questions for y'all

Cancelling cable service

Anonymous said:

I wanted to pass on a tip. My cable company, Comcast, is very aggressive with trying to keep people on their service. I received many calls pressuring me to stay. Finally, I told them I’m moving to Europe. They stopped harassing me because they don’t have service there. I hope this helps others.

realsocialskills said:

I’ve never tried this, but it makes sense to me that it could work. Have others tried this? Has it worked for you?

Anyone know how to make a tag cloud work?

Just so you know, the tag cloud has not been working for the past couple of weeks at least. I don’t know if you have control over that or not, but I thought you should know. It’s helpful in looking up old posts with useful information. Thanks, and thank you for your hard work on this blog! I really appreciate it!

Thanks for letting me know — I think the platform I’d been using for that doesn’t work anymore for anyone.

Do any of y’all know of a way to make a Tumblr tag cloud that still works?

More reader picture book suggestions

moretufflesspuff said:  Miss Bindergarten has featured students with disabilities. Schools first Day of School by Adam Rex has children with disabilities (and the school itself deals with the bullies and being shy).

mrskaaay said:  Daniel Tiger is geared toward the really young, but Chrissy uses braces to walk. The books are based on episodes of the show but leave out bits so you’ll likely see Chrissy, not Chrissy The Handicapped.

goodnightmoonvale said:  There is a Curious George book about how he goes to the park to play with his friend who is in a wheelchair and she’s really good at basketball. It’s called “curious George joins the team”

Picture book recommendation

Ettina Kitten said:

I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard that So Don’t! & See What Happens by Sarah Leal is a picture book with a main character in a wheelchair who uses AAC and the plot isn’t about her disability.

realsocialskills said:

Thank you! It looks like it might be hard to get ahold of a copy, but it’s good to know it exists. 

Does anyone else know of books like that?

Ending things with a therapist?

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
Could you please do a post about how to politely/effectively/appropriately end a therapist-client (or doctor-patient) relationship? Like, you’re not moving on because you’re feeling better, but because of some other reason? I am looking to find a new therapist because my current one keeps forgetting which client I am/sharing personal information about other clients, and I am not sure how to tell her without being hurtful. Thanks :)

realsocialskills said:

I don’t know a good script for this — I bet some of my readers do, and I’m hoping y’all will weigh in.

What I do know is that it’s completely normal to end things with a therapist. People do it all the time, for all kinds of different reasons. You have the right to end therapy, or choose a different therapist, for any reason you want. You don’t owe your current therapist an explanation. 

If you’re working with a good therapist who just happens not to be a good fit for you, it can be helpful to tell them what’s going wrong. Good therapists understand that no therapist is a good fit for every client. Good therapists can often help you find someone else who will be a better fit. (Eg: if the problem is that you need someone with more trauma expertise, someone who has a different gender than your current therapist, someone with more experience working with LGBTQ clients, someone who takes your insurance, or something like that.). So while you’re never *obligated* to give an explanation, if you have a good therapist, it may be advisable. 

But not all therapists are good therapists. Some therapists aren’t very competent, and some therapists behave unethically. If the problem is that you have a bad therapist, giving them an explanation is less likely to help you. Bad therapists aren’t generally very good at helping you to find better therapists. If you’re ending things with a bad therapist, it’s probably better not to get into the reasons too much. You’re not obligated to explain to them what they’re doing wrong as a therapist — they’re responsible for being ethical and professionally competent. It is not your job to teach them how to be a good therapist. 

It’s also not your responsibility to take care of their feelings. If they feel hurt by your decision to end therapy, that’s their problem and not yours. Clients end therapy all the time, for all kinds of reasons. Therapists often have feelings about this — and part of what therapists are trained to do is deal with their own feelings. Feeling hurt about a client’s decision to end therapy is never the client’s problem. If therapists can’t handle that on their own, they’re expected to seek out help — from colleagues or supervisors, not from clients. (Again, not all therapists are good therapists, and some bad therapists do not handle endings appropriately.)

Anyone want to weigh in? If you’ve chosen to end therapy with a particular therapist, how have you had that conversation? What’s worked for you?

When it’s too hot for weighted blankets?

Anonymous asked

Spending a lot of time with a blanket wrapped around me, and/or under weighted blankets helps me to reduce the intensity of my sensory overload difficulties, but as the weather gets warmer this is harder for me to do because I get overheated after even a few minutes. Any advice or suggestions of ways that other people have dealt with this kind of issue? I’ve been using a small weighted wrap around my shoulders during the day, but it doesn’t help as much as being enclosed in a blanket does.

realsocialskills said:

I have a few thoughts. I am hoping that others will as well.

A different kind of weighted blanket:

  • There are several kinds of weighted blankets, and a lot of differences affect heat.
  • It matters what the fabric is, and it matters what the filling is.
  • There are various things weighted blankets may be filled with. The coolest (least insulating) material I’m aware of is plastic pellets.
  • If your blanket is stuffed with something else, trying a plastic-pellets-based blanket might work better for you.
  • (Especially if the blanket you have now is filled with sand).
  • Similarly, some blankets have padding like a regular blanket, and some just have the weighted filling.
  • If your blanket also has regular-blanket-stuffing, it will be at least as hot as a regular blanket. 
  • So if you have a padded weighted blanket, it might be worth trying a weight-only weighted blanket.
  • It also matters what the fabric is. If the fabric is light and breathable, the blanket won’t heat you up as much.
  • (I’ve seen some school-or-institutional plastic weighted blankets for sale — those could be *really* hot and sticky since there’s not much air flow).
  • If your blanket is heavy denim or flannel or something, it might be worth trying something with lighter weight cotton. The weight can come from the pellets inside.
  • tl;dr The least-hot kind of weighted blanket is one made of lighter-weight cotton on the outside, plastic pellets on the inside, and no blanket padding that normal blankets have.

A sheet:

  • If you like being enclosed, a sheet might work as well as a blanket.
  • A lightweight sheet is much less likely to overheat you. 
  • It’s also easier to carry around than something weighted.
  • (Things like Body Sox might also work; I’m not sure if anyone’s making them in adult sizes though.)

Tight-fitting clothing:

  • Some people who like the deep pressure of weighted blankets also like the pressure of tight clothing.
  • Some people like to wear tight-fitting undershirts or other undergarments for similar reasons. (which has the advantage of not being conspicuous)

Switching to a movement-based strategy:

  • For some people, movement works just as well or better than weight
  • One reason some people like weighted blankets is that they can give good proprioceptive input (the sense of knowing where your body is)
  • If a weighted blanket is helping you to feel your body, moving might work just as well or better. 
  • For instance, rocking might help.
  • Doesn’t work for everyone, but it does work very well for some people.

Doing other things to cool yourself or your environment:

  • It may be easier to change the temperature than to change your sensory strategy.
  • So, here are some possible ways you might cool off:
  • Moving to the coolest room in your house
  • Closing the blinds so the room won’t end up getting as much heat from light
  • Turning on air conditioning if you can afford it
  • Wrapping an ice pack in a towel or something and having it under the blanket with you
  • Getting a fan if you don’t have one
  • Or a bigger fan if you do have one
  • Making sure the fan’s blowing directly at you when you’re under your blankets
  • If you have long hair, cutting it shorter might make you less overheated
  • If you’re wearing clothing made out of heavy fabric, wearing lighter fabric can help
  • Hats also trap a lot of heat. Not wearing a hat, or wearing a lighter hat, can cool you off.
  • Drinking cold beverages might help too
  • Cooking with an oven will really heat up your living area in a way that takes a while to disperse. Cooking with a stovetop, microwave, or toaster oven doesn’t raise the temperature like that.  
  • There are a lot of other strategies I don’t know or am not remembering
  • tl;dr There might be ways to cool off yourself or your environment enough that you can keep using your blanket without overheating

Anyway, that’s what I can think of in terms of what you might do if you find that using your weighted blanket doesn’t work when it’s hot. You can try a less-insulating kind of weighted blanket. Or using a sheet instead of a blanket. Or wearing tight fitting clothing. Or switching to a movement-based strategy (can work if you’re using weighted blankets for proprioceptive input). Or doing other things to cool off yourself or your environment so you can go back to using your weighted blanket.

I’m sure there are a lot of other options I’m not thinking of — anyone want to weigh in? What do you do when it’s too hot for your weighted blanket?

Floortime-DIR/Intensive Interaction experiences?

I’m trying to find out more about the Floortime-DIR approach. (It’s a therapy mostly used for autism). 

I’m also trying to find out more about Intensive Interaction, which seems to be at least somewhat similar.

I haven’t been able to find anything written by people who have experienced either approach as a client.

Have any of y’all received either Floortime-DIR or Intensive Interaction therapy? If so, would any of y’all be willing to talk to me about your experiences?

when conferences have bad speakers



Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I suspect I may be on the autism spectrum, and when I found out that the keynote speaker at an upcoming conference is someone whose books have been extremely helpful to me, I strongly considered registering. I am not a member of the local advocacy and self-advocacy association that is hosting the conference, but I have had some contact with them in the past.

However, there is another conference speaker who is there to promote mindfulness. I looked her up online and she has no degree or similar professional credentials, just “life coach” certification and some “training” from someone from a pseudo-scientific organization.

I looked at her profile on a website and found simplistic new age victim blaming. I would like to contact the conference organizers about this to express my concerns, but I am not sure how (or even if) I should go about this.

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure either. I’m posting this in part because I hope others have better suggestions.

It’s pretty much par for the course for conferences related to autism, disability, or self-advocacy to have at least some of this type of nonsense. There’s unfortunately a lot of pseudoscientific nonsense. (Including pseudoscientific nonsense like ABA that makes a lot of noise about being “evidence-based”.)

I think that the presence of bad speakers can’t always be dealbreaking. Most organizations who value good things enough to bring them to conferences also make a lot of mistakes and bring in bad things too. It’s hard to get access to the worthwhile stuff without being willing to tolerate some of the bad things to an extent.

There’s also a line. And it can be hard to know where to draw it. For me, one line is torture — I don’t go to conferences at which the JRC is presenting. I don’t know where you should draw lines about that kind of thing. I think it’s ok to decide that for you, speakers who promote victim-blaming ideas of mindfulness are dealbreaking. I think it’s also ok if you don’t. And that either way, commenting may be worthwhile.

If you decide that it’s not dealbreaking and that you’d like to go to the conference anyway, the way to do that might be submitting conference feedback. Most conferences solicit feedback from participants in some way. And most conferences take feedback into account at least a little.

In the immediate term, they’re probably going to keep making this kind of mistake, but I think it might be worth reaching out anyway. They might understand where you’re coming from, and they will definitely understand that a disabled person who wants to be involved is put off by their choice of speakers. It might plant seeds — especially if others also express this.

One way is to email them. There will probably be contact information on their website. (Or on the sponsoring organization’s website).

If they’re on Twitter, Twitter might be the best way to have this conversation. People generally feel more pressure to listen and respond to Twitter conversations than to emails. Also, other people can see what you say on Twitter. Which matters both because what you say might influence other people, and people who agree with you might come out of the woodwork and comment. (Which will make them see it as an concern that people have rather than an issue that one person has).

If you decide to contact them, it’s probably best to be polite and to refrain from insulting them. (Eg: Don’t say “you don’t care about disabled people” or “You’re terrible at picking speakers” or “You probably won’t listen.”) Instead, explain who you are in a way that makes it clear that you’re in their target demographic, and explain what your objections are in a way that a person who listened could understand.

It would probably be best to explain a bit what you mean by victim-blaming, because if they already understood that they probably would have selected another speaker. (Maybe along the lines of: “She implies that we can fix things by positive thinking. That’s a really hurtful thing to say to a roomful of people who experience discrimination. It makes it sound like it’s our fault.”)

Anyone else want to weigh in? What’s the best way to give feedback to conferences that make poor choices about which speakers to invite?

arobotstolemyuterus said:

Do her beliefs contradict the advocacy/self-advocacy group’s platform? 

I would send an email to the organizers of the conference offering evidence (links, screenshots, etc) of what you saw when you were researching the speaker (You can just say “I was curious about her background, so I looked her up”) and explain how, to you, that appears to go against their mission, citing specific examples and how it will likely make other conference attendees feel unsafe. 

Sadly people don’t always vet conference speakers, especially if they aren’t the keynote and she might have been invited because a member of the group saw a single presentation or something like that. They might pull her from the conference (it happens), they might tell you that they can’t do anything to cancel her right now, but they will express their concerns and make sure she sticks to certain topics and be more careful when choosing speakers in the future, or they may do nothing.

 How they respond might give you an indication as to whether you want to go to the conference. If they listen, even if they can’t cancel the speaker, it’s probably okay if you go. If they don’t, you might not want to go.

realsocialskills said:

Has anyone else tried this? How well did it work?

resources other than ABA?

Anonymous said:hello! I am a mom of a nine year old boy. I can tell he does not like ABA at all. I have taught him so much at home, and I am a first time and single mom. Schools only teach using ABA. My son does not like it one bit and is very behavioral.

I am desperate to try and find some other type of therapy for him. Do you have any suggestions? I so want this to stop. I feel it is abusive as well as being a waste of time. Thank you for reading this and for your blog!

realsocialskills said:

I don’t know what you should do specifically, because I don’t know you or your son or what the problem is. I do think there are some things worth considering.

Some thoughts about therapy specifically:

What is the purpose of the therapy?

  • Autism shouldn’t be seen as an indication that someone needs to be in therapy (particularly not many many hours of therapy), but it often is
  • Which means that a lot of autistic kids are spending time in therapy that they don’t need or benefit from
  • If that’s what’s going on, you might not need to find a replacement - it might just be a matter of stopping something that’s not needed
  • But sometimes there are reasons for particular types of therapy.
  • So, it’s worth asking:
  • Why does my son need therapy? What are the goals? Who are the experts who can help with this?

Some reasons that therapy can be needed:


  • If a kid is having trouble communicating their thoughts and feelings in a way that others can understand, they need help with that.
  • Usually the best person to help with that problem is a speech language pathologist with experience with AAC.
  • SLPs with that experience can help kids with articulation if articulation is the main barrier, and can also help kids find ways other than speech to communicate.
  • Here are some resources for pursuing AAC implementation for your child.
  • ABA isn’t good for supporting communication because it assumes that the problem is lack of motivation, and because it’s biased towards doing things that make good data, which often interfere with communication development.
  • PECS isn’t good enough, because it doesn’t give people enough words. 9 year olds have more to say than requests.
  • For some people, the Rapid Prompting Method works really well. (Although I wouldn’t recommend it as a first resort; other communication support options are less invasive and allow for freer communication, when they work. But sometimes RPM works when other things don’t.).


  • Some kids have a lot of trouble learning to read
  • Kids struggling to read benefit from reading/literacy specialists
  • Literacy/reading specialists have specific training in teaching reading and troubleshooting reading problems. They have a lot of tools that behavior therapists don’t have. (Because behavior therapists are experts in training and modifying behaviors; they are not experts in teaching reading or figuring out what the cognitive barriers are.)
  • For some reason, this isn’t considered a special ed service, and it might not be offered to your kid if they’re in special ed (since people sometimes don’t think across categories)
  • But you can likely get it if you ask for it on their IEP.


  • Some kids have a lot of trouble with fine motor skills or gross motor skills
  • Eg: Some kids need a lot of help figuring out how to hold a pencil
  • Or need to learn to move in safe ways: eg: some kids walk with a gait that will cause them long-term injury if it’s not corrected
  • Occupational or physical therapy can sometimes be helpful for this kind of thing
  • (Sometimes other things can also help, like general or adapted gymnastics or art classes and related things. Not every problem needs to be solved with therapy).

Emotional issues:

  • Being autistic is hard. Going through puberty is hard. Doing both at once is really hard.
  • Some kids benefit from psychotherapy to support them in dealing with this, or with other things
  • Finding a good therapist for kids can be very difficult, and I don’t really know how to do it well. But I do know that it can sometimes be a really good thing.
  • For some kids, animal-assisted therapy works better than talk therapy or play therapy


  • I want to be cautious about this because a lot of autistic kids and other kids with developmental disabilities are on inappropriate and dangerous medication
  • I’m *not* saying that your kid needs medication. I’m not saying that you should trust suggestions to medicate, or that you should cooperate with a school insisting on it.
  • What I *am* saying is that there are legitimate uses of psychiatric medication and that for some kids (and adults) it can be game-changing.
  • (Eg: Some kids gain the ability to understand school and do assignments if they take ADHD stimulants. For some kids, anti-anxiety medication opens up a lot of new possibilities.).
  • All that said, be careful about this. Some people might want to prescribe your child medication as a form of chemical restraint to control their behavior, and that’s not something that’s going to help them.
  • It’s important to have a clear sense of what the medication is supposed to do, what the risks are, and what side effects to look out for
  • And if a medication doesn’t seem to be helping or seems to be causing your child a lot of pain or distress, take that seriously and insist that it be addressed
  • (You can’t count on doctors to do this on their own initiative; you have to be proactive about making sure you understand the medication and the impact it has on your child.)

A general consideration: Don’t trust true believers and those who make excessive claims:

  • No approach works well for everyone.
  • True believers are not trustworthy. People who think their approach is 100% universally effective will not treat you and your child well if it’s not working, and will not know how to try other things or make good referrals.
  • No approach will cure your child’s autism. It’s probably better to avoid people who claim that their approach will be deeply transformative.
  • Therapy can teach your child skills. It can help them understand themself and the world better. It can help them communicate more effective. It can help them learn how to do things and troubleshoot. It won’t take away their disability or make them a different person.
  • Therapy is more art than science. Be suspicious of people who claim that their approach is strictly evidence based.
  • (They probably won’t treat you and your child well if your child has needs that their theory doesn’t predict. People who go on about being evidence-based tend to ignore the evidence of the real child they’re dealing with in favor of the ~evidence-based~ child they’re imagining based on their theory)
  • No therapist is a good match for every child, no matter how skilled they are or how good their method is
  • Be cautious of people who claim that all children like them, all children benefit from them, or that they just love all children. People who think that aren’t usually very good at seeing children as actual people, and are unlikely to be respectful. (And also unlikely to handle it constructively if your child dislikes them or finds the things they’re doing with them unpleasant).
  • There is nothing that all children like. (Consider the fact that many children hate chocolate and Disneyland).
  • The best therapists are people who are willing to be honest about what their skills are and aren’t, and the advantages and drawbacks of their methods. They will understand that match matters, and make a referral to someone else if it doesn’t seem like it’s working well.
  • Good therapists respect you as a parent and respect your child as a person. If a therapist is constantly making you or your child feel like a failure, something is wrong and needs to change. Therapy shouldn’t be like that. Therapy should be helpful and respectful.

Also, consider getting psychotherapy for yourself:

  • Parenting is hard. Single parenting is harder.
  • Learning to parent a disabled child in a world hostile to disability is also hard
  • Your own feelings matter, and it’s important to get support in dealing with them.
  • It can be hard to find a good therapist to help with this — a lot of therapists believe toxic things about disability and parenting disabled kids (because therapists come from the same culture as everyone else).
  • You may or may not be able to find someone good.
  • But if you can find a compatible therapist who shares your values, therapy can help a lot.
  • Just, generally — don’t forget that you are dealing with a lot of hard things and that your needs and feelings are important.
  • If you are miserable, something is wrong and needs to change.

Likewise psychiatric support:

  • Depression is common. So is anxiety.
  • Sometimes toxic support groups will encourage parents (especially mothers) to see despair and panic as inevitable results of raising autistic kids
  • But they’re not. Parenting an autistic child doesn’t mean you have to be depressed and it doesn’t mean you have to be constantly anxious and afraid
  • If you’re depressed or anxious, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed
  • And it might be something that requires medical treatment.
  • If you think that you might need help, take that seriously.
  • (And don’t try to treat your own mental health struggles by trying to fix your kid — it won’t work.)
  • I don’t know you so I don’t know if this is an issue for you. I just know that it’s common.

Beyond issues of therapy: can you get him moved to a mainstream class?

  • Being autistic doesn’t mean that your son has to be in an autism class. (Even if that’s where the school wants to put him.)
  • If he hates ABA, he might do a lot better in a regular class.
  • A lot of kids do.
  • Even if he can’t talk or demonstrate learning, he can still be in a regular class, and it can still be better than being in a separated ABA class.
  • You might have to fight for this in certain school districts, but the law is on your side if you want to do so. (And there are lawyers who specialize in special education issues).

More generally:

Don’t do this alone:

  • School systems and insurance companies and options are really overwhelming.
  • It helps a lot to get perspective and support from parents (and disabled adults) with more experience with the school system you’re dealing with
  • You’re probably not the only one in the system who has had to fight to get the school to do something other than ABA. (The Department of Education recently put out a letter about this problem.)
  • If you can find other local parents of disabled kids who are working to get their needs met respectfully, it will probably get a lot easier
  • They might be hard to find, because parent support groups are often toxic. For some reason, this is particularly true of autism-related parent support groups. A cross-disability group might be a better place to find good support.
  • (There isn’t any educational need or support need that is completely unique to autistic kids. Everything is shared by at least some people in at least some other disability groups.).
  • It’s also worth the effort. Even one person who gets it will help a lot.
  • Among other reasons: You get better results at IEP meetings if you come with a support person (even if they’re not an expert).

Other support issues:

If he’s socially isolated, the solution to that may not be therapy. It may be to help him find people who he connects with well. Which may or may not look the same as it looks for most other kids his age:

  • That may not be kids at school. Not all kids have friends at school, and that can be ok.
  • It may not be kids his exact age. Some autistic kids get along better with younger or older kids, and that can be ok too.
  • One thing worth trying is finding other kids who share his interests.
  • Or a non-theraputic class on one of his interests. Or something else you think he might enjoy. (Eg: An after school art class. Or a video game club.)
  • The Internet can be game-changing for some autistic kids. Eg: Playing Minecraft on a server. There are some kid-friendly servers that limit access to people who follow the rules. (Autcraft is specifically designed for autistic kids; there are other kid-oriented servers. Which someone likes is a matter of preference.)
  • Disability-oriented groups can also be a good thing, if they’re not about therapy or changing people. Eg: The Special Olympics, which is about access to sports in an environment that values people with intellectual disabilities, can be a very good thing for some people who are eligible.
  • Social skills groups are not good for this, because they’re not about friendship, they’re about getting kids to act out a certain script of what adults think kids should act like. That’s not fun and it’s not a good place to make friends.
  • But a social club for kids with disabilities (or autism specifically) to hang out with each other can be a good thing. It depends on the context.

Some other non-therapy considerations on how to help your son: It’s important to listen to and talk to your son:

It’s also important to talk to your son about his disability:

  • If your son knows things about his disability, he can make better decisions
  • If he knows what you think about his disability, your actions will make more sense to him — and he’ll be in a better position to correct you if you’re getting it wrong
  • This is important whether or not he can talk, and whether or not you think he can understand
  • I wrote a bigger post about that here

Just, generally speaking, it’s important to involve your son in these kinds of things:

  • I’m not saying let him decide everything; that wouldn’t be remotely appropriate for a 9 year old.
  • But, just like with other 9 year olds, when there’s a problem involving him, he needs to be involved in figuring out the solution
  • Or when decisions are being considered about him, or some change might happen that will affect him in a major way - it’s important to remember that he has a perspective and that his perspective matters
  • He will know things about his behavior and his needs and his feelings that you don’t know — for the same reason any 9 year old kid will know things about themselves.
  • Even if you can’t figure out how to have these conversations effectively yet, it’s important to keep trying
  • Whether or not you know how to find out what he thinks, whether or not his perspective changes the outcome — it will make a difference that you care what he thinks and make an effort to listen to him

Give him the right words for feelings:

  • Sometimes kids with disabilities are only given the emotional language of happy/sad/angry/excited.
  • But kids have more complex feelings than that.
  • Kids with disabilities also feel shame. And humiliation. And loss. And grief. And anticipation. And disappointment. And joy. And love. And embarrassment. And any other emotion that anyone else feels
  • Their feelings are important and need to be acknowledged.
  • Particularly - shame and humiliation are very, very frequent experiences for disabled kids, and they’re often not acknowledged at all.
  • It’s humiliating to be teased for being disabled. Or to have to do pointless repetitive things adults tell you to over and over. Or to be constantly told that your body language is bad and wrong, or to be treated as though you’ve done something disgusting when you flap your hands as an expression of happiness.
  • “You feel sad” or “you feel angry” does not begin to cover what that feels like.
  • Disabled kids have the same range of feelings as any other people, and their feelings need to be acknowledged and taken seriously.

In short: You don’t have to do ABA (even if your school system wants you to). There isn’t really a general approach that replaces it — because ABA makes overbroad claims, and there’s no approach for which those claims are true. Good approaches address specific issues and don’t take over your life. There are a lot of different things that a lot of different kids (and adults) benefit from. Which things will be helpful to your son depends on what his needs are.

Anyone else want to weigh in? What have you found helpful for your child (or yourself) other than ABA?

When people keep asking why you don't have kids

Anonymous said to :

I’ve had a hysterectomy and I live in a region where it’s very odd (like, statistical outlier odd) for a woman not to have kids by my age.

So it’s fairly common for people to continue to harass me about why I don’t have kids and not take any of the polite attempts at diverting the subject as hints to leave me alone until I tell them the truth.

Then when I tell them the truth they get mad and say that it’s too much information. Any advice for dealing with this?

realsocialskills said:

It might help to be direct about saying it’s a personal question.

I’m not sure how your conversations are going. I’m getting the sense that they might be something like this:

  • Them: So, why don’t you have kids yet? When are you going to have them?
  • You: Nice weather we’re having. But it’s summer and so it will probably rain soon. Do you think it will cause flooding again?
  • Them: Oh, probably. It usually does. But what about kids? Are you seeing anybody? Fertility doesn’t last forever.
  • You: So, I have this great new recipe for a seven-layer congealed salad.
  • Them: Children are a blessing. Life really can’t be complete without them.
  • You: That may be true, but I had a hysterectomy, so it’s not happening. Now can we please talk about something else?
  • Them: Why would you tell me something like that?!

It might help to add a warning layer before you tell them the truth. One possible layer: Saying it’s personal and that you don’t want to talk about it, then an immediate subject change:

  • “That’s awfully personal. I don’t like to talk about this.”
  • “That’s private medical information.”

Another possible layer: Asking rhetorical questions that warn them that they might not actually want an answer. This can make it harder for them to blame you, and more likely that they’ll back off:

  • “Do you really want the gory medical details?”
  • “That’s a very personal question. Do you really want to ask that?”
  • “Are you sure you want an answer to that?”

Another possibility: Answering the question in a way that’s a bit less graphic but still gets the point across:

  • “It just hasn’t been in the cards.”
  • “I can’t have children.”
  • “I’m sterile.”
  • “It’s not medically possible.”

If you’re in the South, there are some nuances about how to make people feel bad about asking inappropriate questions that I don’t really understand. (Which is part of the reason I don’t live there anymore.) It’s mostly a matter of affect. I know that it involves inserting a certain kind of pause and icy body language that tells someone they’ve crossed a line, but I don’t know how to do it or describe it well. If anyone who is better at that wants to weigh in, that would be welcome.

tl;dr If your attempts at subtly deflecting intrusive questions are failing, it can help to more explicitly say that the question is too personal and that you don’t want to answer it.

Anyone else want to weigh in? Do people intrusively ask you why you don’t have kids? Is there something that gets them to stop (or that makes you feel better)? Do you have experience dealing with this around other intrusive personal questions?

conflicting access needs

Anonymous said to :

I communicate best by writing (email, text, etc) and have a hard time with methods of communication that are voice-heavy (Skype calls, phone calls) because I have auditory-processing problems. Several long distance friends do better with auditory communication and worse with writing. But they speak really fast/garbled/quietly, so I can’t understand them sometimes. I end up avoiding them because it’s too frustrating for me to ask them to repeat every sentence, but I don’t want to. Please help?

realsocialskills said:

A couple of options:

Ask them what they think

  • Is their need to use voice methods of communication on the same level as yours?
  • Would they be able to use text for you sometimes?

Use typing for repeating:

  • It might be less frustrating to use Skype than the phone if you make good use of the typing feature
  • Would it work to use text to ask them to repeat things, and have them repeat it in text rather than voice?
  • That might make communication easier for both of you

Use something higher quality

  • If sound quality is making them hard to understand, it might be a problem you can solve
  • Different video chat services do things differently
  • It might make sense to try several and see if some are more comprehensible than others
  • If you can upgrade your internet, it might be worth doing
  • Getting better headphones might also help
  • It also might help if they get a better microphone instead of relying on their computer’s internal speakers
  • If you have access to a landline, sometimes the audio quality is better than on a cell phone

Use an interpreter.

  • You might be able to use something like Sprint Ip Relay to make TTY calls over the internet. 
  • There’s also a thing called ClearCaptions that’s a captioned phone service that live captions calls. You have to be willing to swear that you’re Deaf, hear of hearing, or otherwise phone disabled. (I think that having auditory processing problems that cause you to avoid using the phone ought to count, but I don’t know if they think that, and I don’t know how much they investigate.)
  • There are probably other options along these lines that I don’t know about. If anyone knows of good options, please comment or send an ask.

Use emailed videos

  • Maybe they could email you videos instead of emailing you emails?
  • Then you could watch them more slowly and repeat stuff
  • Like video email more than video chat
  • And then you could maybe respond in the way that’s easiest for you, which might be text

tl;dr Keeping in touch with friends can be hard when you have competing access needs for forms of communication over long distances. There are some options. Scroll up for details.

Anyone else want to weigh in? What have you found works for long distance communication between people who find speaking easier and people who find speech difficult to understand?

Things to do on Christmas if you don't want to celebrate it

For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, the 25th of December can be a boring, annoying, or lonely day in Christian-dominated cultures. Almost everything shuts down, and the atmosphere is dominated by a holiday almost everyone else is celebrating that you’re not part of.

Here are some things you can do on Christmas other than celebrate it:

Chinese food:

  • Chinese restaurants are often open on Christmas
  • You can go there and eat food

Gatherings unrelated to Christmas:

  • If you have friends who also don’t celebrate, Christmas can be a good time to hang out
  • Gathering on Christmas doesn’t have to be a Christmas party

Going to work:

  • If the place you work is open on Christmas, most people probably want to avoid working
  • Working on Christmas is a nice thing to do if you don’t celebrate
  • In some fields, it’s also a relatively quiet shift

Going to a movie:

  • A lot of movie theaters are open on Christmas
  • Some of the movies are Christmas-themed, but a lot of them are not

Netflix/Hulu marathons:

  • Netflix and Hulu both have lots and lots of things to watch
  • Most of which are not at all Christmas-related
  • Hulu ads might be, though. If you want to completely avoid Christmas stuff, Netflix is a better option
  • This can be a good thing to do in a gathering, if you have friends who also don’t celebrate Christmas

Reading books:

  • Reading a new book is a good way to fill time and be absorbed in something interesting
  • If you don’t have any books you want to read, here are some ways to get eBooks:
  • Project Gutenburg has a huge collection of free eBooks that are out of copyright
  • Oyster Books is an ebook subscription service with a free trial.
  • Amazon also has an ebook subscription service (but it has a lot of junk and is kind of hard to nagivate).


  • If you’re bored and need something to be interested in, Wikipedia can be a good place to go
  • If you click the random button enough times, you will probably eventually find a page that interests you

tl;dr Christmas can be boring for people who don’t celebrate it since most things shut down on Christmas in Christian-dominated cultures. Scroll up for some suggestions about stuff to do other than be bored.

Anyoneelse who doesn’t celebrate Christmas want to weigh in? What do you like to do on Christmas?


Celebrating Christmas alone


If you will be alone on Christmas and want to celebrate, there are several options:


  • A lot of churches and other organizations have musical events around Christmas
  • For instance, in many areas, a group puts on a Handel’s Messiah sing along, where it’s lead by experienced musicians…

monkeyscomewithme said:

FYI, if you live near one, Fred Meyer gives away unsold trees and wreaths on Christmas Eve for free. I know it’s a last minute thing, but you can ask a garden or home associate.

realsocialskills said:

I’ve never heard of this and can’t find information online anywhere - have any of y'all done this successfully? (I want to make sure I’m not leading people to count on something that’s actually an urban legend.)

Detecting flirting

Anonymous said:

Do you have any advice for figuring out if someone is flirting with you?

realsocialskills said:

I’m actually really terrible at this. Someone else will probably have better advice.

Here are some things I think I know about flirting:

  • If you’re blushing more than usual and it’s not out of shame, that’s a sign that flirting might be occurring
  • Someone who is complimenting you a lot might be flirting with you
  • Particularly if the compliments are on either your appearance or general qualities
  • Eg: Someone who says you are really smart or really pretty a lot might be flirting with you
  • Someone who says specific compliments on specific things is less likely to be flirting (eg: “I really like working with you because you cut through the layers of corporate speak to find the actual assignments” is less likely to be flirting than something like “I’m so happy to see you! You really brighten my day!”)
  • There’s a kind of flirting that is done with eye contact. It involves briefer glances than usual, then looking away, then looking back. I don’t know how to describe it well, but it’s a major component of flirting for a lot of people.

People who are flirting don’t necessarily mean anything by it:

  • Some people only flirt with people they’re actually interested in dating (or being sexual with)
  • Some people flirt a lot, for fun, with people they aren’t particularly interested in dating
  • I don’t understand why people do this, and I’m not totally sure how to tell the difference.
  • (One way to tell the difference is that some people flirt who flirt for fun do it with people who are obviously orientation-incompatible, eg: a gay man flirting with a straight man; a straight woman flirting with women. That’s not totally reliable though, especially since someone’s orientation is often not what you think it is)
  • People who flirt in the presence of their partner usually are doing it for the sake of enjoying flirting. Flirting in this context is usually not for the sake of dating or sex. (This is not necessarily the case for polyamorous people.)

Anyone else want to weigh in? What do you do when you’re flirting? How do you tell if someone is flirting with you? And how do you tell the difference between fun-flirting and serious flirting?

Ordering food when you have dietary restrictions

What is the right way to ask over-the-counter-food selling people about the food? I keep having the problem where I ask things (like, what is in the food, for instance) and they interpret this as me ordering it and start making it for me. I want to be respectful and not a jerk to the people, but I can’t just let this go, because the reason I’m asking is that whether or not I can eat the food depends on the answer.
realsocialskills said:
I’m not sure, because I have a lot of trouble talking to people who are selling me things.
I suspect that part of the problem might be tone, or not using clear enough words.
If that’s the problem, then stating the problem first and then asking about the food might help:
  • “I’m a vegetarian. Does the lentil soup have any meat in it?”
  • “I can’t have gluten. Can you tell me which dishes are gluten-free?”
  • “I’m allergic to mushrooms. Does the chicken sandwich have mushrooms in the sauce?”
  • “I don’t like olives. Does the bean salad have olives in it?”

In terms of not being a jerk, it helps to say thank you when they answer the question, and when they give you edible food. 

It’s ok to interrupt if they’re in the process of making possibly-inedible food, but I don’t really know how to do it effectively.

Does anyone else know good ways to handle this? How do you get information at food counters that will tell you whether or not you can eat the food?

When you don't know what you're dressed as

For halloween I don’t dress as anything in particular (like green skin, black fairy wings, all black, pink hair with no overarching theme), or something pretty obscure, and I get a lot of “Oh! What are you?” type questions I can answer, but not so many times in one evening. Any advice on how to handle that, without having to change my costume?
 realsocialskills said:
Would it work to say: “I’m dressed as a costume!”, and then ask them about their costume? (Eg: “That’s an awesome rainbow tail. Are you Rainbow Dash?” Or “Your sparkly makeup is amazing, how did you do that?”)
I’ve found that most people will take the opportunity to talk about themselves if it’s offered.
What have y'all found effective in this situation?

teenage trick or treaters?

I got a lot of replies to my post about trick or treat etiquette in the US about different customs about teenage trick or treaters.

Some possibilities:

  • It’s frowned upon locally
  • It’s totally fine
  • It’s only ok if they’re accompanying younger children
  • It’s only ok if they’re wearing a costume
  • It’s only ok if they’re not doing obnoxious things like pushing younger children or wearing costumes that are inappropriate around children

What is the custom in your area (and where is that, if you’re willing to say?). What do you think? Are you comfortable giving candy to teenage trick or treaters?