Let’s Talk About Super Special Kids & Cake Podcast [Episode 005 / Segment: Special Q]
The other day a mum asked me “Why has my son become so upset at seeing an unfamiliar adult? What strategies can I use to combat this?”. This question isn’t uncommon and I think the suggestions below are really useful for parents whose children also suffer in this way.
Firstly, I would suggest something I’ve mentioned on my blog many times before: priming. Prime your child beforehand by explaining where you’re going. You could tell them the names of the family members they’re likely to see if it’s a family function for example, or the name of the place you will be visiting if it’s outdoors and explain that there will be other people there. Visual aids such as images from the internet or photographs are also extremely helpful. Priming your child in this way will hopefully make them less anxious and more prepared for the day and who they’re about to see.
To make any trip or social interaction run smoothly; be it indoors or outdoors, priming is crucial. Many special children are distressed by the unexpected and it is therefore important to prepare them beforehand so they know what they can expect. Sticking as closely to that plan is also beneficial as it develops trust and shows your child that you do as you say and they can depend on your assurances.
Another thing I’ve seen is that sometimes, it’s not necessarily the adult that the child is upset to see but rather, what they’re expected to do in that adult’s presence. For example, they may dislike having to say hello, make eye contact or being forced to give them a hug.
Of course, rather than trying to settle your child once they’re upset, ideally, we would like to prevent the problem all together. That’s why I would suggest you prime your child. For example, you could say “We’re going to see Grandma and Grandad today. When we arrive at their house, would you like to say hello? Would you like to give them a little cuddle?”. If you notice that your child gets upset when you suggest they say hello, or when you suggest they give your parents a hug; you will have figured out what it is that makes them so upset when they see that person. By figuring out what triggers the upset, you can get to the root of the problem and hopefully prevent it the next time.
A further discussion related to the above can also be heard over on my podcast: Episode 5: ‘The Chosen Ones’.