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Q: My 11-year-old son lacks self-control and social skills. He is very unpopular, so he's either bullied or shunned by the other kids. He goes to a small school and has never really had any good friends. Where do I start to get him on the right path? Will his social reputation ever improve? His teachers this spring mentioned he may have Asperger's syndrome. I feel so alone. Everyone else's kids seem so well adjusted.
A: Start with your pediatrician. Explain the problems your son has had and what the teachers suggested as a possibility, and ask the doctor to determine what is going on physically with your son. Physical reasons for a child's behavior are easier to either diagnose or rule out, and they can often be treated medically once a diagnosis is made. If you're concerned it may be Asperger's syndrome, learn more about it from FamilyEducation's Asperger's syndrome resources.
Use the rest of this summer to help your son make some friends. Swimming lessons, activity day camps, and Boy Scout or YMCA activities are good places to make friends without the added pressure of school. Perhaps there are some children in your neighborhood you could ask over to your house to play to help your son make friends. Continue to look for groups in which your son could find friends after school starts this fall.
Talk with the school counselor. She may be able to give your son some individual time this fall or include him in a small group on making and keeping friends. Meet soon after school starts with your son's new teachers and ask for their assistance in helping him with friendship and social skills issues.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.