Raymond is a boy with an interesting perspective and a wonderful attitude. He is quite comfortable among adults but encounters difficulty in relating to his peers. In social situations he tends to drift in a kind of parallel space, almost blissfully unaware of the world of friendship and social obligation that so preoccupies those around him.
How and why other children play is a bit mysterious to Raymond. Not only is he unsure of how to initiate or maintain a friendship with somebody his own age, he is blithely unaware that he is substantially different from the others. Often, what any observer would call a brief or unsuccessful encounter with another child, Raymond recalls as having had a wonderful time with a new friend. My goal is to give him the tools for speaking to other children so that he may come to discover what he has in common with them and eventually become comfortable in social situations.
Our work together consists of two parts. First, I practice with him one on one indoors. We initiate conversations, ask follow-up questions, and talk about ourselves in a safe environment so that he is well prepared for practicing with other kids. With me, he completes the exercises without much difficulty. He can apply them under controlled circumstances and tell me why they are important. The real challenge comes when we step out onto the playground.
We discuss his goal: perhaps to play with somebody he has played with before, or to make a new friend. We agree on what he wants to accomplish, and I send him out to make his way. I hang back as he traverses the playground, encountering other children. It is very important that I not interfere unduly. After all, if he is ever to rely on himself, then he cannot rely on my guidance.
He is learning to seek others out and to play. As he learns to tell who is good to him and who is not, he is beginning to give me accounts that come closer to what I observe as I watch him. As he makes small, incremental gains in self-assurance, he spends less of each recess lingering at the edge of the playground and more time putting to good use what we have spent so long practicing in my room. In the fullness of time, I expect that Raymond can have quite an active, quite a fulfilling social life and that people his own age will value him just as I do.