Today was a good day. Today my son played a cooperative game with others. This seems like no big deal, right? The thing is that he is 46 months old and he has never attempted to make a friend or play with others outside of the family.
Sure, he has many opportunities each week, and sometimes each day, for cooperative play. Yes, I encourage him to make choices on his own, but he chooses to keep his distance from children even if he has met them or played near them before. He prefers to have a large personal space "bubble" around himself. He often becomes agitated, screams, squeals, or runs away from other people if they cross that imaginary line he has created which signifies the edge of his personal space. If a child climbs up the play structure stairs at a park, he waits. If another child comes near the stairs, he waits. He does not want to be on the stairs with another person outside of his comfort zone or family. If someone looks his way or seems interested in chatting, he has an adverse reaction that is often noisy and troublesome to those of us who are present. (Purchasing ear plugs has crossed my mind to be honest.)
Today was different. Today he kept his distance, spoke to himself, played on his own, and spoke to me off and on for several hours. He also felt comfortable enough to speak to an adult (who is not a family member) for a moment, then he ran off to be by himself again. (This is also a fairly new behavior.)
Then something changed. All of a sudden I noticed he was not hiding from others, walking to a space with no people, or screaming. He was playing! Another mom and I looked at each other and were both a bit shocked. This has not happened before. I am so happy for him. All of the time spent discussing and practicing social skills as he was interested, has helped.
Keep in mind that this could be a positive pattern or that he may choose to go back to screaming, running, and other behaviors that do not really address the issue inn a positive manner. Sometimes once is all we get for a while when he progresses. No worries, I will take it. There is nothing wrong with honoring at a child's pace. He will "get it" eventually as he is able to handle social situations using coping skills he has learned.
(Please excuse any typos as it is after midnight, but I felt the need to write down this exciting experience.)