Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making friends is hard.

Two kids I had never seen before were kicking a soccer ball around the patio behind my building. When Ryan noticed them he ran straight for them. Wow, I thought, he's going to play with new kids!

This is when I realized how many small steps Ryan still needs to master in order to successfully initiate playing with other children:

1) First, approach the children. Stand close enough to them so they can hear you when you speak, but not so close that it's creepy. Do not run headlong into one of the kids so you bounce off her and fall on the ground.

2) When standing at an appropriate distance, look at the children and say, "Hi, I'm Ryan. What's your name?" We practiced this several times, and the "what's your name" part mostly came out; the girl's name is Adrianna - we have no idea what to call her little brother.

3) Ask to join the game. Do not just ask someone's name and then stare.

4) When the children explain what game they are playing, figure out how to incorporate yourself into that game. When the kids say they're playing soccer, you may be assigned to a team, and will be tasked with either kicking the ball toward a goal or defending a goal. It is not appropriate to step back from the kids and act out that part of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when Goofy is "practicing soccer" with a song and dance.

5) Play with the kids. If you ask to play with the other children and they say yes, they expect you will actually play with them; they do not expect you to wander off without further comment.

We have a few things to work on.

I will try to focus on the fact that Ryan was interested in playing with these kids - so interested that he actually asked me, "What's his name?" That was a big ol' first. I suppose that's the real Step One: noticing that other kids are playing and having the desire to join them. Now that we have that one, perhaps we can start on some of those five pesky follow-up details.

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