I can't

Open letter to disability professionals

thetallestofhobbits:

realsocialskills:

Dear disability professionals,

I’m not sure why, but I keep encountering disability professionals who try to deny that disability exists, or to downplay its importance.

It’s so extreme that disability professionals often try to convince people with disabilities that we are just like everybody else. Even when our differences are the reason that you have a job.

We are not just like everyone else. We are alike in that we are all human, with the same basic needs and capacities that go along with humanity. We are also different, in that we have disabilities and most people do not.

Disability exists. Disability is important. People with disabilities are different from most people people in ways that matter. And we need those differences to be speakable.

Our bodies are different. We can’t make this go away by smiling, being brave, and trying hard.

The differences in our bodies matter. Most people can do things that are physically impossible for us. Most people can do some things easily that are excruciatingly difficult for us. The specifics of which things these are depend on the person and the disability. They always exist. That’s what disability means, it means having a different kind of body, a body that can’t do certain kinds of things easily or at all.

For everyone, with and without disabilities, understanding the limits of what our bodies can do is a key life skill. Everyone’s safety depends on understanding that they do not have wings, and that they can’t fly. My safety also depends on understanding that I have impaired vision, motor coordination, and executive functioning. Understanding these things means I have chosen not to drive, and that I have found adaptive strategies that enable me to cook safely.

From my perspective, the fact that I don’t concentrate hard and try to drive isn’t so different from the fact that I don’t flap my wings and try to fly. All I’m doing is acknowledging physical reality, and making choices that fit with my understanding of reality. Some of the physical limitations on what my body can do are the normal limits that apply to all human bodies. Other physical limitations come from my disability. They’re all just physical facts, they’re all just things I need to take into account when I make decisions. 

But as a person with a disability, I learned young that only some limitations are ok to talk about. If I say “I can’t fly”, no one contradicts me. If I say “I can’t catch”, people say “just keep trying”. Both are physically impossible for me. Trying hard will not make either possible. Neither will being brave, smiling, or believing in myself.

For some reason, many disability professionals seem to believe that honesty about our limitations will somehow destroy our self esteem. Actually, the opposite is the case. They want us to believe that if we just smile and keep trying, we can do anything that we put our minds to. But it’s a lie, and we get hurt badly when we believe it.

When professionals refuse to accept our limitations, they force us to attempt impossible tasks over and over. There is nothing positive about this experience. We try and fail, and we watch others our age succeed at the same tasks. If we believe that we can do whatever we put our minds to, then we feel like it’s our fault for not trying hard enough.

It hurts when people yell at us for failing, and it hurts when people plaster on smiles and urge us to smile and keep trying. “Come on, you can do it!” doesn’t sound like encouragement when you know that you will fail. It feels like being told that you’re somehow screwing up on purpose, and that if you would just decide to be a better person, you’d suddenly be about to do it. This kind of thing can go on for years, and it leaves scars. We often come to feel like we are unworthy people, and that there’s something deeply flawed about who we are. 

It’s very, very important that people with disabilities understand that we are disabled. We need to know that our bodies are different, and that some things that are possible for most other people aren’t possible for us. We can’t stop being disabled through an act of will. Our bodies limit us. That is not a moral failing. It’s just a fact of physical reality. And it needs to be speakable.

Our bodies and our disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of.  We don’t have to be different to be good enough. We don’t have to be nondisabled to do things that matter. We don’t have to do impossible things to be worthy of love and respect. We’re people, and who we are is ok.

And for professionals - please understand that when you refuse to acknowledge disability, you are teaching people with disabilities to be ashamed of themselves. This is probably not your intention, but it’s an inevitable consequence of making disability unspeakable.

It is much better to tell the truth. It is much better to support us in understanding who we really are, than to push us to believe in an impossible dream. I could dream of flying or playing baseball, but it wouldn’t get me anywhere. By living in the real world and working with the body I actually have, I can do things that matter. And so can all of your clients. There is no need for silence, evasion, or shame. Disability is important, and it’s much easier to live with when we can face it honestly.

thetallestofhobbits said:

All of this is why I try really hard to be straightforward with my students. I know how it feels to hear the Try for Try’s Sake speech, and I hated it.

When my kids say, “I can’t do this” or, “I suck at this,” I try to say, “I can help you do it ” or, “Let’s see if we can use what you’ve done.”

Disability professionals police language because the narrative is that if a disabled kid gets into the habit of thinking “negatively” about their level of ability related to a particular skill or subject, they will lose the motivation to attempt it, and because accessible education does not keep pace with the attitudes of disability communities about what we as members believe is reasonable about supporting full and equal access to education, we are often forced to police attitudes because we as professionals can’t be seen to “enable” a disabled person’s “failure” by not pushing them to try.

In no way do I mean to imply that this attitude is healthy or positive. It is not. But, until the narrative about supporting disabled people changes to more accurately reflect the attitudes of actual disabled people instead of abled people who think they speak for us, we’re stuck with this.

Ability is complicated.

Most people have some ability to improve some of their physical or cognitive skills. The limits on this are different for different people. Sometimes trying hard over a long period of time makes things possible. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes all it takes to be able to do something is to be willing. For instance:

  • People who have unusual speech (eg, a CP accent) are often ignored
  • Most people who aren’t listening, could decide to listen.
  • Often, willingness to slow down and listen is all it takes.
  • (Not everyone can do this — there’s no shame in being unable. Sometimes disability is like that. The problem is that a lot of people who *could* understand relatively easily, or could learn how, don’t bother to listen)

Sometimes gaining the ability to do something takes significant effort over a sustained period of time:

  • For instance, most people could not decide to wake up tomorrow and run a marathon.
  • No matter how willing or determined they were, they would fail, because it’s not an ability you can gain overnight.
  • Many people can get the ability to run a marathon, by training over time.
  • Most people who can run at all can get better at running, up to a point, whether or not they ever gain the ability to run a marathon.
  • Getting better at running takes a lot of disciplined effort over time. 
  • People don’t just decide to run fast, they practice and keep pushing themselves until they get better at it.

Another aspect of running ability:

  • There is a limit, and the limit is different for everyone. Discipline and effort only take you so far.
  • Very few people will ever be able to run as well as olympic runners — no matter how much work they put into trying.
  • Bodies have absolutel limitations, and they can’t be overcome by sheer force of will.

On the other side of things, flying:

  • No one can flap their arms and fly, because it is physically impossible
  • No amount of determination or disciplined effort will make it possible for a human being to fly by flapping their arms.

It’s not always obvious which category something falls into, even for nondisabled people:

  • Sometimes limits are predictable.
  • Sometimes you can’t tell until you try.
  • Sometimes things that feel impossible turn out to actually be easy once you try.
  • And vice versa: sometimes things that feel intuitively like they should be easy turn out to be impossible.
  • Sometimes things that feel impossible at first become possible with sustained effort over time.
  • Sometimes they stay impossible.
  • Sometimes the effort they take turns out not to be worth it.
  • Ability is complicated and can be unpredictable, for everyone.

It’s often even more confusing for disabled people, for a number of reasons:

  • For many disabled people, walking is like flying — flat out physically impossible, not happening. 
  • For some people, it’s like running a marathon — possible, but may or may not be worth the amount of time and effort it requires.
  • For some people, it’s similar to a failed attempt to become an olympic athlete — some progress towards the goal is possible; but it’s still not achievable. 
  • It’s not always at all obvious which category something is in.
  • And that’s true of a lot of skills, in a lot of disability categories. (Including cognitive skills.)

In addition, honest discussion of what you can and can’t do is often taboo for disabled people. We’re often expected to say that we’re just like everyone else, even when we’re obviously not. We’re often expected to believe that we can do anything if we try hard enough, even when it’s obviously not true. We’re often prevented from trying anything hard that we might fail at — in a misguided attempt to spare us frustration and the pain of noticing our limitations. All of this can make self-assessment even harder.

Ability is complicated. Most people can improve some of their physical, emotional, or cognitive skills. Willingness makes some things possible. Sustained effort over time makes other things possible. Some things stay impossible no matter how hard you try. Sometimes it is clear which category something falls into; often it is not.

This is even more complicated for people with disabilities. Research and rules of thumb developed by experience with nondisabled people can give misleading results. No one can do everything, and that’s ok. Most people make mistakes about what they can and can’t do, and that’s ok too.

Open letter to disability professionals

Dear disability professionals,

I’m not sure why, but I keep encountering disability professionals who try to deny that disability exists, or to downplay its importance.

It’s so extreme that disability professionals often try to convince people with disabilities that we are just like everybody else. Even when our differences are the reason that you have a job.

We are not just like everyone else. We are alike in that we are all human, with the same basic needs and capacities that go along with humanity. We are also different, in that we have disabilities and most people do not.

Disability exists. Disability is important. People with disabilities are different from most people people in ways that matter. And we need those differences to be speakable.

Our bodies are different. We can’t make this go away by smiling, being brave, and trying hard.

The differences in our bodies matter. Most people can do things that are physically impossible for us. Most people can do some things easily that are excruciatingly difficult for us. The specifics of which things these are depend on the person and the disability. They always exist. That’s what disability means, it means having a different kind of body, a body that can’t do certain kinds of things easily or at all.

For everyone, with and without disabilities, understanding the limits of what our bodies can do is a key life skill. Everyone’s safety depends on understanding that they do not have wings, and that they can’t fly. My safety also depends on understanding that I have impaired vision, motor coordination, and executive functioning. Understanding these things means I have chosen not to drive, and that I have found adaptive strategies that enable me to cook safely.

From my perspective, the fact that I don’t concentrate hard and try to drive isn’t so different from the fact that I don’t flap my wings and try to fly. All I’m doing is acknowledging physical reality, and making choices that fit with my understanding of reality. Some of the physical limitations on what my body can do are the normal limits that apply to all human bodies. Other physical limitations come from my disability. They’re all just physical facts, they’re all just things I need to take into account when I make decisions. 

But as a person with a disability, I learned young that only some limitations are ok to talk about. If I say “I can’t fly”, no one contradicts me. If I say “I can’t catch”, people say “just keep trying”. Both are physically impossible for me. Trying hard will not make either possible. Neither will being brave, smiling, or believing in myself.

For some reason, many disability professionals seem to believe that honesty about our limitations will somehow destroy our self esteem. Actually, the opposite is the case. They want us to believe that if we just smile and keep trying, we can do anything that we put our minds to. But it’s a lie, and we get hurt badly when we believe it.

When professionals refuse to accept our limitations, they force us to attempt impossible tasks over and over. There is nothing positive about this experience. We try and fail, and we watch others our age succeed at the same tasks. If we believe that we can do whatever we put our minds to, then we feel like it’s our fault for not trying hard enough.

It hurts when people yell at us for failing, and it hurts when people plaster on smiles and urge us to smile and keep trying. “Come on, you can do it!” doesn’t sound like encouragement when you know that you will fail. It feels like being told that you’re somehow screwing up on purpose, and that if you would just decide to be a better person, you’d suddenly be about to do it. This kind of thing can go on for years, and it leaves scars. We often come to feel like we are unworthy people, and that there’s something deeply flawed about who we are. 

It’s very, very important that people with disabilities understand that we are disabled. We need to know that our bodies are different, and that some things that are possible for most other people aren’t possible for us. We can’t stop being disabled through an act of will. Our bodies limit us. That is not a moral failing. It’s just a fact of physical reality. And it needs to be speakable.

Our bodies and our disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of.  We don’t have to be different to be good enough. We don’t have to be nondisabled to do things that matter. We don’t have to do impossible things to be worthy of love and respect. We’re people, and who we are is ok.

And for professionals - please understand that when you refuse to acknowledge disability, you are teaching people with disabilities to be ashamed of themselves. This is probably not your intention, but it’s an inevitable consequence of making disability unspeakable.

It is much better to tell the truth. It is much better to support us in understanding who we really are, than to push us to believe in an impossible dream. I could dream of flying or playing baseball, but it wouldn’t get me anywhere. By living in the real world and working with the body I actually have, I can do things that matter. And so can all of your clients. There is no need for silence, evasion, or shame. Disability is important, and it’s much easier to live with when we can face it honestly.

Thoughts on CBT

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
TBH, I’ve found that for me, cognitive behavioral therapy has been the most helpful. the whole concept of radical acceptance–the “yes this is really hard, I acknowledge this, and I can still do it” mantra–has really, really helped me.

realsocialskills said:

Was that in response to this post about therapy? If so, I didn’t intend that to be an anti-CBT post.

I definitely know people who CBT has helped a lot, and I can see a lot of merit in that approach.

What I meant was that it’s important to be aware that there are different methods. If people think that all therapy is the same, it’s much harder to find a therapist to support them in the kind of work they want to do.

For people who primarily want to do emotional processing work, CBT is not usually a good fit. Something like psychodynamic therapy or art therapy is usually better.

If someone is expecting a feelings—and-history-oriented psychodynamic approach and their therapist is focused on CBT methods, it’s not likely to be a particularly successful therapy relationship (unless they change their mind about what they want.)

Similarly, if what you want to focus on is problem-solving and you *don’t* want to do a lot of problem-solving or delving into your past, CBT may be a much better approach than psychodynamic.

One caveat about CBT: it can sometimes create problems for people with disabilities. For people with disabilities, one of the most important life skills is self-assessment and learning to say “I can’t” sometimes.

If a CBT therapist doesn’t understand disability well, the commitment to teaching “it’s ok that it’s hard, but you can do it,” can be a problem. Because sometimes we can’t — even if every other client the therapist worked with overcame doubts and found a way to do it. Because that’s what disability *is*; sometimes we can’t do things that other people can do.

This can particularly be a problem for people who don’t have good self-assessment skills and have a history of being pushed into thinking it’s wrong to say “can’t”. Or a history of being taught that they can do anything if they try hard enough. CBT can sometimes play into that dynamic and make matters worse.

That doesn’t mean that disabled people can’t ever do CBT safely. (I know people with disabilities who have benefitted from it). It just means that there’s an additional risk involved, and that it’s important to monitor that and pay attention to whether it’s becoming a problem.

tl;dr CBT is sometimes useful, including in situations in which other therapy approaches do not work. It’s not always the best therapy approach for everyone in every situation. There are ways in which CBT poses particular dangers to people with disabilities who have trouble accepting that they can’t do some things. It is also an approach that helps a lot of people in a lot of situations, including some disabled people.

youneedacat:

soilrockslove:

realsocialskills:

altimetres:

realsocialskills:

fourloves:

realsocialskills:

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.

fourloves said:

anon needs to go away

who else gets chills when special ed teachers say “the word ‘can’t’ is not allowed in my classroom”

realsocialskills said:

Yes, teaching kids with disabilities not to recognize their own limits is a *major* anti-skill, and it does serious damage to people with disabilities.

altimetres said:

This. This. THIS.

I cannot tell you how many times in my early education I was told I am not allowed to say “I can’t” by special education teachers. At such a young age, that is dangerous. You are telling someone that they are not able to say “I can’t” to a variety of situations which can lead to very bad endings, and it is never the students fault.

One thing I remember clearly is one of my physical education teachers doing this. I have had joint problems my whole life (at 14, my knee joints were filled with micro-fractures, and that was not enough to get me out of PE), and it was never respected. One particular day, the teacher was putting harnesses on us to climb this indoor rope net. I KNEW I would not be able to manage it, as it requires a lot of work from your lower body. More importantly, your fucking knees. 

I told my teacher “I can’t do this” and she gave me the same speech that anon gave. “You CAN do it, we can’t tell what’s going to happen. You’re not allowed to say you can’t.” And even when I fought it, even when I went to walk away, I was threatened with a failing grade for the day. And since all my special education (well, 97% of it told me I couldn’t say no), I ended up on this net.

And what happened?

I made it four feet up, my knee popped out of it’s socket, and I was taken down crying as it popped itself back in. As my joints did.

And my teacher said “See, you CAN. Even with pain you CAN, you just don’t want to.”

This landed me on crutches and in doctors offices for 2 weeks.

So yeah, I wish I would have had more teachers with the guts to tell me “You can say no and mean it”. 

Fuck ableist teachers, get a new job.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, this.

This is what it does to people when you tell them “You’re not allowed to say I can’t.”.

soilrockslove said:

All of this!

And besides all this, if someone says “I don’t want to” and you force them to do it anyway - that’s no good either. O_o  And most people who I know who have said “don’t say can’t” aren’t that good at respecting “won’t” either.

youneedacat said:

This attitude is extremely popular among nurses, LNAs, and physical therapists and my local hospital.  And I’ve seen it do serious damage, both to me and to roommates I’ve had.

There’s a particular, really seriously awful, trick I’ve seen them pull on people multiple times.  Including me once, at which point I refused to ever get in a position where they could do it to me again.  (Which involved at one point firing my physical therapist.)

So here’s an example:

I was in really, really bad pain.  Not the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but bad enough that I couldn’t make myself sit up.  And I’m good at making myself do damn near anything.  This turned out to be because my feeding tube hadn’t been inserted properly, but they treated me like I was just being a wuss and complaining too much.  Like my roommate at the time would get them rushing into the room and giving her five different kinds of pain meds for every twinge, while I was actually frequently delirious from pain and they only grudgingly gave me pain meds, and only one kind.  It was really frustrating.

But here’s what they pulled on me:

They wanted to get me to get up and transfer to a bedside commode to use the bathroom, rather than being rolled and using the bedpan.  I don’t know about you, but if I’d been able to get up and use the commode, I would have:  I hate bedpans.  But they seemed to think I was being lazy.  They said they had people with much worse surgery than me up and moving on the first day, and therefore that I was just being lazy.  Nobody thought to check and see why I was still having excruciating pain so long after the tube was placed, when it shouldn’t be doing that.  No, they just chose to doubt that the pain was really that serious.  The pain had to get to a nine on the pain scale, after I got home, before anyone even checked the position of the tube, only to find that a piece of it was lodged in a really horrible position.

So what they did:

They badgered me and cajoled me and forced me until I finally put forth a phenomenal amount of effort to get up.  This involved gradually rolling over and creeping along the bed, taking frequent breaks in which I was crying and screaming from pain.  (It takes a lot of pain for me to do that.)  It was painstaking and horrible.

Then, after getting some help and getting to the commode, they showered me with praise and told me “See, you can do it after all, you just have to try.”  They told me how great I was for trying.

It was horrible.

Doing that to someone is a violation.

And it wasn’t a one-off thing, I saw them do that to a roommate with myasthenia gravis who was terrified of falling, forcing her to walk across the room and then showering her with praise at the end.  She had some cognitive disabilities that made it hard for her to see that as manipulation, and they were able to talk her into endangering herself regularly.

If you’ve never been in that situation, maybe you don’t know what a huge violation it is.

But to push someone into doing something that is painful or dangerous to them, to badger and cajole and threaten and harass them until they do it, and then shower them with praise when they can do it after all… it gets into their heads.  It tells them that they’re wrong about their abilities, that some nondisabled person has to show them their real potential.  And it puts them in grave danger, a lot of the time, because it overrides their own ability to judge what is safe for them and what is not.  It’s awful and it should never be done.

After the incident above, I fired my physical therapist and refused to get out of bed until the pain went away some.  I was told that if I stayed in bed for even a week I’d get deconditioned and horrible things would happen.  I told them I’d single-handedly brought myself back from months worth of deconditioning and that a week wouldn’t kill me.  But I had to fight them every step of the way.  It was worth it, though, because pushing through pain that bad is never a good thing.

wildoakcrafts:

altimetres:

realsocialskills:

fourloves:

realsocialskills:

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know…

wildoakcrafts said:

You know, I don’t have any specific memory of people telling me I’m not allowed to say “I can’t”, but that was the impression they gave; I still grew up thinking I’m not allowed to say “I can’t” when a teacher or boss tells me to do something. So I kept doing what was asked, and fucked up my feet, knees, and lower back. I was 26 when I finally realised that it’s ok to say no to a superior’s unreasonable requests.

And what’s really sad is that workplace safety training includes things like “You’re allowed to say no to requests that put you into an unsafe situation,” but all the examples are things that would be unsafe for ANYone. They don’t allow for disability; the subtext is that if other people can do it, then you should be able to do it too. It just never occurred to them that something that one person has no trouble doing might be harmful for someone else. And because of this, it never occurred to me to refuse work which is unsafe for me, because none of it was things that would be considered unsafe for people in general. I really wish I had figured this out sooner.

I hope this posts the way it should; I’m new to tumbler and not sure how everything works.

altimetres:

realsocialskills:

fourloves:

realsocialskills:

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.

fourloves said:

anon needs to go away

who else gets chills when special ed teachers say “the word ‘can’t’ is not allowed in my classroom”

realsocialskills said:

Yes, teaching kids with disabilities not to recognize their own limits is a *major* anti-skill, and it does serious damage to people with disabilities.

altimetres said:

This. This. THIS.

I cannot tell you how many times in my early education I was told I am not allowed to say “I can’t” by special education teachers. At such a young age, that is dangerous. You are telling someone that they are not able to say “I can’t” to a variety of situations which can lead to very bad endings, and it is never the students fault.

One thing I remember clearly is one of my physical education teachers doing this. I have had joint problems my whole life (at 14, my knee joints were filled with micro-fractures, and that was not enough to get me out of PE), and it was never respected. One particular day, the teacher was putting harnesses on us to climb this indoor rope net. I KNEW I would not be able to manage it, as it requires a lot of work from your lower body. More importantly, your fucking knees. 

I told my teacher “I can’t do this” and she gave me the same speech that anon gave. “You CAN do it, we can’t tell what’s going to happen. You’re not allowed to say you can’t.” And even when I fought it, even when I went to walk away, I was threatened with a failing grade for the day. And since all my special education (well, 97% of it told me I couldn’t say no), I ended up on this net.

And what happened?

I made it four feet up, my knee popped out of it’s socket, and I was taken down crying as it popped itself back in. As my joints did.

And my teacher said “See, you CAN. Even with pain you CAN, you just don’t want to.”

This landed me on crutches and in doctors offices for 2 weeks.

So yeah, I wish I would have had more teachers with the guts to tell me “You can say no and mean it”. 

Fuck ableist teachers, get a new job.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, this.

This is what it does to people when you tell them “You’re not allowed to say I can’t.”.

"I can't" is an important phrase

matchbook-stories:

realsocialskills:

anonymous asked:

… I think it’s more empowering to say “I decided to stop” than to say “I can’t”. It’s OK to stop when there’s still a tiny chance that you might have been able to succeed.

realsocialskills answered

There are different reasons why people decide to stop doing things.

One reason is that they reach the conclusion that they probably aren’t capable of doing the thing. Probably 

That’s different than reaching the conclusion that they don’t want to do it, or that it’s not worth doing, or that they’d rather do something else.

Actually this reminds me of something I’ve seen - often disabled kids who can’t do something will pretend that they’re refusing to do the thing. And that they’re refusing to do the thing on purpose in order to provoke the teachers. When everyone involved thinks that’s what’s happening, things can get really bad really quickly.

(Particularly if the thing is something like a kid going nonverbal and pretending that they’re refusing to speak and are just making animal noises to be rude).

Inability to do things is real, and it’s important for people to know their limits and take them seriously.

Acknowledging limits makes it much more possible to do things than pretending not to have any.

Ignoring reality isn’t empowering.

And it’s legitimate to say “I can’t” when what you mean is “it’s possible that I might technically be able to do it, but it’s risky and dangerous, and I couldn’t function if I took that kind of risk routinely”.

(This is in fact a meaning of “can’t” used by people without disabilities all the time.)

matchbook-stories said:

the bolded—i have seen this happen SO MANY TIMES. kids with undiagnosed disabilities who become disruptive during reading time and are assumed to be bratty (i have been guilty of this too) and then like a year later somebody FINALLY figures out that the problem was that the kid had a disability that made it really hard for them to read, the whole time. or who would run around and knock things over and make a lot of noise, and then later it turns out they have chronic pain or sensory or nerve issues that make it hard for them to sit still. et cetera. so many times.

realsocialskills said:

This happens a lot with kids who *are* diagnosed, too. Kids learn that being perceived as obnoxious and defiant is better than being perceived as (the only good term I can think of for this is a slur.)

Because, like, for instance, if you’re autistic and can sort of pass and can cover all your impairments by appearing defiant, then you’re ~so high functioning~ and ~just need to learn to apply yourself more~ and ~of course bright kids will have trouble socially~. And it’s awful and you get in trouble a lot, but it does afford some level of protection.

If you are openly impaired in all the same ways, that can lead to ~well maybe he needs a more structured environment~, and ~I’m not trained to accommodate her needs~ and ~there’s an intensive therapy for that~.

Of course, being perceived as defiant is also dangerous, but it’s sometimes much less dangerous than being perceived as disabled.

“I can’t” is an important phrase

anonymous asked:

… I think it’s more empowering to say “I decided to stop” than to say “I can’t”. It’s OK to stop when there’s still a tiny chance that you might have been able to succeed.

realsocialskills answered

There are different reasons why people decide to stop doing things.

One reason is that they reach the conclusion that they probably aren’t capable of doing the thing. Probably 

That’s different than reaching the conclusion that they don’t want to do it, or that it’s not worth doing, or that they’d rather do something else.

Actually this reminds me of something I’ve seen - often disabled kids who can’t do something will pretend that they’re refusing to do the thing. And that they’re refusing to do the thing on purpose in order to provoke the teachers. When everyone involved thinks that’s what’s happening, things can get really bad really quickly.

(Particularly if the thing is something like a kid going nonverbal and pretending that they’re refusing to speak and are just making animal noises to be rude).

Inability to do things is real, and it’s important for people to know their limits and take them seriously.

Acknowledging limits makes it much more possible to do things than pretending not to have any.

Ignoring reality isn’t empowering.

And it’s legitimate to say “I can’t” when what you mean is “it’s possible that I might technically be able to do it, but it’s risky and dangerous, and I couldn’t function if I took that kind of risk routinely”.

(This is in fact a meaning of “can’t” used by people without disabilities all the time.)

mayaminamoto:

realsocialskills:

selfcareafterrape:

realsocialskills:

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.
selfcareafterrape said:
respect people’s boundaries.
respect people’s boundaries.
respect people’s boundaries.
If you do this, you are being extremely invalidating. You are being gross. Don’t be gross.
though- I would like to say, in some cases it is appropriate and okay to ask ‘Could you do it with some help?’
Because sometimes people say ‘I can’t’ when they want to do a thing- but they can’t do it alone. and if you are offering to help them do the thing, it is okay. But do not ask if you aren’t willing to help- or point them in the right direction.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, there are cases where “could you do it with some help?” is appropriate, especially if it’s clear that what you’re doing is offering help and NOT trying to make them do the thing.

mayaminamoto said:

And sometimes “could you do it with help” is EXACTLY the right thing to say - assuming the asker really wants to help. It’s really hard to ask for help, especially if the task is perceived as “easy” in the society. In my eyes (could be different for different people) saying “I need help” is even harder than saying “I can’t”, since it makes me dependant on the helper. So yeah, ask if you can help, respect the answer (because sometimes there’s really nothing you can do) and don’t make people do anything they don’t want to/can’t do, regardless of reason.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, that is true. It’s really, really hard to ask for help. Particularly if you’re in a context in most people don’t expect disabled folks to be part of things on equal terms (which, unfortunately, is most contexts.)

selfcareafterrape:

realsocialskills:

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.
selfcareafterrape said:
respect people’s boundaries.
respect people’s boundaries.
respect people’s boundaries.
If you do this, you are being extremely invalidating. You are being gross. Don’t be gross.
though- I would like to say, in some cases it is appropriate and okay to ask ‘Could you do it with some help?’
Because sometimes people say ‘I can’t’ when they want to do a thing- but they can’t do it alone. and if you are offering to help them do the thing, it is okay. But do not ask if you aren’t willing to help- or point them in the right direction.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, there are cases where “could you do it with some help?” is appropriate, especially if it’s clear that what you’re doing is offering help and NOT trying to make them do the thing.

nonary:

realsocialskills:

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.

nonary said:

Am I really unable to do [activity x], or am I just letting myself off the hook by saying I can’t? I struggle with this question pretty much every single day. My physical disability doesn’t restrict my movement, so I can do a lot of the things able-bodied people can. I can walk. I can run. I can hold a pencil. I can type. I can even stand up in a moving bus. 

But should I do these things?

It takes me a lot of energy to do them. I can walk pretty far without getting tired, but if I run I’m out of breath in about ten seconds. I need to factor in recovery time and energy levels, and sometimes it’s not worth it to push myself, even though I like to walk. Writing by hand is extremely labor-intensive, so I can’t take notes in class and still pay attention to what’s being said. Typing is easier, but I still type slowly. I don’t touch-type, though. Maybe I could learn, but it’d take a very long time to build up the muscles I’d need, and it probably wouldn’t improve my typing speed very much. Should I learn to touch-type? No, I shouldn’t. If it wouldn’t improve efficiency, shouldn’t I instead pursue another solution?

It’s easier to just say that I can’t touch-type. It’s easier just to say that I can’t walk twelve kilometers. “I can’t” doesn’t necessarily mean “I decided not to.” Sometimes it means “I won’t because it’s a terrible waste of my time and energy.”  And sometimes it’s the best answer.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, exactly.

And that’s not a special disability-specific use of “I can’t”, either. That’s a standard meaning for people *without* disabilities use - it’s just more socially accepted when the thing you can’t reasonably do is something most people can’t reasonably do.

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.

empowerevolve:

Social skills for autonomous people: The power of “I can’t”

realsocialskills:

People will try to tell you that you can do things you can’t do.

It’s hard to insist that no, you can’t do them. Or that you can’t do them safely. Or that you can’t do them without using up all your spoons and losing the capacity to do things that are more important.

They will tell you that this…

empowerevolve said:

I read a business book that said the same thing, but in a way that seemed like good business sense.  The advice was to know your talents and to not waste time on activities that you could pay someone else to do better than you.  To run a good business, you don’t have to wear all the hats.  It’s funny how that makes good business sense, but in our personal lives it sounds like we’re giving in and not trying hard enough.

realsocialskills said:

Wow, that’s interesting. I don’t know very much about business, and I hadn’t heard that.

Do any of y'all know if that is standard business advice?

The power of "I can't"

witchlingfumbles:

realsocialskills:

People will try to tell you that you can do things you can’t do.

It’s hard to insist that no, you can’t do them. Or that you can’t do them safely. Or that you can’t do them without using up all your spoons and losing the capacity to do things that are more important.

They will tell you that this is giving up, or being lazy. They will tell you this with their words and their body language. And by pretending that you have not said anything, and just refusing to take into account your actual abilities.

They will tell you this with hate. They will tell you this with good intentions. They will tell you this as concern trolls and terrified parents. 

Sometimes, in that situation, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t allowed to say no until you’ve run yourself into the ground trying, or until you’ve tried and failed and things have gone badly wrong. Because people won’t believe you, and will put pressure on you in all kinds of ways.

The thing is, they’re wrong, and you don’t have to believe them or comply with their demands.

It helps a lot to be confident in your ability to judge what you can and can’t do. Sometimes you have to say no over and over. 

Knowing ahead of time that something won’t work for you and insisting on planning accordingly isn’t lazy.

It’s being responsible.

witchlingfumbles said:

I have a rant to make about the damage that well-intentioned underdog movies do in this regard but I will not bog down this post with that, because this is a good post.

realsocialskills said:

That hadn’t occurred to me, but I suspect that you are right. I’d actually really like to see your rant on this.

The power of “I can’t”

People will try to tell you that you can do things you can’t do.

It’s hard to insist that no, you can’t do them. Or that you can’t do them safely. Or that you can’t do them without using up all your spoons and losing the capacity to do things that are more important.

They will tell you that this is giving up, or being lazy. They will tell you this with their words and their body language. And by pretending that you have not said anything, and just refusing to take into account your actual abilities.

They will tell you this with hate. They will tell you this with good intentions. They will tell you this as concern trolls and terrified parents. 

Sometimes, in that situation, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t allowed to say no until you’ve run yourself into the ground trying, or until you’ve tried and failed and things have gone badly wrong. Because people won’t believe you, and will put pressure on you in all kinds of ways.

The thing is, they’re wrong, and you don’t have to believe them or comply with their demands.

It helps a lot to be confident in your ability to judge what you can and can’t do. Sometimes you have to say no over and over. 

Knowing ahead of time that something won’t work for you and insisting on planning accordingly isn’t lazy.

It’s being responsible.