Socializing my special needs kid

Of course I’ve heard plenty from other well-meaning people with concerns about socialization for my kids. One thing that people don’t think of as often, though, is socialization for special needs children.

My son, K-Oz is well-socialized for both a homeschooler and a special child. The biggest issue, though, is that in many ways he is socially awkward and is very much a loner. He often prefers to hang out by himself because he frequently feels frustration around other people. I can’t explain it. He will spend a certain amount of time around people – specifically other kids – then he’s had enough. He wants to get away from other kids and just be by himself. I believe K-Oz has an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder, based upon some of his mannerisms, characteristics and personality traits – especially when it comes to social skills.

Sometimes that can make for a little loneliness here and there.

So I’m thinking about ideas to help special needs kids socialize. For K-Oz, the physical presence of other people can sometimes be too much. Maybe they’re invading his personal space, or they’re dominating the conversation, or they are moving around a great deal or very quickly. Sometimes these things overwhelm him.

I came up with a cool idea that we tried out today. A friend has a son – who is K-Oz’s friend – who has a few social issues himself (his mother believes he has Oppositional Defiance Disorder and a certain level of Asperger’s Syndrome) and finds himself left out because he has a strong personality that can quickly become overwhelming for other kids.

She and I decided to let these two boys chat on Yahoo Instant Messenger. The cool thing is – it worked great! K-Oz and his friend C chatted for about 15 minutes. It helped K-Oz with his fine motor skills (typing), his verbal skills (what to say) and his social skills (waiting to see what the other person has to say). He didn’t feel overwhelmed by the physical presence of another person and was able to communicate effectively at his own pace.

I’ll be sharing more on this later, but my question is this: What effective ways have you found to help socialize your special needs child?