words words words

“blaming others”

“Take responsibility for your life and stop blaming others” is the kind of phrase that is sometimes really important and also sometimes dangerously misleading.

It’s important to take responsible for things that are within your control. Taking responsibility is about accurately assessing situations, and deciding what to do about them within the options you have.

Unfortunately, when people say “stop blaming others and take responsibility for your life,” they’re not always talking about assessing things accurately. Sometimes what they’re doing is trying to convince you to assume that everything you’re experiencing is always your fault; and that you could always make everything better if you just made better choices.

There are *some* situations in which it’s actually the case *in that particular situation* that blaming others is holding someone back. In those situations, it often *is* possible to fix things by making better choices. It’s important to recognize those situations when they arise. It’s not a remotely good idea to assume that all situations are like that.

Sometimes things are your fault. Sometimes they’re someone else’s fault. Sometimes it’s a mixture of both. In order to take responsibility for your actions, it’s important to realistically assess what’s going on. Sometimes that means noticing that other people are causing problems.

In order to be responsible, it’s important to evaluate what’s actually going on. Assuming that everything is always your fault won’t help.

vensre replied to your post

“Letting labels define us”

This. “He’s gay, but he doesn’t act overly gay so he’s okay.” “She has a disability, but feel free to relate to her as a human because the disability isn’t *her*, it’s just a thing. That she has. Like a fanny pack.” That’s how it rings to me.

realsocialskills said:

Sometimes. And sometimes it’s more like this:

  • “This person is so disabled”
  • “Let’s talk about how disabled he is”
  • “Let’s get his mom’s perspective on how disabled he is and what it’s like to raise a disabled son”
  • “This whole video is literally about disability and how it’s perceived”
  • “But look, he also wears hats and skateboards and has friends.”
  • “Therefore, he’s not letting his label define him”

Letting labels define us

So, people say this about people who are stigmatized in some way or another:

  • “She has a disability, but she doesn’t let her label define her!”
  • “He happens to be gay, but he doesn’t let that label define him!”

And… it tends to be in the context of an article or video that’s literally about how their difference and the way it’s labelled has a profound impact on their life.

It rings false, because if labels didn’t matter, the article or video wouldn’t be about them. It matters that some people are disabled or gay or whatever other thing people are afraid to name in a straightforward way.

It’s important to send the message that we’re all more than one thing, and that no label or category completely defines who we are. It’s also important to acknowledge that differences don’t stop mattering when they are stigmatized. We need to be able to refer to important aspects of who we are without evasion or euphemism.

respectful autism language for people who aren't autistic

Anonymous said to :

Regarding your post about language politics and history, Do you recommend NT people use autistic or person first language as a default?

Of course I would change what I’m using based on the preferences of the autistic person I’m talking to, but if I don’t know preferences or if I’m talking to NT people?

I realize you can’t speak for everybody, I’m just looking for some guidance.

realsocialskills said:

I think the principle to keep in mind is that your language choices should always reflect respect for the people you’re talking about. The best way to do that is somewhat context-dependent.

I think usually the best thing to do is to alternate between “autistic” and “person with autism”, and explain why you’re doing that. Here’s an example of an article written by a speech language pathologist that does that well.

In certain contexts, it might be better to use one or the other. If you’re speaking at a developmental disabilities conference, it’s probably better to use person first language because that’s what most people present are likely to feel respected by.

If you’re speaking to a group of people who identify as autistic self advocates, you should say autistic. If you’re writing stuff on Tumblr or in social justice circles, you’re more likely to encounter a lot of autistic people who are offended by person first language, so “autistic” is probably a good default.

If you’re speaking at an autism conference dominated by parents and providers, it gets more complicated because they are likely to get very offended if you don’t use person first language, and spend a lot of time arguing with you about it. Sometimes it’s a fight worth having for the sake of expressing solidarity with autistic people who tend to be silenced in those spaces; sometimes the best thing is to say “autistic,” explain why, and let them be offended.

Sometimes it’s better to let it go and use the language they prefer so that they will listen to the other things you’re saying and not get hung up on words. That’s a complicated choice and there aren’t always right or wrong answers. (If there are autistic speakers at the conference as well, it’s worth checking in with them about what they would prefer that you do. If you want to express solidarity, it’s best to have people who are directly affected take the lead on issues like this.)

Also, most people are not offended by “on the spectrum” or “people on the autism spectrum”. It’s not associated with silencing autistic people in the way that professional use of “people with autism” is. When you’re in a group of people who have very strong views in opposite directions about “people with autism”, “on the spectrum” is often a good option.

tl;dr “Autistic” and “person with autism” are both personal berserk buttons for a lot of people those phrases describe. If you’re writing/speaking for an audience of people who have an emphatic preference for how they describe themselves, use that word. If you’re writing for a general audience, alternate between the two and explain why you’re doing so.

I say "autistic" on purpose

Anonymous said to :

Hello friend, I’d like to reblog you post about communication with people with autism, but it really bothers me that the whole thing says “autistic people” is there any chance you could edit it to be person first language? (Person with autism) ((because they are a person first and the disorder second.))

realsocialskills said:

I’m autistic, and that’s the language I prefer, so I’m not going to change it. A lot of autistic adults actually find person first language very offensive.

I wrote a post about autism language politics and history a while back that explains more about why. The short version is that many of us see autism as part of who we are and not separable from our personhood. (You don’t say “person with femaleness”, “person with Christianity”, “person with Britishness” or anything like that - it’s only use for stigmatized categories. We don’t want autism to carry that kind of stigma.)

I also want to address something else. Your ask said “they” about autistic people, which to me suggests that you’re probably not autistic and that you assumed I’m not either. It might be worth asking yourself why you made that assumption.

To me, autistic people are “we”, not “they.“

Autistic people are everywhere, and we have opinions. If you’re talking about autism, it’s a good idea to assume that there are autistic people in the room.

tl;dr It’s not wrong to say “autistic”. It’s a legitimate preference shared by a lot of autistic adults for important reasons. When a conversation about autism is happening, it’s good to err on the side of assuming that autistic people are part of the conversation. (And if they’re not, that’s a problem that needs to be solved.)

person first language?



Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

Why do you use person first language? I usually only see bigoted ableist people use pfl. What convinced you that pfl was the best choice for you (and other disabled people, since you use pfl to refer to disabled people generally)?

realsocialskills said:

I actually use both more or less interchangeably, except when I’m talking about or to a group that has a clearly expressed preference. (Eg: I don’t ever say “people with deafness” when I’m talking about Deaf people, I don’t ever say “intellectually disabled people” when I’m talking about people with intellectual disabilities, and when I’m talking about the autistic community associated with ANI/ASAN/AACC/autistics.org I don’t say “people with autism”). Mostly, though, I use whatever is more grammatically comfortable in the sentence I’m saying. 

When I am talking about things that apply to more than one group, I usually find it easier to say “people with disabilities”, because it’s the most straightforward way to express that I’m talking about more than one thing. I think it also is clearer as a way for me to acknowledge that a lot of people have more than one disability.

Also, person-first language is not only preferred by ableist bigots; it’s also preferred by important groups of people who are actively fighting ableism. It’s pretty strongly preferred by many people who are trying to emphasize their humanity in the face of people who only see them as a disability case study. I wrote a post about this a while back about the autism-specific politics of person first language.

I respect all of the disability-affirmitive reasons that some people prefer to be called disabled and all the disability-affirimitve reasons that some people prefer to be called people with disabilities. I don’t have a particular position on who is right. My own preferences for myself shift a lot, and depend a lot on context. I mostly just use whatever language people around me are using, unless I feel like they’re using language specifically to express contempt.

 andreashettle said:

I think it’s worth being aware that preferences can vary from one country to another.  In the UK, there tends to be a very strong preference for identity-first language, and for using the word “disabled” rather than “people with disabilities.”  In the UK context, the word “disabled” more specifically means “disabled BY ACCESSIBILITY BARRIERS IN THE ENVIRONMENT”.  So in the UK context, the word “disabled” is very much steeped in the entire social model concept of what a disability IS—it’s not just an impairment in the body, it’s accessibility barriers imposed upon us by our environment.

Meanwhile, “person first” language was first originated BY PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES in the United States, more specifically people with intellectual disabilities.  It has come to be adopted by the wider cross-disability movement in the United States and also in many other English-speaking countries (NOT the UK, but elsewhere) and also in Spanish-speaking countries (in Spanish, “personas con discapacidades”).  And, yes, I do mean organizations and communities led by people with disabilities ourselves, NOT just the parents or professionals.  Check the website of the American Association of People with Disabilities, for example: most staff and board of directors there are people with disabilities. Many Americans with disabilities are offended by the term “disabled”: they don’t view the term as being specific to the context of being disabled by an inaccessible environment, they view it as a term that puts emphasis on their impairment over their person hood. 

However, in the U.S., parents/family/professionals who are not in the habit of working closely with disability-led groups actually don’t use the “person with disabilities” language, they’re more likely to use terminology like “people with special needs” (which many Americans with disabilities dislike).   U.S. based parents/professionals who do say “people with disabilities” usually learned that from the disability-led cross-disability community in the U.S. (or U.S.-influenced countries)

As Real Social Skills points out, there are some specific disability communities in the U.S. and elsewhere that has come to prefer identity first language including signing people who identity as members of the culturally Deaf community, autistic people, some blind people, etc.  But in most cross-disability contexts in the U.S., person-first language does continue to prevail among people with disabilities themselves, and is NOT the exclusive domain of ableist people refusing to listen to leaders with disabilities.  So before accusing someone of being ableist for preferring person-first language, find out what country they’re from and who they learned that language from.  They may have learned it from Americans with disabilities.

Same thing for Americans who become offended when someone uses the word “disabled”.  No, “disabled” does not always mean the same thing it means in the U.S., and is not the exclusive domain of ableist people. Before being offended, find out what country they’re from and where they learned it: they may have learned it from disabled people in the UK.

Anyone insisting that only ableist people use person-first language, I would have to guess is probably from the UK where person-first language apparently never took hold.  Or else they might be from a country whose disability movement continues to be heavily influenced by the UK.   (I’ve been told by a few people that there are SOME segments of the disabled community in the UK that have started using U.S.-influenced “person first” language.  But based on what I’ve seen online—not only Tumblr but also other forums—I don’t get the sense that this has reached the grassroots level).

When you start looking more globally, beyond just the US and the UK, U.S.-influenced person-first language has been adopted by a lot of the global cross-disability movement, for example check the International Disability Alliance (IDA), which is an umbrella organization for various international disability-led organizations (aside from a couple of international organizations of families of people with intellectual disabilities, all its member organizations are led by CEOs and board of directors who are predominantly people with disabilities themselves).  Some of its member organizations, like the World Federation of the Deaf, do prefer identity-first language, though others (for example, the European Disability Forum) use person-first.  IDA, like most of its member organizations, is itself a disability-led organization.

But even internationally the picture gets muddled: Disabled People International, for example … well, you see from its name!

realsocialskills said:

This is a very important addition. Thank you.

Why I don't use person first language about autism


Social skills: noticing when repetition is communication




So there’s this dynamic:

Autistic person: The door is open!

Other person: I *know* that. It’s hot in here.

Autistic person: The door is open!

Other person: I already explained to you that it’s hot in here!



the only thing i would add to this post is the importance of people-first language “person with autism” rather than “autistic person”

realsocialskills said:

That was actually a deliberate choice and not a mistake. I’m autistic myself, and I’m part of an autistic culture that actively dislikes person-first language. In my community, person-first language is associated with parents who want to speak for us rather than listening to us about our needs and perspectives. It’s also associated with the belief that our autism is somehow contrary to our personhood, or that it’s separable from who we are. Most of us find that idea very offensive.

I wrote a post on the politics of person first language and autism a while back.


When sound words take over and hurt


I hate sound words. They hurt so bad. People do sound words and they keep doing them for hours. They never stop it. I put my hands on my ears. They don’t like that because it’s innappropriate.
The only way I can stop the sound words is hit my head so I hear…

andreashettle said:

Would sign language help at all? I know that won’t help in all circumstances because obviously you can only use sign language if

1. You learn signs that are useful for you, AND,

2. Are with someone who will understand your signs and know enough signs to sign things to you at least some of the time

And most people don’t know any sign language at all. But if sign words hurt any less than sound words, then one option would be to seek out people who sign, including deaf people or people with other disabilities (autism, intellectual disabilities) who might also sometimes learn a few signs.  Or see if some of your closest friends or family are willing to learn at least a little sign language for use with you.

The best way to learn sign language is usually to be around people who are using sign language a lot.  And taking a class in sign language can also help.  (This should ideally be with a deaf professor or someone else who has been signing since birth or early childhood, though this tends to be more important for advanced sign classes and maybe less important for introductory sign classes. But whether the teacher is deaf or hearing, it is preferable to take sign classes from someone who has been specifically trained in teaching sign language as they may know better techniques for teaching sign language.) 

Or if these are not options, you can google for free videos of signs on line.  If you are not sure if sign words will hurt less than sound words, then maybe watching a few sign language videos can help you decide.

 Make sure you are looking at videos for the sign language in dominant use in YOUR country.  If you are in the U.S., you do not want to be learning British Sign Language! Or vice versa!  (Because, yes, these are VERY different sign languages, people who only know ASL will NOT understand BSL or vice versa.)  American Sign Language (ASL) is used in both the U.S. and in English-speaking parts of Canada, but NOT in the UK (BSL), Australia (Auslan), New Zealand, or most other countries.  The Quebec Deaf has their own sign language that is NOT the same as ASL or BSL, and is NOT the same as as the sign language used in France. And so forth.  Videos are not a perfect way to learn the grammar and syntax of sign language, but it still works MUCH better than trying to learn signs from a book.  Do not even try learning sign language from a book, it will not work.

When sound words take over and hurt



I hate sound words. They hurt so bad. People do sound words and they keep doing them for hours. They never stop it. I put my hands on my ears. They don’t like that because it’s innappropriate.
The only way I can stop the sound words is hit my head so I hear the hitting. I sometimes like the words that are on books. Other people don’t like those words.
They said if I do therapy I won’t hurt anymore. I did it for eight years. I still hate sound words. Therapist sound words hurt more than other people’s sound words. How do I get them to stop talking? They won’t stop talking. I say stop talking but it’s rude.
realsocialskills said: 
I don’t know a great answer to this. I think I have the same problem sometimes. Here are some things I think I know about it:
Words bother me sometimes, but not all the time. But sometimes words hurt and I’m in a sea of words and everything is bad of words and talking and people’s words that hurt and take over everything.
The problem is real, and it’s not your fault, and no one really knows how to make words stop hurting. You are not alone. There are other people who words hurt. There are other people who like book words. There are other people who like to be around people without talking to them.
(And it makes sense that therapist words would hurt more. Therapist words are designed to get past defenses and get in when you’re keeping other words out. Which can be a good thing in some contexts, but not like this.)
You probably can’t get most people who like sound words to stop talking so much. They are made of words, a lot. Words are really important to them. That is how they communicate and show respect for each other. Some people can also communicate in other modes, but a lot of people need words. 
So probably “get them to stop talking” isn’t the right solution. I think people who live in words are going to want to talk most of the time. The solution might be more… finding space to be away from people who are made of words, and finding friends who aren’t made of words. Finding space they don’t control. Being able to separate yourself from the people who words at you constantly.
Not everyone is made of sound-words. Some people like non-words or book words. I don’t know how to meet them on purpose, but I have met others and spent very pleasant time interacting without wordsing much. So I know that it is possible.
And some people only words at you because when words-people words at them they get pushed into words-mode. So some of them can be good friends for not-made-of-words interactions if you can find ways to spend time with them without the all the sound words people. And some of them will understand what you mean if you tell them that there are too many words and ask them to interact another way. 
I think part of the solution might be finding ways to get away from the people who are wordsing at you all the time. Do you have any private space you can go to? Or any space where you can control who is invited in?
Are there any people you can find to hang out with who don’t use words at all? People who don’t make sound words might be better people for you to be friends with.
Do you like movies? If you like movies, sometimes watching movies can be a way to spend time for people without talking to them. Most people think that you are not supposed to talk during movies. I wonder if it might help to say “Can we interact like we were watching a movie? Like, with us both paying attention but not talking?” I haven’t tried that, but I think I have friends it would work for as a way of explaining.
If you’re at school or something and people keep talking to you, it can sometimes help to say something like “I need quiet to focus” or “I need to work on this”, or “I’m sorry, but I have a deadline coming and I can’t talk right now.” It can also sometimes help to work in a place like the library where talking is discouraged.
It can sometimes help to wear headphones, even if you are not listening to music. It can make things quieter and it is also often taken as an acceptable signal for “I don’t want to talk to anyone right now now.” It doesn’t work all the time, but it does work sometimes.
I don’t know if any of that was answering the right question. I feel like I probably missed something important. You sound trapped in a way that’s not your fault, and I wish people would leave you alone. I wish I knew better answers.
Do any of y’all have answers to this? What do you do when everything is full of words and it hurts? How do you find people who won’t words at you all the time, or who will stop wordsing when it hurts?

ltle said:

It sucks that it’s considered rude to tell people to stop talking, and also considered rude to put your hands over your ears as a protective defense. Seems like at least one of those things ought to be ok.

It’s difficult to teach people to stop making sound words at you, because most people will only realise that’s what you need when you give them verbal instructions. For me, the times when I suffer the most from sound words is also the time when I can’t express things verbally, or even concentrate on anything at all, because too much of my energy is taken up with the pain of sound.

I’ve been meaning to make little cards or notes that have these messages/instructions on them, to help me tell people these things. I think if I teach myself to use pre-written notes like that… that might be a partial solution. Maybe that sort of thing would help you too?

realsocialskills said:

Has that strategy worked for anyone else?

Listening to people who have disability accents





People with certain disabilities often have heavy disability accents. Their speech can sound very different from the way most nondisabled people speak.

People with disabilities that affect communication are often pushed into separate programs, particularly in adulthood. Even when they are in the same classes in the same schools, there isn’t much of an expectation that any peers listen to them. This was even more true a generation ago. As a result, most people without disabilities are lousy at understanding people with disability accents, and don’t understand that this is a glaring hole in their social skills.

Many unskilled people tend to maybe ask people with disability accents to repeat themselves once, and then they get frustrated and start ignoring them. Sometimes they pretend to understand, and smile and nod rather than actually listening. Sometimes they hang up on them. Sometimes they pass them off to another person, who also doesn’t bother to actually listen. Sometimes they hang up. If they are medical workers, sometimes they write on a chart that someone is impossible to understand or has no communication (particularly if that person also has an intellectual disability.)

Do not be this person. If you can’t understand someone with a disability accent, the problem is your skills, not their voice. (If you have a receptive language disability that prevents you from learning to understand accents, then it’s no one’s fault and you need an interpreter to communicate. Neither their voice nor your brain is wrong. In that situation, the skill you need to develop is finding an interpreter).

If you listen, and make it clear that you are listening, you will learn to understand, and you will be able to communicate successfully with more people. 

An important phrase for this is “I’m having trouble understanding what you’re saying, but I care what you are saying.”

Make sure it’s true, and keep listening. The more you listen, the easier it will be to understand. Understanding . And practice. You get better with practice.

Too many people are ignored because others can’t be bothered to understand their accents. You can make this better by listening (and by insisting that people you supervise listen.)

mzminola said:

I’d like to add that “finding an interpreter” is not necessarily the only option, or even always most effective option, assuming “an interpreter” = “another human”.

If speaker and listener both have reading & writing skills in the same language (or even if just the speaker can write and the listener can read) then the two can communicate in writing, and not have to involve a third person.

If at least one has an Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) device, then that could sometimes be used too.

I work in retail and have auditory processing difficulties. With customers and coworkers who share my dialect of English, I still find myself asking for repetition, or re-wording. Recently, I had to ask a customer who needed an item placed on hold to repeat herself about five times, as our interaction was over the phone, and there was too much background noise on both our ends.

When I get customers who do not share my dialect of English (speaking a dialect from a distant part of United States, or who have English as their second language) the amount of repetition/re-wording needed increases. If there is no assistance available to the two of us, I will lead the customer to the part of the store I think contains what they’re searching for. If I have misunderstood them, they tell me, and we try to find more descriptions and alternative phrasing, until either we do find what they need, or rope in more coworkers, or traverse the whole store and find that we don’t carry what they seek.

In the case of English-as-second-language customers, many do bring their own interpreter, often a relative, and between the three of us, a similar process as the above goes down, but much faster.

Highly effective are the customers who bring a smart phone, tablet, or other AAC device; computer-translated vocabulary isn’t always as exact or nuanced as needed, but it eliminates auditory processing issues from the equation, and the customer is also able to show me pictures.

Customers who share my dialect and have no noticeable disability accent also benefit from bringing AAC devices with them shopping, because if they can access the store’s website and find the product code, we can search our inventory, something we’re not able to do with just a description/name. Or they show me pictures of what they want, and while we might not have the same product, I can find them something similar. Corporate encourages use of such tech, offering coupons/sales/discounts through multiple platforms.

Summary of my thoughts: human interpreters are one of many  communication options, alongside writing, computers, etc. Which will be the most effective or practical varies contextually.

realsocialskills said:

Thank you for the important points you’ve added.

cicero-of-cyrodiil said:

You can have a receptive language difficulty?

realsocialskills said:

Yes, absolutely. It’s a cognitive issue that’s fairly common in autistic people. There are also auditory processing problems that can interfere with understanding speech (which are cognitive, not a problem with the ears). They are not the same thing, but have significant overlap (and a lot of people have both).

That’s one reason that some people need symbol support to be able to use AAC, and a reason that some people who are not deaf need captions to be able to understand TV. (And any number of other things).

Autism language politics and history



Some people emphatically prefer to be called people with autism. Others get very offended. Some people emphatically prefer to be called autistic people. Others get very offended. There are reasons for all of that.

They have to do with the history of the intellectual and developmental disability community, the autism parent community, and the specific autistic self advocacy community.

For intellectual and developmental disability:

  • Most self advocates have a very strong preference for person-first language
  • Person-first language in this concept means “I am a PERSON, and I am not going to allow you to treat me as a disability case study, nor am I going to tolerate your diagnostic overshadowing.”

Autism is a developmental disability. There is a highly visible and destructive community of parents who consider themselves to be afflicted with their child’s autism. There is an autistic self advocacy community that developed in part specifically due to the need to counteract the harm being done by autism parents. The language someone prefers will often depend on which of these facts seems most important at a given time.

Regarding developmental disability.

  • Folks who are primarily involved in the IDD self advocacy community usually prefer to be called people with autism
  • This is for the same reasons people with any sort of developmental disability usually prefer person first language
  • In that context, “person with autism” means “I am a PERSON, and you are not going to treat me like an autistic specimen.”

Regarding the destructive autism parent community:

  • This parent community pushes the agenda of parents who believe that their child’s autism is a horrible tragedy that befell their parents and family
  • They call themselves the autism community, but they consistently refuse to include or listen to autistic self advocates (especially adult self advocates). They only care about neurotypical parent perspectives (and only from parents who think autism is horrifying)
  • They promote things like intense behavioral therapy for young children, institutionalization, group homes, sheltered workshops and genetic research aimed at developing prenatal testing. They do not listen to autistic self advocates who object to these things.
  • They don’t care about the priorities of autistic self advocates. They do not do any work on issues such as self-directed adult services, enforcing the Olmstead mandate to provide services in the community rather than institutions, or research into skills for listening to people whose communication is atypical
  • These parents have an emphatic preference for person first language. They say “people with autism.”
  • What they mean by this is “Autism is NOT a part of who my child is, it’s an evil brain slug attached to their head, and I want to remove it at all costs.”

There is also an autistic self advocacy community. It developed in significant part to counteract the harm done by the autism parent community:

  • A lot of the agenda of the autistic self advocacy community is the same as the IDD community and pursued in cooperation with the IDD community
  • But there is also a lot of work that’s specifically about countering the harm that has been done by the autism parent community
  • Much of the worst harm done by the parent community comes from the cultural consensus that autism is like an evil brain slug, and that any amount of brutality is a good thing if it might mean that the slug shrinks or dies
  • For this reason, participants in the autistic self advocacy community generally have a very strong objection to person first language
  • They call themselves autistic or Autistic.
  • In this context, “autistic person” means “Autism is part of who I am. I’m ok. Stop trying to get me to hate myself. You do not need to remove autism to make me into a full person. We are already people. Stop physically and emotionally mutilating people in the name of treatment.”

Neither set of self advocates are wrong. Both positions are legitimate and important to be aware of. In order to know what someone means by their language choices, you have to consider the context. 

youneedacat said:

And there’s also an autistic self-advocacy community that is separate from the DD community and also separate from what most people call “the autistic self-advocacy community”.  That self-advocacy community is heavily affiliated with a parent community that also prefers person-first language.  In many cases, people in that community prefer “person with autism” both because of the history of their community, but also because for them being called “autistic” has always meant “you are nothing but your autism and you are nothing but a walking collection of symptoms”.  Which is a much more common experience for people in that community, because they tend to be people who were considered low-functioning for their entire lives.  AutCom — as originally constituted, not as recently-blended — is a good example of such a community, so are any communities that are largely made up of FC users.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, that too. Thank you for pointing that out, it’s really important and I should have included it.

On the right to communicate

all-women-kick-ass asked realsocialskills:
is the word “stupid” ableist? I keep trying to explain to people that it’s a really important word for a really important concept but I can’t seem to put into words WHAT exactly that concept is.

realsocialskills said: 

 I don’t think “stupid” is an ableist word, and I’ve also been struggling to explain why. At some point I’ll write about that in more detail. I have not yet been able to do so, so this is not that post. But I want to address something else that I see in your question. I think that, to an extent, what you are asking is more along the lines of:

  • Everyone is telling me a word I use is a bad word
  • I have something to say that I think is important
  • I can’t say it without using that word
  • And I can’t explain why that word is important
  • And people are upset with me
  • Is it ok for me to keep using the word anyway, or should I shut up about the thing until I can explain why I need that word?

And my answer here is:  

 I think that it is almost never a good idea to give up using a word that you feel like you need. I think you should probably keep using that word, unless you are able to find an alternative that still allows you to communicate the concept that is important to you. 

 Sometimes when people feel overly attached to a bad word because they are attached to expressing the bigotry associated with that word. If you’re worried that might be the case with you, work on addressing that. If that’s the problem, becoming less bigoted will probably make you less inclined to use the word anyway. If you stay bigoted, changing the word you use is unlikely to help. 

 You can’t avoid this issue by just saying that you don’t mean it that way. It has to actually be true. And, if you’re using a word that a lot of people object to, it’s worth considering whether you’re actually saying something worse than you think you’re saying. 

 That said, sometimes bigotry or hatred has nothing to do with why you feel like you need a word other people want you to stop saying. Sometimes you feel like you need the word *because you actually do*. Take that possibility seriously; don’t let people pressure you out of communicating.  And, as you consider these things, keep in mind the difference between basic morality and personal piety.

 There may be worthwhile attempts to move away from certain words that you are not in a position to participate in, because you might not be able to give up those words without damaging your communication. I think that people should use whatever words they need to use in order be able to communicate. 

Words matter. But communication matters more. Don’t give up words you depend on to communicate clearly lightly.


Social skills for autonomous people: Noticing power


How do you know if you have power over someone? There are times when it’s obvious, of course, like if you’re someone’s employer or teacher or caretaker. But if you don’t have any power over them in any official capacity, you can still have…

vinylharem said:

I have found that not having a particularly noticeable regional accent and being relatively comfortable with using Fancy Words means that people unsettlingly often treat my opinions as having more weight. I’ve always been poor and have hilariously low self-esteem so I just don’t think of myself as having that sort of credibility, but it has very little to do with me as a person. I sound “posh” relative to a lot of people, and that affects how the things I say are read, whether it’s “knows what she’s talking about” or “snotty cow”.

realsocialskills said:

That’s true. Using words that way creates a certain kind of power.

And even when people are thinking “snotty cow” or somesuch insulting thing about you, they can sometimes *at the same time* think that your words have more weight and feel bad about themselves.

Resentment, contempt, and feeling inferior can go together.


Social skills for autonomous people: Rhetorical might doesn’t make right


Not knowing how to articulate something doesn’t mean you are wrong.

Being elequoent doesn’t mean you are right.

Making someone look stupid doesn’t mean you are right.

Words are tools. They aren’t everything. They aren’t all of knowledge either.

So if someone tells you something that sounds…

cryptix23 said:

Also please don’t assume or assert that just because someone is an English major (or otherwise involved in Communications-related degrees or fields) that they’re supposed to be good at verbalizing. Being able to write an articulate paper/post/speech/argument/etc in anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks does not mean that I can do that on-the-spot, out loud, without access to reference materials.

Rhetorical might doesn't make right

Not knowing how to articulate something doesn’t mean you are wrong.

Being elequoent doesn’t mean you are right.

Making someone look stupid doesn’t mean you are right.

Words are tools. They aren’t everything. They aren’t all of knowledge either.

So if someone tells you something that sounds plausible, and they’ve articulated it well, you still might know they are wrong even if you have no words for it.

They might try to intimidate you into agreeing by insisting that if you can’t give a clear explicit answer, then you must just be too irrational to accept a valid argument. But, it doesn’t work that way. Knowing something is not the same as knowing how to use words to describe that thing.

Words are very useful tools for communication. But being good at words just means being good at words. Don’t conflate it with being right, being insightful, or being exceptionally rational. Those are separate issues.

Something about words



Sometimes when you think you don’t understand something, it’s because people are using long intellectual words to make you think they are saying more than they are.

This is particularly common in academic writing, and in ideological writing that makes use of academic conventions.

skiesofpluto said:

Sometimes people don’t realize they’re using obscure language and terms because they’re so used to using them, also. When you’re in academia you spend a lot of time associating with other people who also know those field-specific words, and you may use them automatically without remembering that most people don’t understand them.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, sometimes people are just using technical terms and assuming a certain degree of background knowledge. And there are contexts in which there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about when people *aren’t* actually doing that, but rather using words in a way that makes it *sound* like they are doing that.

When the words aren’t supporting the argument, but saying “you’re stupid if you don’t understand this,” as a way to avoid actually making the argument rigorously. 

Both are real things.

Some things about speech

Sometimes people have speech at some times, but not others.

Sometimes people have very fluid fluent speech sometimes, and choppy forced slow speech at other times.

Sometimes when people can’t speak, or have trouble speaking, it’s because something is wrong. Sometimes it’s because they’re stressed, or overloaded, or forgot how because they’re frozen and need help getting unfrozen. Or because they’ve pushed themselves too far and are just too exhausted to function.

But losing speech, or losing fluent speech, is not always like that. Being in a mode where speech is difficult or impossible is not always a sign that something is going wrong. For some people, that’s just a mode they can be in, sometimes.

It can mean they are prioritizing different things, putting more resources into thinking rather than speaking. It can mean they are in a more sensory mode rather than a WORDS WORDS WORDS mode. It can mean they’re interacting, and that it’s about presence and not conversation. Or any number of other things.

To make a somewhat flawed analogy: People don’t usually speak during movies. When people aren’t speaking during movies, it’s not because something is wrong. It’s because they’re doing a different thing.

It’s important to know that both of these things exist. That sometimes lack of speech or difficult speech means something is wrong, but sometimes it means something is right.