Ideological predators

Content note: This post is about adults exploiting teenagers on the internet for validation. It’s about the ideological form; not the sexual form, but a lot of the underlying logic is similar. This is likely to be a difficult post for anyone who has an emotional connection to this issue.

Some some predators use vulnerable people as validation objects to make their  flawed ideologies feel true. This can happen between people of any age, but it’s particularly common for adult predators to do this to teenage victims they meet online. Adults with bad ideas manipulate teenagers into praising them. They offer false respect to teenagers who are starved for respectful adult attention. They make teenagers depend on them emotionally in completely inappropriate ways. Then they lash out when the teenagers start to notice flaws in their ideas. Teenagers can get hurt very, very badly by this.

From a teenage perspective, relationships with ideological predators can feel really good at first before the predator starts lashing out. As a teenager, you’re often at the beginning of noticing that there’s a lot wrong with the world, and that you and others have the power to make it much better. But seeing yourself as powerful enough to change the world isn’t the same as knowing how to do it. Changing the world is hard work that requires skills that are difficult to acquire. It also requires connections with others doing the same work, which can be really hard to build for teenagers without much control over their lives. And teenagers who want to make the world better are often surrounded by adults who think their desire to do so is cute, and certainly not something to take seriously. (And who may not be taking the teenager seriously on any level). That’s degrading, and very, very hard to cope with.

And then a predator shows up online. At first, they’re this really interesting adult who at first seems to take you much more seriously than anyone else does. Their ideas seem amazing, and they seem to be opening all kinds of possibilities for making the world better. They’re willing to spend endless hours talking to you. They listen to you when you are sad and lonely, and they tell you that you’re amazing and brilliant and that you deserve so much more respect than anyone is giving you. It feels really good to be exposed to an exciting new idea, and it feels even better when it’s coming in the form of conversations with an apparently experienced person you respect. And, support from an experienced person who really does respect you is an amazing thing. Sometimes teenagers get the real form of this online. And sometimes, a predator fakes respect in ways that end very, very poorly.

An emotional relationship with a predator falls apart at some point, because their ideas aren’t actually very good, and their respect for you wasn’t real. It turns out, they weren’t listening to you, they were using you as a mirror. They didn’t want respect and conversation, they wanted you to admire them. When you start noticing flaws in their bad ideas, you stop being useful as a mirror, and they stop wanting to support you. All the vulnerabilities you shared with them turn into weapons they wield against you. It’s excruciating, and it can be very, very hard to recover from.

Teenagers deserve to have adults in their lives who respect them and spend time talking to them about the world. Ideally, this should happen both on and offline. Ideological predators who want validation seek out teenagers who aren’t getting real respect from adults, and seduce them with fake respect. This shouldn’t happen to anyone, ever, but it’s unfortunately really common. (It’s not just teenagers this happens to, but teenagers are often particularly vulnerable because teenagers are often both very isolated and inexperienced with evaluating the merits of ideologies, political views, and effective approaches to activism.)

One of the most important red flags for ideological exploitation is: Do they respect your right to consider other perspectives, or do they want you to believe everything they say without question? 

Nobody is right about everything; it is never reasonable for someone to want you to believe their ideas without question. You have the right to think for yourself. It is never ok for someone to be mean to you for asking questions or for reading about other perspectives. (Even if they’re right and the other perspective you’re reading is a dangerously bad idea that has hurt them personally.) No one has to be willing to talk to you about everything; they do need to respect your right to think for yourself. If someone is trying to persuade you to agree with them, they should expect that you will want to think about it and ask questions. That’s how conversations work when you are explaining something.

No one is the boss of your reading or your other media consumption. You get to decide what you want to read (and what you don’t want to read, and you don’t have to justify your reading choices to anyone. It’s a red flag if an adult tries to monitor your reading or aggressively tells you not to read people they disagree with. Or if they try to dictate who you are and aren’t allowed to talk to.
It’s also a bad sign if they refuse to explain to you why they disagree with a particular position, especially if they’re encouraging you to see them as a mentor. “Why do you think that?” and “What’s wrong with that?” or “Why is that idea harmful?” or “Why is this important?” are reasonable questions, and it’s not ok if they lash out at you for sincerely wanting to know.

(Even if they regularly get asked that question insincerely as a form of harassment, they still shouldn’t lash out at you. You aren’t doing that. You’re asking a question because you want to understand. It’s not your fault that mean people do something superficially similar. If they’ve spent hours and hours talking to you and saying how insightful you are, then they know you well enough to trust your sincerity. It’s not ok if everything they know about you suddenly flies out the window when you ask an uncomfortable question. Also, if they’re presenting themselves as a mentor figure and want you to trust them in that role, then it *is* their job to educate you, and part of educating people is answering their sincere questions respectfully.)

Which is related to another sign to watch out for — trustworthy people with good ideas are able to disagree with others respectfully. If someone is only willing to talk about ideas they agree with and ideas they have withering contempt for, that’s a really bad sign. Reasonable people have some positions they disagree with respectfully, and they also know that people can mistakenly be attracted to bad ideas for good reasons. No one has to be willing to respect all ideas or treat all positions as honorable; everyone has to be able to tolerate *some* disagreement respectfully. Reasonable people know that they’re not right about everything, and that sometimes they will find that people they initially disagreed with had a point.

If they can’t tolerate disagreement with anyone else, what they’re feeling for you is probably not real respect. They’re probably using you as a mirror; expecting you to reflect everything they say back to them, using your sincerity and enthusiasm to make it sound true and important. But you’re not a mirror; you’re a person. Even if everything they’re saying to you right now sounds amazingly true; eventually you will disagree with them about something you both care about. (No one is right 100% of the time, and it is normal for people who care about things to have some degree of disagreement.) Their talk about how insightful and wonderful you are will very, very likely melt away when you stop agreeing with them about everything. If they could tolerate disagreement, they’d be tolerating it from other people too.

Tl;dr Some adult predators use teenagers as ideological validation objects. They offer false respect to teenagers who are hungry for genuine respect from adults. The teenage victims are expected to become mirrors, enthusiastically reflecting back whatever the adult says, making it sound true and wise. Inevitably, eventually teenagers figure out that the adult isn’t 100% right about everything, and they start questioning their ideology. The adult predator then lashes out, and withdraws all of their false respect, leaving the teenager they have isolated to pick up the pieces. This is a horrible an inexcusable thing to do to someone. People have the right to think for themselves, and to ask questions. Adults who take it upon themselves to teach teenagers about the world have a particularly strong obligation to support them in thinking for themselves. If someone effusively praises you at first and then lashes out at you for questioning them or disagreeing, something is really wrong. It’s not your fault, and you’re not alone. People should not treat you that way.

The dangers of “adults are terrible”

Content note: This post is about abuse in a way that may not be obvious from the first paragraph.

I’ve seen adults and teenagers on Tumblr and other places saying things like “adults are terrible” or “never trust adults”. Sometimes it’s a joke, but often people mean it.

I think this is creating a dangerous situation for teenagers. Predators can use that sentiment to isolate teenagers, and to groom them for emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.

If a predator convinces a teenage victim that adults are inherently untrustworthy, they have made it much easier to get away with abuse by making it harder to get outside perspective:

  • If an abuser convinces a teenager not to trust any other adults, they’ve effectively prevented them from asking any other adults for perspective if something feels wrong
  • Which makes it a lot easier for them to convince the teenager that abuse is normal, and that they have to accept abuse in order to get close to anyone
  • It’s much harder to get away with abusing a teenager who can ask other experienced adults “I’m feeling uncomfortable with this. Is this normal? What do you think?”
  • Teenagers who believe that they have nowhere to turn can be very, very vulnerable.

For teenagers, I think this is worth keeping in mind:

  • The adult saying “adults are horrible” is an adult. Saying that doesn’t make them any less of an adult.
  • They want you to think that adults are bad, and they also want you to think that *they* are good
  • So what they’re really saying, usually, is “trust me, but don’t listen to any other adults”.
  • That would only be warranted if they were somehow the only good adult in the world. And they’re *not*.
  • There are a lot of good adults in the world. Adults who can be good friends to teenagers will not want to be the only adult in your life.
  • People who try to isolate you are not good friends.

There are a lot of horrible adults in the world, but adulthood is not horrible in and of itself. Being an adult just means that you made it to a particular age, and that you’ve hopefully learned certain things about the world. When an adult who spends a lot of time with teenagers also goes on and on about how bad adults are, it’s usually a bad sign.

Tl;dr There are a lot of bad adults in the world, and also a lot of good adults. Some adults try to convince teenagers that good adults are very rare. Those adults are dangerous, and it’s important not to tolerate that kind of attitude towards teenagers.

teenage job hunting while autistic

Anonymous asked

I’m a 17y/o autistic (self dx) person and I want to find a job this summer. I’ve never had a job before. Last year I went cold calling with my CV, the first place I went to the manager was really patronizing and I got upset and went straight home.

I’d love a job in a kitchen, but when it comes to the workplace, the social code is completely unknown to me. I have no idea what is socially acceptable and what the norms are for acting around managers and co-workers etc. and it terrifies me. 

I just about grasp the social code for peers my own age. Being talkative and outgoing and appealing to employers and is such a big part of getting work and I have no idea how to do that, and I don’t even have any work experience to back it up. However I know I’m skilled and I’m a fast learner, I’m hard working I just don’t know how to prove it to employers. How can I approach getting a job as an autistic person where communication and social cues some of my biggest difficulties? 

realsocialskills said:

Short version: Ask a Manager has much better advice than I do about work stuff, and I’d recommend her writing about how to get a job.

Medium version: Try not to be hard on yourself. Getting a first job is hard for everyone, especially in the current economy. Even a lot of people with experience and in-demand skills are out of work right now:

  • You’re probably going to have to apply to a bunch of different positions in order to get hired somewhere
  • Being rejected from a job doesn’t always mean you did something wrong
  • People who do everything right still often get rejected from most of the jobs they apply to

Sometimes you’re not the problem:

  • There are a lot of jerks in the world, and some of them are managers
  • If you apply for jobs, you’ll probably encounter some jerks
  • It’s upsetting when jerks are mean to you.
  • Being a nice and respectful person is unfortunately not always a prerequisite for becoming a manager
  • Some managers are jerks, and you might 
  • It helps to learn not to take this personally
  • Someone being mean to you doesn’t mean you’re broken or that you can’t get a job
  • It just means someone was mean.

Sometimes there are skills you can learn that make it easier to get hired and keep a job. Ask a Manager has really good advice on those things, particularly about resumes and cover letters. Her book on how to get hired is well worth buying.

In terms of kitchen work specifically:

  • Kitchen work is loud, fast, physically demanding, and physically exhausting
  • Chefs yell at everyone
  • Often, so do other people in kitchens
  • You will get yelled at
  • It usually won’t be personal
  • Learning not to take getting yelled at personally is an important social skill if you want to work in a kitchen
  • It’s also important to be able to follow instructions quickly and without too much in-the-moment clarification most of the time

It might also be a good idea to find some volunteer work to do, especially if you don’t have an immediate need to support yourself with living expenses. The best way to get hired is to show that you have successful work experience, and volunteer work experience is easier to get than paid volunteer experience.

At your age, school activities often count as experience. Are you involved in any clubs? Have you accomplished things you can talk about? If so, talk about that. 

If you’re still in high school and are receiving special education services in school (which it sounds like you may not be since you’re self-diagnosed), you should be eligible for transition planning services. Even if you’re not, there may be job placement and training services at your school that you can access. If you can find out who at your school does that and make an appointment with them, they might be able to help you.

Anyone else want to weigh in? (Especially autistic or otherwise disabled people; especially teenagers or people who have been teenagers recently.) Have you been able to find work? How have you figured out how to navigate these things?

if you don't have a date for prom



Anonymous said to :

How to cope with not having a date at prom? Everyone else has someone to go with but I don’t even have anyone to ask out. I feel that I will just stand in a corner while my friends and class mates will have their own company.

realsocialskills said:

I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that.

I think that you’re probably not as alone as you feel. Dating is hard, and it can be especially hard when you are young. Finding people to ask out doesn’t always happen on a schedule, even if seasonal events like prom mean you’re surrounded with messages that tell you that it should. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. It’s not just you. It’s that this stuff isn’t easy and the reality isn’t like the cultural mythology.

It’s also worth realizing that it’s ok if you don’t want to date, or if you don’t want to date yet. Some people aren’t ever interested in dating. Some people are eventually interested in dating, but aren’t ready in high school. Some people need some time to mature before they’re ready to date. Some people don’t have so much of an emotional or social peer group in high school, and so don’t meet anyone they want to date. Some people have a sexual orientation or gender that is stigmatized in their high school in a way that makes dating exhausting to even consider. Some people are still figuring out their sexuality or gender and don’t want to date while they’re struggling with it. 

All of those things are common, and normal. So are any number of other reasons you might not want to date. If you don’t want to date, or don’t want to date now, that’s completely fine. I don’t know whether or not you want to date now; only you know that. It’s worth realizing that either answer is fine, and that it’s also ok if you’re not sure. 

You’re probably not the only one at your school who doesn’t have a date for prom. Unless your school is tiny, there are almost certainly several other people at your school who don’t have dates either. You’re definitely not the only one in your state, and there will be any number of people online during prom who didn’t have dates either. When the culture tells you that you should have a date, not having one can feel like a failure, but it’s not. All it means is that you don’t have a date. It doesn’t reflect poorly on you. These things happen.

There are some options for how you might deal with this:

You don’t have to go to prom if you don’t want to:

  • Prom doesn’t have to be important
  • Nothing awful will happen if you don’t go
  • If you think you won’t enjoy it without a date, it’s completely ok to do something else instead
  • If you decide not to go to prom, it might be a good idea to plan what you’re going to do instead
  • That will raise the chances of enjoying the night rather than dwelling on the fact that you’re not at prom
  • (Eg: You could go to a movie, make a cake, have a party with friends or family who aren’t prom-aged, go to a concert, check out a store, etc)

Asking your friends to set you up with someone:

  • If you have friends who you trust, it might be worth asking if there’s anyone they can set you up with for prom
  • There’s a good chance that they will know someone
  • Going to prom with someone doesn’t have to mean that you’re dating them
  • Or that you’re particularly into them
  • It can just mean that you’re both going to an event together and attempting to enjoy the event and one another’s company
  • (It’s not such a good idea to do this if you don’t have friends you trust; some people use this situation as a way to be cruel)

Going without a date and enjoying the other aspects:

  • Some people go to prom without a date
  • You probably won’t be the only one
  • People don’t spend the entire night glued to their dates
  • (especially since a lot of people go with people they’re not actually dating in order to have someone to go with)
  • Going without a date doesn’t mean that you’ll spend the evening alone
  • If you have friends you like who enjoy your company, they’ll still be your friends at prom, and you’ll still get to spend time with them
  • If you want to do the rituals like dressing up and taking pictures and eating the fancy food and celebrating the end of school, you can enjoy all of those aspects of the event even without a date

Have an escape plan and distractions:

  • If you have a phone, bring it
  • You can use your phone as a distraction if the night is miserable
  • You can also use it to take breaks
  • If you get overwhelmed and upset, you might be able to take a break, distract yourself with a phone game or Tumblr, then go back in and enjoy things
  • It’s also ok if you need to leave. You don’t have to stay if it turns out the evening is miserable
  • If you have the option of driving yourself, or otherwise having access to transportation you control, do it that way
  • If you know that you can leave if you need to, it can also make it more likely that you will enjoy it and not feel trapped

Go to or throw an after party:

  • Prom often isn’t just about the official part; it can also be about parties that happen afterwards
  • If you like parties, you’ll probably enjoy them even if you don’t have a date
  • And you don’t necessarily have to go to prom to go to a party
  • And even if you go and hate the actual prom part, you can decide that the party is the main part and enjoy that
  • You also might be able to throw a party after, if you have friends who would be interested in going.

tl;dr: If you don’t have a date for prom, you are not alone. You might feel like the only one, but it’s actually fairly common. You have options for what to do on prom night. Scroll up for concrete suggestions.

Does anyone else want to weigh in? How did you handle not having a date for prom?

genderhawk said:

When I went to my last prom, I did it in a group that consisted of 4 singles and 1 couple and I had a blast…

Everyone who wore a dress + me got ready together and then the other two arrived and the couple went out for a private dinner and the singles all went out for our own dinner, then we met back up at the event.

Even my friends who were in a romantic relationship and who went together didn’t spend the whole night together, i danced with them in groups or 1:1 and we talked and laughed and took pictures together…

it was a great time.

Dealing with isolation at school

Anonymous said to :

What do I do if my friends are rude to me constantly but they’re my only friends and I literally cannot make friends with anyone else cause I have a v v v small school and they’re the only people around my age? It hurts a lot and I get overlooked a lot and when I try to say something I get ignored or told to shut up:

realsocialskills said:

A couple of things:

These other people at your school might not be your friends. People who dislike you and are mean to you aren’t actually friends. Friends are people who you like, and who like you back. Friends are people who respect you and who you respect. Friends are people who are, generally speaking, nice to you (no one is perfectly nice all the time; everyone is mean or obnoxious occasionally. But people who are intentionally cruel are not friends. They’re bullies).

If people don’t like you, don’t want you around, and are mean to you, that’s probably not something you can change. It’s not usually possible to persuade people to be your friends or be nice to you if they don’t already want to.

Something you can sometimes do is assert boundaries. Sometimes if people are nice to you sometimes but not other times, you can limit your interactions to contexts in which they are nice.


  • If students in your school are nice when adults are looking and mean when they’re not, it might be best to limit your interactions to closely supervised settings (eg: hang out with them in the lunch room and not outdoors during breaks) 
  • Some people are nice in mixed-gender grounds but mean in single-gender groups, or vice versa. If you notice that pattern, it might be worth paying attention to the gender composition of a group you’re trying to hang out with
  • Some people are nice one on one, but mean in groups. It can sometimes be worth making a point of hanging out with those people only individually.

That said: Being isolated at school is horrible, but I think that being socially intertwined with people who are mean to you is a lot worse (I’ve experienced both). I’m not you and I can’t tell you what you should do - you are the best judge of that. But, from my perspective, I think you would probably be better off seeking friends elsewhere. That’s probably possible even if you’re in a small school.

Friends don’t have to be people who go to your school. Friends don’t have to be your age. Friends don’t have to be people you see in person. There are other ways to have friends.

I’m assuming that you’re a teenager and that you don’t have very much control over your life right now. I don’t know which of these suggestions are realistic for you, but probably some of them are:

One option you almost certainly have is to make friends online. Internet friends are real friends, and can be much better friends than people you know in person who are mean to you. If you take those relationships seriously as friendships, it will probably substantially improve your social life. One good way to meet people online is by participating in a fandom. If you really like something, finding other people to talk to online about that thing can be a good way to make friends and have fun interacting with people. If you’re being actively bullied at school, or if your parents are hostile, it’s probably best to do this in forums that don’t require you to use your real name. (Eg: Tumblr is likely better for this than Facebook.)

Another option is to join a club or group that takes you out of your school, or to take a class outside of school. For instance, many people enjoy the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts. (Unlike Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts is a secular organization and is not actively hostile to gay and trans kids.) It doesn’t work for everyone, but some people who are very socially isolated in school have a good time socially in the scouts or in other clubs.

If there is a community center in your area, you might be able to play a sport or take an art class. It doesn’t have to be a class specifically for people your age - it can be really, really good to meet people of a range of ages, especially if you have trouble connecting with people your own age. If you find a group of people doing a thing you like, you’re likely to have more friends than if you’re just relying on people who go to your school.

If you’re in high school, taking college classes at a local community college might also be an option. That might be both more interesting than what you’re doing at school, and a way to meet people who don’t go to your school and might be nicer than you. (It doesn’t always work that way, but it does for some people.)

Another option is to volunteer. Is there a cause in your area that you care about? It might be worth finding out if there’s anything that you can do to help them. Again, that could bring you into contact with other people who care about the same things you care about, and it might be something people with power over your life would approve of. Volunteering to visit elderly people might also be something you could do. There are a lot of isolated elderly people who don’t use computers who want social contact, and some of them are really awesome. Some groups that match people accept teenagers as volunteers. (Again, not for everyone, but this is a good thing for some people.)

If you’re religious or your family is, there might be things you can get involved in at your place of worship that you’d enjoy and that would expand your social options beyond kids your age at your school. If you have a youth group that is largely populated by the same kids who are mean to you at school, it might be better to get involved in something else. For instance, there might be a social action or charitable group that you could join. Or an all-ages study group. (Definitely not for everyone, especially not if religion is something you’re unpleasantly coerced into participating in. But can be good for some people.)

tl;dr Mean people aren’t good friends. It’s usually better to seek out the company of people who are nice to you than to try to make friends with mean people. Even if you are young and go to a tiny school, there are options for finding friends. Scroll up for some ideas.

Anyone else want to weigh in? How do you cope with being surrounded by mean people at school? How do you find friends?

There’s a boy at school who makes me uncomfortable. He seems to appear wherever I am. My 504 plan allows me to eat in a small back room in the library, and he’s even found me there and joins me for lunch. I’ve told him several times “I prefer to eat alone” but he responds with “That’s no fun! Come meet my friends!” I’ve tried ignoring him, but he just asks me lots of questions. My mom and therapist are happy I’ve “made a friend and stopped isolating!” and won’t help. How do I make him go away?
realsocialskills said:
I’m sorry this is happening to you.
He shouldn’t harass you like that, and your school shouldn’t let him. You’ve made it clear that you want to be left alone, and he’s following you and insisting on bothering you anyway. That’s not friendly. That’s harassment.
I’m not sure how to get him to stop. That depends a lot on the situation, and particularly whether or not there are any adults willing to help you. One thing that helps is to keep straight in your mind what’s going on. It’s perfectly ok that you don’t want to eat with this guy. He should leave you alone. You’re not doing anything wrong; he is being mean.
Since you mention that you’re eating in the library, I wonder if the librarian might be able to help you. Sometimes librarians care about protecting kids from harassment. It might help to frame it in terms of “This guy won’t leave me alone, and it’s making me really uncomfortable. He keeps following me in here. Can you please help me to get away from him?”
Another thing to consider: Who put the room in your 504 plan? Was anyone involved in that decision besides your mom and your therapist? Might someone else who was involved understand what’s going on and why you need help?
Another possibility: telling him to go away more forcefully, eg:
  • “I don’t want to eat with you. Please leave me alone.” might work better than “I prefer to eat alone.”
  • “Stop following me.”
  • “I don’t want to talk to you.”
  • “Stop asking me questions; I don’t want to have this conversation.”
If you’re more forceful in saying no, it’s likely that he’ll act all hurt and like you’re doing something terrible to him. It might also eventually work if you are firm and explicit about saying no, and don’t back down when he acts all hurt about it.
That’s a standard way that people who are willfully violating boundaries react when someone says no. (I wrote about this in the context of ways creepy guys make it impossible for women to say no politely.)
It’s okay not to care that your boundaries hurt his feelings. It’s okay not to care if he’s upset that you don’t want to be his friend or eat lunch with him. That is not actually your problem. You’re not obligated to provide him with attention, company, or validation, no matter how friendly he thinks he’s being.
Eating alone is not something you’re doing to him. Harassing you is something mean he’s doing to you.
Your parents and therapists should be supporting you. It’s terrible that they’re not (but unfortunately, this is not an unusual situation.)
tl;dr If someone follows you around and keeps trying to interact over your objections, that’s not friendly, that’s creepy. You don’t have to be someone’s friend or hang out with them if you don’t want to. Therapists shouldn’t try to convince you that being harassed is a positive development in your life. It’s okay to have boundaries. You get to decide who your friends are and aren’t.
Anyone else want to weigh in? Have you been harassed at school by someone who wanted to be your friend whether you wanted to or not? Have you been able to get them to leave you alone? (Or: have to found ways to protect kids who are being harassed by other students?)

Preparing for a college interview



Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

Any advice for college interviews?

I have one coming up and I always get tongue-tied and I generally don’t do well at them at all, but this is a really big deal and I don’t want to mess it up…

realsocialskills said:

The best way I know of to prepare for any type of interview is to get someone else to do a practice interview with you before you do the real interview.


tl;dr: If you’re interviewing for college (or anything really), it’s very helpful to do a practice interview. There is likely a teacher, guidance counselor, or coach at your school who would be willing to give you a practice interview. Having a peer do one can also work. Whoever does it, it is most effective when they ask you the questions that you’re afraid or nervous about being asked in the real interview.

tilia-cordata said:

All the advice in realsocialskills’ post is great. I did alumni interviews for my college for a year or so. Here are a couple of thoughts: 

  • Not every school does interviews the same way, and they don’t count for the same amount. At my school there were a large enough number of applicants that all interviews were done by alumni (none by admissions officers).
  • They also didn’t count for a whole lot compared to the rest of your application. I know other schools weight the interview more. 
  • I was also interviewing for a very prestigious school, but I think the things I looked for were pretty similar to what other schools would look for? My interviewees just had much smaller chances of getting in, even if I ranked them very highly.
  • My ideal interview with an applicant felt more like a conversation than an interview. 
  • We were asked to assess how much a student might participate in school - as a student and in extra curricular activities. We were there to see what you were like as a person instead of as a stack of documents. We were also told that, unless a student did something really terrible, interviews were there to boost an applicant, not lower them. 

Here are some questions I asked, and the kinds of things I was looking for, if they might be helpful as practice questions: 

“What the favorite class you’re taking/have taken in high school?”

  • I wanted to see what kinds of academic things applicants were interested in. 
  • This also gives some time to talk about school stuff you like even if you don’t know what you want to study yet. 
  • There aren’t really any wrong answers as long as you have something to say. This is true of almost all of these questions. 

“What activities/things you do outside of school have been the most important to you and what did you learn from them?”

  • The “what” is way less important than the “why.” You can’t just say “band” and leave it at that. 
  • If you have to work and don’t do a “cool” or “exciting” activity, I wanted to hear about that too, if it’s important to you! Or if you do something solitary, like write or art or anything, or are involved in your religious community - literally anything outside of school. 
  • I might’ve asked about leadership stuff, but this’ll be guided by what you say. 
  • I’m probably going to push on the “what did you learn” or “what did you get out of this” for anything a student says. 

“What was something (academic or otherwise) that’s been a big challenge to you?”

  • I wanted to hear about stuff you’ve struggled with it, and what you’ve done to work on that. 
  • This is an opportunity to talk about a disability if you feel comfortable. 
  • It’s also a chance to explain a low grade or test score, if you have one. 
  • This was also to make the super-polished, prone-to-bragging applicants talk about their weaknesses for a minute. No one is perfect.

If you mention anywhere in the interview that you’re interested in in English or writing, I probably asked “What’s your favorite book?” I usually asked this anyway, even with math/science students. What the answer was didn’t matter all that much, I just liked hearing students talk about things they enjoyed. 

I asked about grades and test scores; I tried to do this at the end so our conversation would be about that as little as possible. 

I tried to give as much information about college life as possible throughout the interview. I usually started by saying the applicant could ask me questions at any time, so that me talking and them talking was split. At the end, I usually phrased “do you have any questions” as “is there anything you wanted to know that we haven’t covered?” since the more open ended question always freaked me out as an interviewee. 

I was never looking for polish or super-preparedness. I was looking for: whether you seemed genuinely interested in the school, if you seemed like a nice and engaging person, if you were polite. 

Also, as a last point - part of the reason I started doing interviews was as a way of fighting my social anxiety, and I was often almost as scared the meeting as my applicant, even if I had power in that situation. Your interviewer is a person, too, and especially if they’re an alumni who might only be interviewing 2-4 students, they can be an advocate for you to the admissions office. I wanted all my applicants to get in, because they all seemed like great kids who would have done well at my school. 

When teachers use ableist slurs

Anonymous asked:

Today we did a spelling test in English,and when someone asked what question two was when we were on question four, the teacher shouted. “Special NEEDS!!”. Is this acceptable??!

I don’t mind teachers swearing at us,but this seems even more inappropriate.

Should I complain?

realsocialskills said:

I think there are two questions here which may have different answers:

  • Did the teacher do something significantly wrong? and
  • Should you complain?

So I’ll consider them separately. The first question is easy. The teacher definitely did something wrong. Several things, actually.

The first thing they did wrong was insult a student who was asking a question. Teachers should encourage questions. It was entirely reasonable for the student to want to have questions they’d missed repeated. Spelling, writing, and paying attention are hard for some people, and a moment of difficulty or inattention shouldn’t mean that you’re not allowed to ask what the question was. It’s really unfair to mark students as not knowing the material when the problem was actually that you refused to make the test accessible to them. That would have been wrong no matter how the teacher chose to insult the student.

It’s especially wrong that the teacher chose to use the insult they used. When they said “special NEEDS!”, they were expressing contempt for students with learning disabilities and learning difficulties. They were also threatening students by implying that if they show disability related struggles, they won’t be seen as having a legitimate place in the class. That’s a horrible kind of sentiment.

They were also showing any students with disabilities who may have been in the room that this teacher is not a safe person to discuss disability-related struggles with. That’s awful, too.

What the teacher said was mean and hateful. Teachers ought to be building their students up, not tearing them down. Teachers ought to be teaching their students to be respectful of everyone, not participating in a culture of ableist hate. Teachers ought to be actively showing their students that they will find solutions that make it possible for them to learn; not insulting them for asking for help. They ought to be actively seeking out effective accessibility and accommodations; not mocking special needs.

The second question is more complicated, and I’m not sure I know the answer to it. It depends on a lot of different things, and I think it is on some level a personal choice.

Some options:

Complaining to the teacher directly:

  • I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this in your situation, but:
  • Some teachers who say this kind of hurtful thing don’t understand the implications of what they’re saying
  • Sometimes when someone points it out to them, they listen and stop doing it
  • This is risky, especially if you are in grade school rather than university.
  • I wouldn’t recommend talking to this teacher about the problem directly unless you have a generally good relationship to them and have reason to believe that they’d care what you think and listen seriously

Talking to another teacher:

  • Is there another teacher you trust to understand why this was an awful thing to say?
  • If so, it might be worth talking to them and seeing what they think is the best way to proceed
  • (But be careful about this too - some teachers in this situation might not understand that you’re vulnerable and might repeat things or  pressure you to confront the mean teacher in ways that are not in your interests)

Talking to an authority figure:

  • I know that it can sometimes be done effectively, but I don’t know how to describe how to do it
  • One thing is that you can’t assume that they will understand why this is a big deal
  • But you can sometimes insist that it is a big deal
  • It helps to be as polite as possible in every way aside from the fact that you’re pushing the issue
  • (Eg: It is helpful to refrain from shouting or swearing, dressing in a way that’s against the rules, or doing anything else they can claim is a discipline problem)
  • It also helps to be pushing for a specific solution. If there’s a built in thing they can do that would get you to stop bothering them, they’re much more likely to do something
  • (Figuring out what to ask for can be complicated. What do you want? Do you want the head teacher to tell your teacher that they can’t say things like that? Do you want a general memo going out about why you can’t say things like that? Do you want to put a letter of complaint in their file? Do you want to to be transferred into a different English class? You might be able to get one of those things to happen if you push in the right ways.)

Involving your parents:

  • If your parents are supportive and understand why this is a big deal, it might be worth talking to them about ways they might help you with this
  • Sometimes teachers and administrators who don’t listen to teenagers do listen to their parents
  • Parents can also sometimes be anti-helpful, so I don’t know whether this is a good idea or a bad idea for you. You’re the best judge of that.

Talking to other students:

  • You might be in a position to influence and/or support other students here.
  • Do you think other students think this was wrong? 
  • Do you think they know that you think it was wrong?
  • Knowing that someone else thinks it was wrong can make a huge difference to people who are vulnerable
  • There’s probably at least one other student who you could support in this way
  • (Possibly discreetly, like talk to a particular person alone at lunch and say something like: Hey, did you hear what Ms. Meanteacher said to Rina the other day during the spelling test? That was so mean/ableist! Why do teachers think that’s ok?“ Or "Why is Mr. Meanteacher always insulting us?”)

Beyond that, I’m not sure what to suggest. Do any of y'all have ideas about what might be effective in this situation? (Answers from people who are familiar with the education system in the UK would be particularly helpful.)

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?




Trick or treat ettiquite in the US




In most areas in the US, it is traditional for children to go trick-or-treating on the evening of Halloween (October 31st). This means that they put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy.

If you put up Halloween decorations, or you have your…

Many of my older special education teens like to dress up and go trick or treating. They sometimes get refused or hasdassed for being too old, despite being like “children” in many ways.

I also know of teenagers who go “trick-or-treating” just for free candy, knowing it is not really for them. I have seen some of these older youth be rude to the younger children by pushing past them, cutting them off and scaring them.

Here is what I do:
If the trick-or-treater is dressed in costume and following norms like taking turns and watching for smaller people, I do not address their age and treat them as you would the other kids. (Don’t say, “You’re too old for this.”)
If they are dressed up but not following norms, I take make them wait a bit and tell them that because they are bigger then other people out they need to be extra careful around the smaller people because we want everyone to have fun. If they are resceptive and understand, I give them candy and tell them to have fun. (I do this if I witness little ones being rude as well, with a shorter and different talk)
The only time I ask how old they are is if they are not in costume and not following norms. I may not give these teens candy depending on how the conversation turns out. However, as an educator and youth worker, I am comfortable having these conversations.

I guess I would want others to know that even if a person looks “too old” they may be developmently delayed or large for thier age. I don’t believe this things disclude them from participating.

annekewrites said:

In my neighborhood there actually weren’t a lot of kids of trick-or-treating age at the time I was of trick-or-treating age.  What we did have was a neighbor whose mother was from another country (I believe it was either Sweden or Switzerland, but my memory is fuzzy) and who had never been.  So they dressed her up as Big Bird and took her trick-or-treating, and it was awesome.

As far as older teenagers who really should know better, something that often happened in my experience was for them to be “in costume” in a really inappropriate way while trick-or-treating - “pimp and hooker” seemed to be a perennial favorite.  That’s one where I WOULD (at least sorely be tempted to) say that they’re too old for this.

realsocialskills said:

Do you know a good way of reacting to teenagers who do that?

genderhaunt said:

A script that I’ve used in the past and that I’d feel ok hearing when I’m out as a 19 year old this year is as follows:

“Trick or treating is basically a trade, you come to my door in costume and behaving in a family friendly way, I give you candy.  You aren’t holding up your end of that unspoken deal by [being rude to the children/wearing a costume that isn’t family friendly/not wearing a costume/etc] so maybe come back when you’re doing so.”

I found that it worked, most teens didn’t come back but a few did.  I think it works because it assumed maturity instead of assuming that they were being “bad” in any way by still wanting to trick or treat.  Halloween is hard when you’re too old to really trick or treat but too young to do anything else. 

Places for autistic young people to hang out online

Hey, do you know of any good forums/resources for autism spectrum teens to hang out online? For example, a group that plays Minecraft together? My sister is one of the few autistic / socially disabled people at her school, and she tells me she feels really lonely a lot. I’d love to point her towards good resources, but there are so few for young people.
realsocialskills said:
I think, first of all, it depends on what her goals are. This is a kind of situation in which it could be really, really easy to fall into the trap of treating her as an acceptance object. I believe that connecting with other autistic young people is likely to be a really good idea and that it’s great that you want to make that possible for her. But I also think that ultimately what I think and what you think is much, much less important than what she thinks.
With that in mind, Tumblr might be a good option for her, if she’s interested.
There are a lot of autistic teenagers on Tumblr. If she specifically wants to talk about autism stuff, she might like the #actuallyautistic tag. (You shouldn’t post in that tag though, unless you are also autistic. If you want to ask autistic people questions, #askanautistic is a good resource, as is the Parenting Autistic Children With Love And Acceptance Facebook group.
Even if she is not particularly interested in discussing autism, Tumblr can be a good place to interact with other autistic teenagers. Most fandom tags contain autistic people talking about fandom, and many contain autistic people talking about autistic headcanons. For instance, a lot of autistic people talk about Animorphs, Bob’s Burgers, Harry Potter, Community, and Sherlock. 
One caveat: A lot of people on Tumblr are very pleasant to interact with, but there are also a lot of bullies who can be really aggressive. In order to enjoy Tumblr, it’s important to be selective about who you interact with. Blocking mean people makes Tumblr a lot more fun. (The presence of bullies doesn’t mean using Tumblr is a bad idea. The only way to prevent autistic people from encountering bullies is to prevent them from ever interacting with *anyone*, and that’s a lot worse than dealing with bullies.)
There’s also a browser extension called xkit that has a lot of extensions which make Tumblr more usable. Two in particular are helpful for avoiding bullies: blacklist and postblock. Blacklist allows you to block particular keywords, including URLs of mean people. Postblock allows you to block a particular post and never see it again, even if it is reblogged by people you follow. Those are really useful for avoiding mean people and cruel posts.
Twitter can also be a good place to hang out. It makes it easy to start conversations with a broad range of people, including some public figures. If there’s something she really enjoys talking about, Twitter might be a place to find people who are as into it as she is and aren’t tired of hearing about it. (That makes life a lot better. One of the hardest things about being an autistic teenager is lack of access to people who actually want to hear about your special interests. The internet makes that much better.)
Regarding Minecraft: There are also a couple of autism-specific Minecraft servers. I don’t know anything about them, so I can’t tell you if they are good or not. One of them is called Autcraft. That said, if she’s interested in playing Minecraft online, World of Minecraft is an all-ages server with nice people who make an effort to make it safe for kids too. It has both creative and survival modes and doesn’t allow PvP, griefing, or general obnoxiousness. She might enjoy that.
Do any of y'all have suggestions? Where are some good places for autistic young people to hang out online?

I’m a high school student in America. Recently I was called in to talk to a psychologist because the adults at the school noticed I was having problems. I’ve known I was autistic for about two years now, so I was relieved to finally have a chance to get my diagnosis. But I’m scared – what does this mean? What’s going to happen next? Will the colleges know? What is the psychologist going to tell people? (Some of the things I said are pretty private.) He said he might talk to me again – when?don’t know what’s going on. Will this go on my permanent record? If I do get diagnosed with autism, how is this diagnosis going to work? (Since I’m doing it through my school psychologist.) What tests do I have to take, and through whom? Sorry for dumping this all on you, but I’m really scared and confused.

realsocialskills said:

I’m not familiar enough with high school disability services to know good answers to all of this. Here’s what I do know:

Generally speaking, autism is diagnosed through a neuropsych evaluation. Some of the tests will be autism-specific, and some of them will not be. It takes several hours. They will want to know developmental history (ie: whether you appeared atypical/autistic in any way when you were a small child). They will probably want to talk to your parents and teachers. 

If you are diagnosed with something and the person evaluating you recommends accommodations, the school will have an IEP meeting with your parents to discuss a plan. Depending on the policies in your school district, you may or may not be included in the meeting. (At your age, it’s likely that you will be, especially if you insist).

It’s also possible that you might be referred for a lesser kind of evaluation, or for in-school services that do not require a diagnosis. For instance, if your school thinks that you have handwriting problems, you might be sent for a short occupational therapy evaluation. If your school thinks you have social skills problems, they might want to send you to a social skills group. 

Did you discuss autism specifically with your counselor? Do you know which kind of thing they are trying to refer you for?

Regarding college: I don’t know how much high schools share with colleges. 

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network made a guide called Navigating College that has a lot of good information about how college works for autistic people. A lot of it is applicable to high school as well, and it’s definitely relevant to high school students who are considering college.

Do any of y'all know more about how this works for high school students in the US?