Difficulty with social interaction is a symptom of autism. I’m learning how to work on my social skills in many ways.
When I was younger I found my own way to help being around people and chatting to them. I made up paper figures of people from primary school by drawing them on a piece of paper and I cut them all out I made a paper bus by cutting pieces of paper into thirds to make up a bus for school trips. I drew lunchboxes beside the people with their names on them. I made the whole plan into a bus game. In the game there were days with school trips and all the children went on the bus. The children decided on whom to sit with on the bus. I put all my paper figures on the paper bus. I decided what each child was doing on the bus on the way to the destination of the school trip eg. a pet farm.
I have learnt to acknowledge personal space so that I don’t get too close to people when talking to them.
I used to feel awkward in a conversation with a group of friends and I ended up being the quiet person in the group. That happened when I went to my neighbours house one evening. I felt awkward in the group conversation and I kept reaching for my phone every five minutes. I decided to leave the group conversation when it became too difficult for me and I sat in another room with my phone. When I went to social events in the Ballaghaderreen community garden I realised that I should take part in group conversations instead of reaching for my phone. I chatted to my friends and I hardly went on my phone at all.
I can’t really socialise when I’m in headphones in a car, train or bus. The main reason for wearing headphones and listening to music is because of the engine noise. I attend adult services with the Brothers of Charity and I would like to chat to my friends more in the car. I know that the work car we have is very noisy but I have to chat to my friends anyway. Last year I went to an Advocacy conference in Waterford. The whole trip was by train. I have learnt that I can listen to music in headphones now and again on long trips instead of all the way as I have to socialise with my friends or family too on the trip.
Today we went on an outing to Killala and Easkey beaches. I listened to music in my headphones a lot on the car trip. When we got to a very nice road with mountains and views of Sligo I took off my headphones to look at the view and chat about it. When I felt uncomfortable I got upset and cried a bit over not wearing noise cancelling headphones in the car. When I calmed down I felt better and I did very well without the headphones for the rest of the way on that nice road. That was because I haven’t gone on outings in a long time due to COVID 19.
When I went to a radio course in Claremorris with my adult services I have learnt to start a conversation with the people doing the course with me on the tea and coffee breaks.
I can now go into shops on my own to shop for food and other items. I can also go into the post office on my own to post parcels. Now I have to wear a face mask in those places and work on my social distancing from people.