In a recent article in Attitude magazine, a magazine that offers strategies and support for people and their families with ADHD and LD, a mom created a Facebook birthday event for her son with Asperger syndrome. No one wanted to come to her son’s 13th birthday and her son was upset. She decided to with the encouragement of other mom’s to post a message on Facebook asking people to text and posted an birthday event. 100’s of people came to bowl with Odin on his birthday and others sent texts to his phone including a few celebrities.
The Odin’s birthday event is a great example of social engineering. Social engineering is the practice of using other methods to solve social problems or improve social conditions. Odin who the article states has been bullied is Odin’s mother was trying to help Odin feel wanted by his peers. She created an event where people supported him on his birthday. Parents increasingly are using social engineering to improve their children’s social standing. From parents calling ahead to make sure that their child’s friends are in the same cabin at camp to parents saving seats for their child’s friends on the bus, social engineering is happening all around. For students with social deficits, not belonging, can make the already difficult job of growing up even more difficult. Children with learning disabilities and other vulunerable children are often excluded at school from parties and events. Parent’s who engage in social engineering to improve social deficits help build social skills and develop social networks for their children with learning disabilities.
However, engaging in social engineering to help children with social deficits can be tricky. In Odin’s case, seeing that people cared for him was important, but parents have to understand what their child needs. Keeping the goal for the social interaction, watching your child’s interacts, and considering their interest will help you determine the type of event. Is the goal to develop friends? Interact with the community? Create a social network? Working to develop a few long term friends is often better than fostering large groups, but it all depends on the child’s needs. One child with Asperger or ADHD who plays team sports may prefer getting together with a larger group of children whereas another who likes farming may prefer a few. Some children don’t appear to do better with larger or smaller groups, but regardless the ultimate goal is to develop a few friends that your child can have regular activities. It’s sometimes hard to determine what is best for your child, but social engineering not to become the “most popular,” but to facilitate relationships and connection can be helpful.