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Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's So Scary About Saying "Hi?"

At the beginning of the summer Tommy, having tried tennis at the YMCA, decided he wanted to take lessons. We have a terrific local tennis facility, and Scott, the son of the owner (who is also an instructor) said he'd be glad to work with Tom. So far, so good - Tommy is having a good time in his private lessons, and he's really coming along!


Yesterday, he and I were at the tennis facility watching sister Sara in her group lesson. I was chatting with Tom, asking him whether he, too, might soon be ready to learn in a group. He got quite upset at the idea, and explained that he JUST wanted to play with Scott. He didn't want any groups, and he didn't want to play with anyone else.

I asked why.

"Because other kids might want my toys!"

"But, Tommy, you don't play with toys on a tennis court. Just balls and racquets!"

"They might say hi to me!"

"Yes, they might. Is that ok?"


We went back and forth on this, me explaining that ALL you have to do when someone says "hi" is say "hi" back - and you're done! No need for long conversations - especially on a tennis court, where you're far apart from one another anyway. Finally, in frustration, I told Tom that at some point he would HAVE to play with other people besides the pro, because we just couldn't afford to give him private tennis lessons for the next ten years! Either that, or quit tennis.

He made it clear that he did NOT want to quit.

I have some ideas for scaffolding tennis - perhaps I'll ask the pro about a teenager who'd be willing to play with Tom as a paid "buddy;" maybe I'll pay for some semi-private lessons with Sara... but that's not really what's bothering me.

My question is - what's so scary about saying "hi"? Is it the possibility that someone might then take the conversation to the next step and say something like "what's your name?" Is this social anxiety (a psychological issue) or is it just a feeling of uncertainty (something we can address through social stories and practice)?

When we do practice social interactions, by the way, the result is the same: Tom acts as if I'm a new kid he's anxious about, and refuses to interact! Great method acting, but not especially helpful in the long run...

Power By Ringsurf

1 comment:

MommyTof3 said...

I get this EXACT response from my son(9)-he wants to do things-but just one on one and is absolutely terrified and gets upset when you try and get any activity to branch out to any group or anything that isn't what he is accustomed too. He wont say Hi to any peers either. And I find myself asking the very exact question you are asking and wondering yourself{{HUGS}}