help

Disability acceptance for partners

Anonymous said to :

Hi, my boyfriend is autistic on the Aspergers spectrum and I don’t know what to do when he’s overloaded. I just really want to help him calm down again.

Is there any advice you can give me?

realsocialskills said:

There’s a lot of things that could be going on. I don’t know you or your boyfriend, so I can’t really tell you much that’s specific to your situation.

I think it’s possible that you may be taking too much responsibility for your boyfriend’s overload. If so, it would be better for both of you if you let it go a bit.

There’s a narrative in the media that’s common, and destructive, that goes like this:

  • Disabled person (usually a man) can’t function
  • He meets an amazing person (usually a woman), and they get involved romantically
  • Through the transformative power of love, he is healed
  • Then either he stops being disabled or his attitude changes in a way that means disability no longer matters in any significant way

Sometimes this goes along with another trope, “the only disability in life is a bad attitude”.

  • People who buy into that trope believe that disability only matters if they let it matter.
  • And they disability can be ~overcome~ by positive thinking and not being bitter.

For disabled people, this narrative pressures us to pretend that disability doesn’t matter. Or to make it stop mattering through sheer force of will. For people who love us, it creates pressure to fix everything and make disability irrelevant through the power of love and support. In real life, neither of those things work.

In real life, disability matters no matter what people think about it and no matter how much others love them. Having a good attitude can make life better; it can’t make disability irrelevant. Love can make life better; it can’t make disability irrelevant either. Disability goes deep, and it affects a lot of areas of life. And sometimes things are hard.

Part of being a good partner to an autistic person is accepting that autism is going to matter. No matter how wonderful you are, you’re not going to be able to stop autism from mattering.

I don’t know what’s going on with your boyfriend and his overload. I do know that, for many autistic people, overload is an inevitable fact of life. Sometimes, it’s the price of admission for doing certain things we care about. Overload is not always something you can prevent or fix. Sometimes the decisions get complicated.

Your boyfriend is the one who is responsible for figuring out how he wants to approach overload. He is the one who needs to decide which risks are worth taking, which are worth avoiding, and how he wants to handle it when he is overloaded. You can’t protect him from this.

You might be able to help with some of it some of the time. Many autistic people like certain kinds of support in dealing with overload, for instance:

  • Having someone else pay attention to signs of imminent overload and point them out
  • Being reminded that leaving is an option
  • Being reminded that it’s ok to be autistic in public and that they can stay if they want
  • Help leaving an overloading place
  • Being left alone and having someone else run interference to keep other people from trying to intervene
  • Having a stim toy handed to them
  • Knowing that people they’re with aren’t going to try to stop the overload and will leave them alone
  • Water
  • Help finding a quiet place to go
  • Being able to hold someone’s hand
  • And any number of other things

Note that many of these things are mutually exclusive. Autistic people have wildly different needs and preferences around handling overload. I don’t know what your boyfriend needs or wants; that’s for him to determine.

The only way to find out what your boyfriend wants you to do when he gets overloaded is to ask him, and to listen to what he says.

  • It’s worth having this conversation when he’s not overloaded and is able to communicate readily.
  • It’s also important to listen to what he says when he’s overloaded, even if it contradicts what he’s said before (unless he told you beforehand not to)
  • The question shouldn’t be “How can I calm you down?”, because that might not be possible or something he wants.
  • The question should be something like “When we’re together and you get overloaded, how do you want me to react?”
  • It’s ok if he doesn’t want to have an intimate discussion about overload, and it’s ok if he doesn’t want your help.
  • But you do need to know what he wants you to do in that situation, and so it’s ok and important to ask.

tl;dr Autism acceptance is important for partners of autistic people too. You can’t fix everything or make autism stop mattering. Sometimes things are going to be hard for us no matter what you do. Whether we want help, and the kind of help we want, varies from person to person. If you want to know, it’s important to ask.

A rude thing that people do to wheelchair and mobility scooter users

So, here’s a thing that happens a lot:
  • Someone rides a wheelchair or mobility scooter into a room that has many chairs in it
  • They want to sit on one of those chairs.
  • Several people, trying to be helpful, dart in to remove the very chair they wanted to sit on

This is very annoying.

  • Especially when it happens several times a week
  • Especially when the people who dart in to remove the chairs are very proud of themselves for Helping The Disabled
  • Even more so if they don’t understand “actually, I want to sit in that chair”, and keep removing it anyway
  • Even more so if the person has to physically grab the chair they want to sit on to prevent it from being removed
  • (And sometimes people react badly to being corrected and become aggressive or condescending)

Do not do this annoying thing.

  • Instead, find out what the person you want to be helpful to actually wants
  • People who use mobility equipment are not actually glued to it
  • And different people have different preferences about where they want to sit
  • You can’t know without asking them
  • (You can’t read their mind, Some people seem to think that mobility equipment transmits a telepathic call for help regardless of the person’s actual apparent interest in help. Those people are wrong. You have to actually ask)
  • You can’t know where someone wants to sit unless you ask, so ask
  • One way you can ask is “Would you like me to move anything?”

If you forget to ask, and make the wrong assumption:

  • Recognize that you have been rude
  • And apologize, and say “Oh, excuse me” or “Sorry. I’ll put it back.”
  • This is the same kind of rude as, say, accidentally cutting in line
  • Or being careless and bumping into someone
  • This is not a big-deal apology, it’s basically just acknowledging that you made a rude mistake
  • People make and acknowledge rude mistakes all the time with nondisabled folks
  • The same people who say “excuse me” when they bump into a nondisabled person, are often completely silent when they do something rude related to someone’s disability
  • Being on the receiving end of a lot of unacknowledged rudeness is degrading and draining. Particularly when you see that the same people who are rude to you without apologizing say “sorry” and “excuse me” to people without disabilities they interact with
  • Do not be part of this problem
  • When you are inadvertently rude to someone who has a disability, it’s important to acknowledge and apologize for it in the same way you would for any other inadvertent interpersonal rudeness

sillysillysillysilly:

ragingpeacock:

realsocialskills:

I’ve recently made friends with a guy with a seizure disorder and he let everyone in the class know about it, so i figured it wasn’t a big deal but he started having a seizure today in class and it…

sillysillysillysilly said:

Excellent post. I have epilepsy, and most of all what I need afterwards is to be told that im ok, that I had a seizure and that everything is alright. Comfort them of that’s what they need. Mostly what I would add is to ask, “can I ask you about what you need if you have a seiZure?” This sounds less pushy.

Abusers in shining armor

apologetikerfeind:

An important lesson I have learnt in 2013 is that abusers are often your knights in shiny amor.

I’m not joking. The person who  jumps to your rescue without asking for anything in return (at first glance), making it out to be only their golden heart that makes them do it, often over-dramatize the “rescue” and hold you accountable to it even years later like they are now entitled to you for having done something good to you once.

They know, when you’re in a pinch, you won’t say no. They take advantage of your situation in the worst way possible.

Often that’s because these people need validation and they boost their ego and little self-esteem with your gratitude.

Almost no one would say to someone helping them with a difficult situation: “sucks to be you, now get out of my life”. And it’s going to turn into a ritual of “I HELPED YOU, BE THANKFUL” (abuser) and “OF COURSE I’M THANKFUL I’M NOT AN ASSHOLE!” (abused)

Very seldomly do people understand that gratitude is nothing physical, nothing you can grab and hold onto. People feel that way for you or they don’t. You shouldn’t coerce them into being thankful.

What I’ve also learnt is that most of your problems are solveable without someone jumping to your rescue and that friends don’t put your well-being before their own because they don’t define themself through what they do for you.

Sometimes it may even seem hard to see people as friends who don’t jump to your rescue when you’ve been through several of those friendships and relationships with abusers or grew up knowing nothing else, but friends don’t not jump to your rescue because they don’t like you. They don’t because they know you’re a human being with their own resources, autonomy and that you are strong. Friends will listen to you, and help you find a way in which you will deal with your problems, not solve them for you. 

realsocialskills said:

I’d add the caveat that sometimes people do need large amounts of help, and that sometimes friends can and should help one another in major ways, even over the long term. And when a friend helps another friend in a major way, it can look superficially similar to what a heroic abuser does. But it’s not the same. 

One major difference is how people react to no. A helpful friend recognizes that you are a separate person, and that you might disagree with them about how to live your life.

An abuser in shining armor will be emotionally committed to a particular plan for saving you, and they will get angry/upset/punitive when things you do don’t match their rescue plan.

For instance: If you are homeless and unemployed, an abuser in shining armor might offer you a place to stay and then insist that you wear their style of makeup daily and grow your hair long in order to be more attractive to potential employers. Or try to enroll you in classes that have nothing to do with your work, and get angry when you don’t think that will help.

And they will often also get especially angry or explosive if you try to move out or stop depending on them as much.

It’s important to learn how to detect and avoid people like that.