is. She just doesn’t know how to start a conversation.
Dyspraxia means that she lacks the ability to read non-verbal signs of communication and that’s all it is. In other words, she doesn’t know or notice that you’re frowning at her because you think she’s strange. She doesn’t understand or notice that some children aren’t comfortable with being hugged.
You have no idea of the struggles she has to face on a daily basis. If you knew then I’m sure you’d be nicer. Tomorrow she is going in to hospital. She’s been anxious about this (hello, to another dyspraxia symptom: anxiety) and hasn’t been sleeping well this week. Yet she got her shoes on (with help), picked up her skipping rope (that she can use after 1000 hours more practice than anyone else her age) and smiled her way to school (where she finds pretty much every subject a challenge). And yet, she greeted your child with a smile and a hug this morning. What an achievement! But all you could do was frown.
I’m sorry she lacks the social skills that would make you feel more comfortable. Believe me, I’m more sorry than anyone. I have to figure out how to help her through this dyspraxia maze for the rest of her life. But she’s nine, she lacks social skills, and to be honest I don’t think that’s a big deal compared to the bigger picture.
So I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to feel awkward for a bit longer. And while you’re frowning, I will smile that I have such an amazing daughter who is more loving, caring, brave, and happy than any other kid in that playground.
A Proud, But Frustrated, Mum
Dear Reader, I double triple promise to write a positive article on how to deal with the prickly issue of social skills and dyspraxia. I have some ideas, but if you have any too, then I’d love to hear from you. Send a message using the envelope ‘contact us’ icon at the top of the page if you don’t feel comfortable posting a comment below. Thank you 🙂
But in the meantime, then check out these articles on understood.org that all cover social skills in our kids:
“Go ahead, jump!” by Robert S. Donovan from Anderson, SC, USA – Go ahead, jump!Uploaded by Partyzan_XXI. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Go_ahead,_jump!.jpg#/media/File:Go_ahead,_jump!.jpg