My 20 year old son has difficulties with social anxiety and expressing himself. How can I help him?

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My son has always been an very quiet but intelligent boy with a bit of an obsession with computers and computer games from an early age. However he always seemed to get along socially until late high school, when he withdrew into himself. He's now at university and finding himself getting very isolated and suffering from anxiety in social situations. He is also unable to express himself verbally when asked a question. This has been something long-standing but which within the family we were used to. I suspect he may be on the autistic spectrum, or suffer from expressive language disorder, which then naturally causes him anxiety in social situations (how can you connect with people when you are unable to articulate your thoughts?).

Who can I approach to find help for him? I hate to see him struggling with this. Does anyone have any advice?

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  • Posted

    This is something that cognitive behaviour therapy CBT might be useful for. There are some sites on internet where CBT is interactive and free, and it might help with deciding if CBT might be the right thing. One useful site I came across and found useful is helpguide.org. Its an American site, but well accredited and very sensitive in its approach. I think its worth a try even if its just to start your son thinking about the problem in a positive way.
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  • Posted

    PS....my original reply has been delayed for approval because it has a web link in it. In the meantime I'd suggest looking up some free Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sites available on net. Just google CBT online and assess for yourself.
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  • Posted

    The autism society www.autism.org.uk has loads of information on its site so that could be a good place to start. Your son may be naturally reticent and struggling with a new life at uni, or he may have Asperger's, but either way reading about it may help you both decide what to do next, if anything. A friend of mine has a son of about 15 with Asperger's who is finding life difficult – he says reading about other boys with Asperger's helps; I believe there are books with first-hand accounts which might help your son feel less alone. However, many people don't want to be "labelled", so tread carefully!
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  • Posted

    That's a good point about not wanting to be labeled. I would suspect that many people are not helped because they are afraid of a diagnosis. It's sad, because many times there are treatments available. As a  mom of a very gifted child and a wife of someone with mental disorders also, I know how dangerous it can be to put labels on a problem. The best idea is to confirm a problem (get them to acknowledge that something is wrong) then present a solution before explaining where you got it from. Maybe that will give him the opportunity to be open-minded to treatments, and you can get him the help he needs.
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  • Posted

    Sorry to read, your son is having a tough time adapting to uni life. It can be a very hard trasnition for many young adults without autism. Can't image what it yould be like for a yound man with it!

    You could try speaking to someone at the uni's student sell-being, chaplains or counselling services. I am not sure, if, you as his mum will be able to access these services without him. But there is no harm trying. They should be able to point you in the right direction at least. You could go to an appointment with him or encourage him to go to one on his own.

    Do encourage him to join a society, perhaps one with few members. This will allow him to start making friends and intergrate slowly into uni life. Which, I believe is a vital key to uni success.

    Perhaps a PT job might help too?

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  • Posted

    Hi Lesley

    my son is also at University and has Aspergers He also has difficulty making friends and keeping them At his Uni there is a disability support service which he has to register for and they Email his lecturers who give him one on one and make sure he understands what is required for assignments It might be worth you calling student support services this what I did and it has been a godsend. Additionally he could see a psychologist specialising in Autism and have some life skills sessions Our son also did this and it really helped

    Hope this is helpful I do feel for you we have a long journey still to go but he has come such a long way

    Best of Luck  V

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