Why is this blog called 'real social skills'?

'Social skills' is often a slur meaning 'teaching disabled people to be seen and not heard.' I am reclaiming that slur by taking 'social skills' literally. Social skills really do exist, and they're not about fading powerlessly into the background. Real social skills are about learning effective and ethical ways to interact with other people. Some of these skills enable us to stop internalizing ableism, misogyny, and other forms of dehumanization.

Why do you do this?

The short version: Finding the words to describe problems often makes it possible to solve them. 

All around me, I see people getting hurt and hurting others in ways that are avoidable. I can’t help most of them in the moment. But I can describe what I know, and help other people in similar situations understand what’s going on.

Some people hurt others without realizing it, and sometimes they stop once they understand. Many who are being hurt believe that they deserve it, and sometimes they are able to stop internalizing it once they have the words to describe it.

What is this blog about?

This is a blog about how people interact with each other, and how to develop skills for interacting with each other constructively.  It’s about how interaction between people works. I tend to write about a broad range of things. 

  • Boundaries: how to have them
  • Boundaries: how to respect them
  • Social rules that it might be good to know exist
  • Underlying logic of social rules that can be useful
  • How to do things
  • Power dynamics; noticing power
  • Noticing and resisting abuse
  • Anti-skills taught to disabled folks in social skills classes, and sometimes strategies for unlearning them
  • Noticing that everyone is real
  • Treating people with disabilities right (eg: stuff it’s useful to know about how some autistic people communicate)
  • Disability-specific skills (eg: getting people to actually provide accommodations)
  • And some other things too that I don’t have ready words for

Is this an autism/disability blog?

Not specifically, no. This blog is for everyone. 

Why do you write about disability so much?

I’m a disabled person, and I’m writing from a disabled perspective. Many of my friends are autistic; others are disabled in other ways. I write what I know about, and a lot of it has to do with disability in one way or another.

Some of what I say is disability-related directly; all of it is colored by my perspective. But this isn’t a blog about autism or disability specifically, it’s a blog about people and interaction written by a disabled person.

Further, far too many people lack the basic social skills needed to interact with disabled folks respectfully, and I’m trying to do what I can to fix that. 

Who are you?

I’m a a disabled disability advocate. I've been thinking about these issues for a long time. In recent years, I’ve been finding the words to describe some of what I see, so I’m sharing some of them here. I'm also a rabbi.

What qualifies you to write this blog?

I think that my writing speaks for itself, and I encourage you to evaluate it on its own merits. I don't claim any particular authority except as someone who has thought about these issues a lot and put a lot of time into researching them and listening to stakeholders. 

Do you have any clinical training?

I don't have any professional certifications or licenses, and I don't claim authority on the basis of professional training. That said, in seminary I did a unit of CPE, took education classes, and took pastoral psychology classes. Those experiences shaped my perspective in various ways (not always the ways intended by the curriculum). 

What disability do you have?

I don't list all my disabilities online anymore, because that's private. 

You're a rabbi. Does that mean this is a religious blog?

Only insofar as I'm the same person all of the time. My religious views influence everything I do, including my writing. 

That said, this blog is for everyone, and I write in secular language for the overwhelming majority of what I say here. When I write something that's more culturally-specific, I put a note at the top. 

If you're interested in my views and work on religious issues, you can find that elsewhere

Is it appropriative for me to be reading this, or to find the advice helpful, or to ask questions if I’m not disabled?

No, it isn’t appropriative at all. I want people to listen to me. This blog is for everyone who finds it helpful.

One of my favorite things about writing this blog is how much it’s brought me to consider perspectives I hadn’t before, and how much it’s brought together people with different perspectives.

For instance, a lot of what I write about autistic executive dysfunction gets reblogged and commented on by people with depression. A lot of what I write about stigma gets reblogged and commented on by people who face different kinds of stigma. Posts I write about disability-related consent issues and emotional abuse often get reblogged widely by nondisabled sexual abuse survivors. 

I think all of that is awesome. Don’t worry about being appropriative. If something I write resonates with you, it’s for you, whether or not I had you in mind specifically when I was writing it.

(Note: I have literally been asked this question frequently, for reasons I don't entirely understand.)

Do you use trigger warnings?

Mostly not. All of my posts are extensively tagged, and I try to tag for anything that might be a problem for someone. I sometimes put a content note at the top of a post when it's outside the norm of what I usually write about, or outside the norms of how I usually write about it.

I decided not to use trigger warnings because I found that doing so made it much harder to write about taboo topics, and it seemed to me that it did very little to protect anyone. (And a number of other reasons that I'm in the process of writing about.)

How can I send you questions?

You can send me an email at realsocialskills@gmail.com, use my contact form, or send me an ask on Tumblr. (You don't need to worry about triggers or anything. If you want to ask a question about a potentially triggering topic, go ahead.)

Why didn’t you answer my question? Are you angry/triggered/disgusted?

I only answer a small percentage of the questions that I am asked. If you asked something in good faith, it's probably not personal. Writing this blog is hard, and I don't do it full time.

I only answer questions when I think I have a good answer, and when I have time to write an answer. Sometimes I flat out don't know, and sometimes it takes me a very long time to figure out how to answer. Sometimes I know something, but it takes weeks or months or even years to find the words to explain it. And sometimes I don’t have any idea, but then I learn something later that makes it possible to answer.

Why don't you have comments?

I'd love to have comments, but I don't have time to moderate them. I consider it unethical to enable comments without a realistic plan for preventing them from become the cesspools of jerks that unmoderated forums typically turn into. 

You said 'autistic'. Shouldn't it be 'person with autism'?