Do kids/teenagers grow out of this? – very long

I have a lovely and very intelligent 16 1/2 year old daughter who I am getting kind of worried about. She seems to be lacking the ability to recognize group social cues that most other children her age (I think) can pick up fairly readily. This is nothing new and it has been evident to me (and brought to my attention over the years by her teachers over and over and over again) that from a fairly young age (around age 5-6 or so) that she had this tendency to not really be all that aware of her social surroundings unless she makes an effort to do so. I always assumed this was just immaturity and that it would be something she would grow out of, but that does not seem to be the case at this point and quite frankly I beginning to get worried.

I had sort of window into this when she was 9 or so and I was in midst of a contentious divorce and she was having problems in school. My ex-and I took her to a psychiatrist on the advice of therapist she was seeing (my ex wanted both kids in therapy on the advice of her lawyer) and we were told, based the Doctor observing her interact with me an her mother in a conversational situation, that she was an 11 on the scale of 1-10 for ADD type behavior. We tried Ritalin and she had a very negative reaction (hyper emotional, crying etc) to it that was so frightening we decided to just bag the drug thing and deal with her focus issues as best we could with loving attention.

This is (I think) part of the reason she has had difficultly making friends even though she would desperately like to be liked and be more popular. Her peers (according to her) tend to treat her as something of an insecure geek. She is slightly overweight (not tremendously), but dresses somewhat sloppily and (seemingly) has no concerns about going to school or out in public with clothes that have food stains and spills on them. Kids dress sloppily all the time, but the not caring about spills and stains thing does worry me in a 16 1/2 year old girl.

I want to be clear I am not talking about some kind of high functioning Aspergers type thing. She is very intelligent and wittily conversational one on one and appears to be perfectly normal and even fairly advanced for her age until she gets into group social situations that require a somewhat more sophisticated moderation of behavior.

This has occasionally caused her to manifest inappropriate behavior like talking over people in social gatherings instead of waiting for an appropriate break in the conversation, or neglecting her table manners such as blowing her nose at restaurant dinner table, taking other’s dishes without asking - (that they would share if asked) etc. Running her knees continuously into the back of other movie patron’s seats even though repeatedly warned (by me) that this irritates other people.

While visiting at a friend of mines house a few months ago she was informed politely by my friend to please not take all of a limited amount of an avocado dip because it had to serve a large group, and when everyone’s attention was elsewhere she went back in and secretly scarfed it all up. When I asked her why she did this (after my friend told me about it a month or so later) she was very embarrassed and didn’t want to talk about it.

I took her to the ceremony closing out the end of the year for the athletic clubs (she just started tennis this year) and when I she got a certificate I tried to quietly pick it off her lap (gently) during the ceremony to look at it and she clamped down on it and said firmly and worriedly “No it’s mine!” as if I was trying to take it away from her, rather than just wanting to look at it with pride. I was confused and fairly irritated, but I said nothing.

In any case, this came to a head the other day when I picked her up from school and she asked me if I thought she talked too much or inappropriately in social situations as she was concerned about how she appeared to other people. “Hallelujah” I thought, “maturity has manifested itself and the lights are coming on!” Later that evening when we were coming back from a nice evening at the movies, I stopped off at a Chinese take out with the kids get something for their mother and them to eat when I dropped them off at her house shortly. In the take out I nudged her and was going to whisper something to her about the menu when the food order came up. As I got up to and went to the front counter she followed me up to the counter and started asking a loud voice “Why did you nudge me? What did I do? Why did you nudge me?” “Please” I said softly and gave her a “Please for the Love of God be quiet” look to no avail. “But, I want to know why!” she repeated loudly completely oblivious to the fact that people were starting to stare. I paid as quickly as possible and left.

When I tried to talk to her about why she did this when I got back to the car, she stated getting more and more upset and yelling “I know you think I’m a social retard. I don’t care. I thought you were nudging me because you wanted to tell me something and I wanted to know what it was!” My explanation that a nudge was generally for something you did not want to discuss out loud fell on deaf ears and crying and tears ensued.

In my defense I consider myself pretty easygoing, and I’m really not an uptight prick in public, but her constant, inappropriate, out loud behavior has me dreading group social situations with her. She can behave in groups, but it seems to really require an effort on her part and she seems to really resent making the effort to be consciousness of her surroundings, and will lapse back into her standard “out loud” behavior at the first opportunity. It seems like there is no curtain between her brain and her mouth and if it’s a thought it will be verbalized.

Am I over the top in my expectations for near 17 year old young lady? Is this something that she will finally grow out of? I have to admit I getting very concerned. She is my precious little girl and I love her to pieces, but I want to know if I should stop lecturing her on inappropriate behavior or just accept it as part of her natural personality, move on and not try to correct her about it anymore as it upsets her when I do. Is this even a problem if she does not think it’s one? What the hell can I do? Should I just shut up and back off?

Why are you sure it isn’t Asperger’s? In any case, she clearly has a problem with both impulse control and, as you described, understanding appropriate social behavior.

I’m not sure it matters exactly WHY she does this, but I believe it can be helped through a carefully designed behavior modification program. I would advise you to seek the help of a behavioral psychologist or other type of behavior therapist.

If she could simply mature into more appropriate behavior, I think she would have by now. It really sounds as though she is going to require assistance in learning appropriate social behavior.

I believe that since your daughter is bothered by what other people think of her behavior, she could be quite receptive to behavior therapy.

I think it’s really wonderful that you care enough to explore the issue.

I’m almost 16, and I’ve got ADD. I was on ritalin for 5 years,(grade 1-5) and, oddly enough, I found that I acted a little like your daughter id when I was on it. I’m in grade 10 now, and my years of being so hyper that even in my sleep I would jitter(I couldn’t sit still; I had to be swinging my leg, or tapping a pencil or something) are thankfully behind me. I still find it hard to focus sometimes; I STILL can’t sit still (as I’m typing, my leg is vibrating) If I have an excess amount of sugar or red dye(we founf that I got 3 times as hyper if I had a red lollipop or a red jellybean as I would if I had a grean one) I tend to get a bit… not super hyper, but I get rambunctious and loud. I often will say the wrong things at the wrong time; I talk to fast and don’t enunciate, because I have so many things in my mind at once, that I have to get them all out NOW. Same thing with writing… its illegible because I write so fast because I have to get my thoughts onto the paper before they dissapear.

Is your daughter anything like this? Maybe you should try putting her on the Ritalin now, because it may have matured more, and she might not be as easily emotional as she was. And if Ritalin doesn’t work, theres alot more med’s they have for ADD; my cousin has it too, and he’s on something totally different(or at least thats my understanding) from Ritalin.

Another possibility(although I hope its not it) is that maybe its your ex thats doing it… maybe she says things or does things that make your daughter act like this…
Or, theres always the stereotypical “maybe she just wants attention” bit, but I don’t think thats it.

I would suggest a psychiatrist, and also a special doctor for kids. Maybe even one of those psycological evaluations you see on t.v… maybe she’s Bi-Polar, or clinically depressed or something of the like.
And you know… We’re around the same age… if you want, have her email me. We can talk. I’m always looking to make new freinds.

Good luck!

Well I’m not really in any position to advise but your story makes me think of my own social awkwardness when I was a teen. I was the designated “weird” one. I took my father’s “corrections” as criticism and felt hopeless and singled out. I was IQ tested and given tests for physical co-ordination and exercises to do to make me move more normally. I was put in therapy. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder because I cried a lot, but I was also very loud and giggly sometimes.

I’m not your daughter but if I accused my father of thinking I was a social retard, he generally would have responded by giving me an etiquite tip and yes, it would fall on deaf ears because all I wanted to hear was, “Wrong! think you’re great and I love you” That would be my dream answer. But yeah, he would have responded by going on about what I’d done wrong and I would have cried and he would have seen it as more evidence that something was seriously wrong with me.

I’m not a parent and I don’t know the anxiety of having a weird daughter but as a weird daughter I can tell you it’s not a tragic fate. I grew out of it. I’m not shunned by society. I am now able to restrain myself around the dip.

Have you considered attempting the Ritalin again? She might be able to tolerate the side-affects better now that she’s older.

I too went through a phase like this- I wasn’t able to pick up on unspoken cues and it made me look like a total moron.

One problem I had is that I was not receptive at all to positive feedback- Any suggestions people had about me were aways interpreted as insults. And since my parents had conditioned me to ignore people when they called me names/insulted me, I ignored the feedback people were giving me. So I didn’t change.

Some time later, perhaps around twenty, I became self-aware of what was going on, and started taking people’s advice. It immensely helped me socially, though ironically it made me much more aware of how unpleasant some people were to be around. Some people who I hung out with and thought as friends were just freeloaders or people who wanted an emotional punching bag/sychophant to follow them around. Nowadays I have far fewer friends but my relationship with them is on a much more genuine and enjoyable level :slight_smile:

Are you sure you are not over-diagnosing the situation? I wasn’t exactly Mr. Personality when I was 16 either (who is?), but I can’t imagine that either of my parents discussed taking me to a therapist or trying a Ritalin prescription.

Your constant reprimands (especially in public) and ideal expectations will never fly very well with a teenger. If you treat your daughter like a child that is what she will be.

A 16 year old girl who wears dirty clothes and acts out in public sounds like a self-esteem issue to me. Some positive reenforcement like “oh, I like your new haircut!” or “those shoes look nice” would go a long way in this situation, I think.

Good luck.

I don’t know what you can do, and I’m sorry for interjecting anecdotes, but that sounds quite familiar. If it isn’t, I send many apologies and I’m sorry that I don’t have more concrete advice.

I really feel the pain with struggling in social situations – slowly I’ve been trying just to avoid social situations until the isolation really gets to me because it is such an effort to try to figure out what to do. (Barring that, I try my best to be quiet and reserved – if I can’t figure out what to do, do nothing. That’s one thing I’ve learned since I was 16 – I’m now 23. I’ve also discovered the joys of the internet – social cues are much more absent in written communication, which makes it quite an optimal way to associate with others without the constant fear of making a huge social faux pas.) I try to make restaurant dinners rare, movie visits rare, and the like.

The avocado dip sounds almost exactly like something I might have done in that situation, if I liked avocado dip. As best as I can explain it, it feels like there is some set of social rules which exists, but I don’t really grasp it on another “social interactions” level. It’s almost as if it’s something that comes naturally to others, but is tremendously difficult for me to remember, and sometimes my brain just snaps, “forgets” it, and then snaps back on, causing extreme regret and shame when I do things that are just horribly inappropriate, but I don’t realize it when I’m doing it – it doesn’t dawn on me until later.

It upsets me enormously, because I really try to grasp this social thing, I desperately want to, and I try to memorize social cues to no end, but it’s like there’s something in my brain that’s missing and just doesn’t click. It’s not for a lack of trying to grasp social cues that I can’t do it – it’s that something seems not to be working. I don’t get why people don’t see how difficult it is to grasp social cues and think I’m being purposefully obstinate or such – if I could follow social cues correctly, I would gladly and eagerly do so!

I don’t know if it’s much, but if she ever needs a kindred soul, let me know! (Heck, I know it wasn’t meant for this purpose, but I feel this tremendous sense of relief feeling that I’m not alone.)

My brother has always been like this and is 19 now, and it is I think, getting a little bit better. I don’t have as much contact with him now that I live in another country. It’s insanely frustraing for both me and him to have told him 15 times not to do something, and yet, there goes the 16th time. He has never had a friend, and I don’t know where to get him one :frowning:

astro, that post could have been me at sixteen.

I think some sort of therapy really might be a good idea–but not because there is something wrong with her, but because she is obviously desperately unhappy.

Other people have made some really good points that I am not going to repeat: I’ll just add one of my own.
At that age, what Iwanted from my parents more than anything was faith. Faith that eventually, I would get this. It sounds to me that you are loosing that faith, and that could be dire.

Quit expecting her to know shit: if she didn’t know that a nudge meant trying to be discreet, don’t berate her for it, don’t say " My explanation that a nudge was generally for something you did not want to discuss out loud fell on deaf ears and crying and tears ensued. " because that’s like saying “evryone knows that, what are you, a dumbass?” You had to learn this stuff, too. Correct her when she does something inappropriate, but dont say “People gnerally don’t . . .” or “most people consider it rude when . . . .” When you say things like that she hears “most people already know this, dipshit. What’s wrong with you?”

Another thing I wanted was reassurance that life would not always be the hell that is high school. She may not know this: tell her that in college there are lots of differnet types of people and a lot less social bullshit and it’s a whole diffreent world. It sucks so bad in highschool and everyone is telling you it’s the best time of your life! Also, high school is filled with 10X the number of stupid little social rules that real life is, and in high school they made me so mad, so frustrated, that I quit paying attention to any of them.

Spend time talking to her in the abstract about social rules and why they exisit and why people follow them: it took me a long time to accept that these things make a difference, and it took conversations about how social rules keep us from having to renegotiate little things every time we do them, how following little rules let’s people know you can be trusted with the big rules.

Pick your battles. You are not going to win all these fights at once, so pick a few things that you would like to see her learn to pay attention to. Once you do that, pick your times: I know at that age I found following social rules to be exhausting, and I could not do it 24/7–I’d have just given up completely. Tell her that your only going to nag and bitch when she is actually going out in public, say–and just riding in the car isn’t public.

And quit being embarressed to be seen with her! Remember that as a teenager, she is contstantly embarressed to be seen with herself–you reinforcing that opinion is likely destroying her.

Go Manda, Go Manda.
What makes you think anything is wrong with her? Just because “most people don’t do that. . .” doesn’t mean she is doing anything wrong. Pick any one thing that you are horrible at. Whether it’s working on cars to computer programming. Work at it for a while and see if you can do it. If you can’t, then you can understand why she isn’t social. It’s not that she doesn’t want to be part of something, she just can’t. I can’t speak spanish. Tried it, will never learn it. NEVER! But wanted to.

astro, one of the hardest things as parents can be to watch a child be unsuccessful in a social situation. My sister had a similar problem with her son. Academically he is gifted, socially he was inept. He was displaying many of the things you describe. We looked at Asperberger’s and, while she never had a diagnosis made, she did follow some of the recognized methods of dealing with a child with this sort of behavior and it did help. Part of your daughter’s problem may be that she can not process social cues. She may not be able to read faces or body language. It simply isn’t happening in her brain. She’s smart enough to know it, but doesn’t know what to do about it because she can’t even identify what exactly the problem is since she has no internal frame of reference. One thing my sister did which might help your daughter, is a people watching trip to the mall. Make it fun, make it a day out with dad. Tell her the rules beforehand. Explain about using a quiet voice, etc. But do it casually and not in an accusatory way. Then grab some pretzels, sit down on a bench and people watch. Comment on people’s facial expressions, what they might mean, what the story behind them might be. Look at groups of girls around her age and see what she says about their behavior, point out behavior that’s appropriate (but don’t ever use the word appropriate! More like, “oh I like the way that girl is…”) and if you see something inappropriate, talk about a way that someone might act that would be better. Point out something you’ve seen your daughter do that was a good way of handling a similar situation. Keep it positive, humorous, casual and fun. Make a weekly date of it. She just may need to be taught this stuff because her brain isn’t processing it correctly. That doesn’t speak at all to her intelligence.
Best of luck, astro. You obviously love her very much and knowing that she has your unconditional love and respect will help a lot, too, I’m sure.

I’m not a therapist but have had to address various psychiatric issues with my son.

I’d say that at the age of 16, you daughter is NOT going to grow out of it.

For younger children, there are “social skills groups” where the child learns to interact appropriately with others. I would think that there are also groups like thids for teenagers. A good therapist should be able to help you look into this.

Since your daughter seems aware that there’s a problem, perhaps she would not object to seeing a therapist. But if you broach the subject with her, try to be as positive as possible. Don’t let her think that you think she’s a failure and she has to go into therapy to please you. Tell her about all the positive things she does, and that you think this may help make her happier.

astro you may want to look into this site for some info. These people live with the kind of problems you seem to have and are extremely knowledgable and helpful.

Actually, I’ve heard ability to converse one on one can still be consistant with a diagnosis of Aspergers.

She sounds like me, slightly younger than she is, and slightly more so. I’m still pretty strange to talk to, but I’m much better (not perfect) with the social cues. Give her a little more time, and try not to force her to do social things that are obnoxious to her (the way my parents did :frowning: )

I was a bonified social retard as a child, but in my teen years (15 to 19) I became an intentional outcast and became a rebel. The social group I was a part of was a group of outcasts and this group of outcast helped me learn about social contact & cues.
Another thing that helped was 3 years of waitressing. Forced social contact from waitressing helped me learn to converse with people in business situations. In my 20’s I was very social, large groups of friends and had a very active social life. After enough time playing the part of an extrovert I learned that shallow social situations were not all they were cracked up to be.
Now I’d say I am quite well adjusted albeit somewhat shy.

Let her find her own route - extroversion is not all it is cracked up to be. Introverts tend to have deeper closer friendships.

She knows she’s a bit socially awkward - and if she wants to fix it she can find her own way.

If she scored 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 for ADD, you might want to revisit that now and have her re-evaluated and look at the meds which are now available. Ritalin is not the only med (FWIW my son had a similar reaction to ritalin but is doing very well on sustained release dex). Concerta, Adderall, Stratera are worth considering if she now gets a diagnosis.

Nothing you describe is inconsistent with Aspergers. Aspergers is a spectrum disorder and it’s not uncommon for people with Aspergers to be just fine one on one and unable to read social cues in a larger group. It sounds like what is currently happening for your daughter is distressing her and for that reason, I’d look for help for her. Social skills training for kids with Aspergers focuses on a lot of similar issues so whether or not she has Aspergers, you’re still going to find some useful stuff there.

It also sounds like the method we use which is to rehearse social stuff with our son at home in private is not going to be a good support for your daughter. I think she is desperately signalling she needs an outside mentor, whether that is a psych or a therapist.

Email me privately if I can be of any more help. Tony Attwood’s site may be of use to you

Astro, you might check this book out:
Skillstreaming the Adolescent:*#product-details

It’s designed for teachers who deal with kids with poor social skills. I used the version for elementary kids a LOT when I was teaching (even for the high school kids) and I could see it being helpful for you and for anyone you might enlist to help you in working with your daughter.

It will seem very, very basic, because the skills involved are laid out in a very simple format. For example (paraphrasing):

Asking a Question In Class:

  1. Ask yourself: Is this an appropriate time to ask a question?
  2. Raise your hand and wait for the teacher to call on you.
  3. Ask your question appropriately.
    (There may have been an additional "Tell myself, “Good job!” type step, I’m not sure.)

The book should cover every basic social skill from asking directions to accepting or giving a compliment to saying “No” when you decline an invitation. Most of them follow the format above, and while it seems childishly simple, what you must remember is that many kids with poor social skills miss that first, vital step of paying attention to what’s going on in their environment.

I’d second the suggestion for counseling, and also suggest that, if you do obtain the book, see if you can find someone–a woman might be best–to give your daughter some guidance. One lesson at a time, starting with the simplest you can think of. Part of the problem might be that there is, of course, that natural rebellion against Dad–she may automatically discount any advice you give her right now–so enlisting the aid of a trusted friend might be a very good move right now.

Feel free to email me if I can offer any help. I feel for you both.


Manda JO, I think you’re being a bit harsh on astro.

It’s a perfectly normal reaction to be embarrassed by someone’s behavior when it’s inappropriate, which his daughter’s behavior is. (For her age and for the environments used as examples.)

Just ‘being weird’ is all well and good, but if it’s hurting her, then it’s something more than that, and isn’t good. Besides, being able to function in social situations is something I think everyone here would agree on as a skill that’s handy to possess. (I won’t say necessary, but certainly helpful.)

It sounds like since she’s had a previous diagnosis as ADD, it would be a good idea to check in on that again. It couldn’t hurt to at least look at it, or visit a psychiatrist. (I hope she wouldn’t object to that.)

Best of luck, astro. I’m sure all will be well in the end. Like others have said, a lot of high school is trying to find yourself and your place. It is likely that she will grow out of it, especially with the love and support that you are obviously more than willing to provide. Try to remain understanding and supportive, and hang in there.