Autistic people don't all want boring jobs

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of variations on a story that goes “Autistic people love detail, and it makes them naturally well suited for repetitive jobs that most people find intolerably boring.”

This is usually said with great fanfare, and described as a step away from stigma and towards celebration.

But — autistic people don’t all have a convenient love of tedious tasks. Some of us find them as boring as everyone else does.

This model of “autistic strengths” celebrates us doing jobs everyone else hates. It has no room for us to pursue jobs that others want. We’re supposed to stay in a special place for special people, doing the boring tasks the ideology says we love — and making no trouble for the normal people who do the interesting jobs.

This isn’t ok, and it isn’t acceptance. Some of us like things that others don’t, but none of us should be forced into a box. Autistic people have the full range of interests, talents, and skills that anyone else does. We shouldn’t be tracked into jobs based on stereotypes. We have the right to decide for ourselves what to pursue.

teenage job hunting while autistic



Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

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?

mysticalmoonstone: said:

Here’s some advice for food service and autism from one who is in the field:

Try to get a job mostly doing prep. You will get to work quietly on your tasks, and not have to interact so much. That’s why prep is my favorite part of the day.

Try to start out in a small place, preferable without a drive thru. High volume large restaurants can be very overwhelming, stressful, and overstimulating at times. I work in one like that, and I work the drive thru line, but I have had prior experience and lots of practice working at smaller places before.

Dish washing can be great because it give you a break from your tasks, and for me the water is soothing.

The hardest part for me is dealing with all the stress from others going on around me, but i work with a lot of really nice and understanding people so that helps.

It can be kinda hard at times, and overwhelming, but the fast pace helps the days go fast, plus i can really hyper focus and whip out perfect sandwiches in like 30 seconds of less. 

I really enjoy kitchen work, and tbh it’s easier for me than doing retail because I don’t have to pretend to be normal for customers.

Thank you for answering my question about telling if someone is annoyed at you or not.
I finally had a chance to talk with a co-worker about my problem person, and she said that this person is having a lot of personal problems, and it’s not me.
During a weekly checkin with my boss (because I’m new), I told her about some strange incidents w this employee, and she said the same thing. I’m glad I didn’t cause any drama by confronting anyone in the heat of the moment.
realsocialskills said:
Thank you for the update. I’m really glad you were able to figure things out.

interpreting workplace standoffishness

Anonymous said to :

Question about a common problem @ work: Sometimes “normal” (not really) people are distant, unfriendly, or even rude because they’re busy or not interested in being friendly. Sometimes they’re like that b/c they have a problem with you and they’re being cooly polite to cover it up.

As an autistic person, how can I tell the difference between a person who is unfriendly but has no ill intentions; versus a person who is unfriendly because there’s a problem?

This has caused me big problems at work.

realsocialskills said:

You can’t always tell, but there are a couple of approaches that work some of the time:

One way is to watch how they are with other people. Are they also cool and abrupt with others, or is it mostly directed just at you? If it’s mostly directed at you, they are probably annoyed with you specifically.

Another way is to ask other people who you work with. Are there people at work who you know like you, and who you get along well with? If so, you might be able to ask them, and they might know what’s going on. Eg:

  • “I feel like I’m offending Bob a lot. Do you think I am, or am I misreading something?”

Another possibility is asking the person. This can backfire and isn’t always a good idea, but sometimes talking to someone directly can go a long way towards solving the problem. Eg:

  • You: I feel like I’m annoying you a lot. Is there something you’d like me to do differently?
  • Them: It’s really annoying when people chat at me while I’m trying to concentrate. Could you keep it to work related things when it’s not lunch time?

Also, there’s a blog called Ask a Manager that you might want to read. It has a lot of really good posts on workplace culture and how to manage conflicts with coworkers.

Anyone else want to weigh in? How do you tell the difference between people who are just generally distant, vs people who have a problem with you in particular?





Anyone have tips on cashiering while autistic/nvld? 

I got a job in a grocery store, and those seem to overstimulate me really fast. Hopefully it won’t be too bad because with cashiering I only have to do the same thing over and over, rather than trying to maneuver around people. (uggh but the lights and the intercom and the noise and the people and the long shifts)

so far I have:

1. Stim specifically when I get home/ do a lot of “active relaxation” things like guided meditations and yoga rather than tv or internet

2. I have a nice pocket figit toy that makes waiting on line in food places almost bearable- so bring that

3. Try to keep my blood sugar steady

4. when I feel myself start to get overwhelmed do some breathing 

andreashettle said

In addition to doing stims and “active relaxation” after you’re done or arrive home, could you also do these things (or similar things) before you start? So that way at least you’re not adding stress on top of more stress from whatever you were doing before starting to cashier stuff.

Is there a way you can occasionally go to a quiet spot somewhere for a couple of minutes in the middle to do stimming or active relaxation as an occasional break during?

I’m not autistic so I cannot draw upon my own experience here (my ADD does sometimes get me overwhelmed in certain overstimulating situations like trying to shop for clothes, but I think not to the same degree as overloading for an autistic person), but extrapolating from what you do already …

realsocialskills said:

Do any of y’all have suggestions?

kinthulou said:

I cashier! And do customer service. And I’m pretty sure I’m autistic. 

Cashiering is my least favorite thing but over the last year I have gotten really good at it. I’m lucky that my store isn’t super big or loud all of the time, but sometimes it is and here is how I cope. Maybe some of it will be useful for you, too, asexual-aragorn?

1. Purposeful stimming while working. There’s music in my store which is really nice and good for dancing to, and I’ve found that swaying and rocking and repetitive arm movements, all components of dancing in one spot, are super helpful and don’t bother anybody. My boss thinks I dance because I’m cheerful, but really I do it because it’s helpful. Some of it I can even do *while* ringing up customers!

I also have a ring on a string around my neck that I fidget with when I am super stressed. Similarly, I will fidget with my ace pride ring. 

I basically stim in one way or another constantly and it’s the most helpful thing.

2. Scripts. So many scripts. Ninety percent of everything I say to customers is scripted. I have a script for when they come into the store, arrive at my register, answering the phone, explaining the rewards cards, and separate scripts for each way that a person could pay. I have scripts for when it’s too loud and I can’t hear the customer talking to me, and for when a customer has a heavy accent that I can’t make out. There are scripts for telling customers where things are and for telling them I don’t have an answer for their question and need to get the manager. I practice them. I write them down if need be and read them over and over. I’m terrible at multitasking but I know my scripts so well that I can rattle them off while doing other things. I can say any of these scripts when I’m incapable of saying anything else. I probably say them in my sleep. 

3. On days when the lights are too much for me, I wear my hat. See if your store has a uniform hat and get one. It’s invaluable for shading eyes against the lights. 

4. If you’re having a day where you can’t do eye contact, don’t do eye contact. Smile, be cheerful and helpful and polite, but just keep your head down and ring. I’ve been doing this a year now and no one has noticed that I often don’t look at their faces. 

5. If you ever get overstimulated and it’s making it difficult for you to answer a customer’s question or something, call your manager for help. even if it’s something you can usually handle on your own. You don’t even have to be out to your supervisors as autistic, just tell them that you’re having an off day and got confused. The important thing is that the customer stays happy, not that you can do all the things all the time.

6. If there are things other than just ringing up purchases that your job requires (like mine does), make lists. Break the lists down into manageable chunks and keep them where you can see them. Even if I don’t need the list to help me remember things, just having it there is a little grounding, because I know that if I get overwhelmed I still have it there to tell me what to do.

7. Going to second breathing exercises and keeping your blood sugar steady. Those will be fantastic for you. 

8. I don’t know if this is a common thing or not, but I always function significantly better in spaces that I have taught myself to think of as “safe spaces.” It took a couple of months, but I turned the space behind all the counters at the registers into safe spaces and now I feel better just being there where I am supposed to be.

9. If you have a locker at work to keep your things in while on duty, it’s a good idea to get stuff to put in it that will help you calm down and get centered again on your breaks. I keep a book in mine to read and most recently added the softest microplush throw blanket I have ever found, so when I’m frazzled I can wrap up in it for a few minutes. It really helps. 

10. Establish routines. A beginning of shift routine and an end of shift routine are super important. I always start and end my shifts with the same little actions of setting up and then tidying up my work station. That gets me into “work mode” and mentally prepares me for whatever the work day might throw at me. 

11. Remember that it is okay not to make small talk if you are not up to it. Most customers don’t care if all you do is make noncommittal noises and smile while they talk.

12. Remember the regulars. You don’t need names or anything complicated. Just remembering whether or not they have (or don’t want) a store rewards card or whatever will make them like you a lot and also make your life a lot easier. I’ve found that my regulars are now the highlight of my day, and I can banter with them and when they don’t see me for a while they ask about me and seeing them generally helps me out a lot. This is a thing that happens over time, though, so no pressure to get it all down immediately.

13. Be nice to your coworkers. Befriend them if possible. (Note: befriending doesn’t mean, like, actual friends. Just work friends. You don’t have to see them outside of work or anything.) Help them if you’re having a good day and they’re stuck on something you know how to handle. They will have your back when you get overwhelmed. I had a near-meltdown at the beginning of one of my shifts and everyone on the team helped me out that day so that I could get through. We’re at the point now where any time they see I’m struggling with my job, someone steps up to help. None of them know I’m autistic. They do it because they like me.

The repetition will be helpful and I think as long as you take care of yourself, you’ll find over time it’s not as overwhelming as you thought it would be. I know I am the most impaired—socially and by sensory overload and physical disability—at my store but I am the favorite of most of the customers and also most of my coworkers. I surprised myself a lot by really liking my job despite cashiering remaining my least favorite thing.

Okay that got really long but I’ve been thinking about this a *lot* and i hope at least some of it is super helpful. 

And if you want help coming up with scripts, shoot me a message! I’m really good at those! I will help!

more on facebook



Friending people on Facebook


In a work or college class setting, after how many days/convos is it considered socially acceptable to ask for someone’s Facebook?
realsocailskills said:
I think that in most situations, you shouldn’t be asking someone for…

cocksucking-accent said:

Re privacy: you could also have two Facebooks! For example: I’m trans and autistic, but stealth about both at work. (Openly queer, though.)

I have my old FB all set to private, with a nickname as my name and a drawing as my photo. Once you friend me on that, you have access to pre-transition photos of me and pretty political stuff, but I post rarely.

My work FB (since my industry is all short-term jobs gotten through word of mouth, so networking is Important) has my full name, just a couple of photos and some info, and I make most posts public. I post often because networking, but the public-ness of it makes me think twice about everything I post. Really, there’s no difference between “public” and not for me because I will friend back anyone from work. Kinda like LinkedIn. So my posts are less involved than my personal ones - for example, I’ve posted a couple of trans news articles but without any comments that would out me as anything other than a ~trans activist~. It IS professionally important for me to work with people who at the very least aren’t openly bigoted, so I’m okay being public with some of my “social consciousness.”

wisdomengine said:

A word of warning: having two Facebook accounts is a violation of their ToS. Same with LinkedIn, btw. This means if somebody who wants to do you dirt finds out you have two, they can get you in trouble, and get one of your accounts shut down — or maybe get you banned from the service for good. Not saying you shouldn’t do it — I do it in LinkedIn — but it’s not no big thing, and you should know the risk you’re running.

I think this is a serious social justice problem with both FB and LinkedIn, for exactly the sort of use case you describe: people have legit reasons of self-protection that they might want to have two accounts. Identities in transition are one such; separating the personal and the professional is another; having the old one your stalker knows about and a completely different one you actually use is another. Services that force consolidation of identity under a real name are doing evil in the world, largely to already marginalized people.

It also impacts artists, or anybody managing multiple careers. I’m someone with more than one career, so having more than one LinkedIn makes sense; trying to have all the info from both careers just makes me look like a light-weight, and halves the number of skills I can list for each. This is a common problem for, e.g. performing artists who have “day jobs”. They might reasonably want to have a LinkedIn resume detailing their acting/directing/stage managing/set design/pit orchestra/etc work history, but they don’t want all that in there if they’re trying to land a tech support job to pay the bills.

I’ve already complained directly to LinkedIn about this. (FB I consider a moral lost cause.) If this bugs you too, please consider complaining to the relevant parties.

And be careful if you do have multiple accounts.

eppieblack answered to your post “Friending people on Facebook”

If you know them well enough to find them, but they aren’t your boss, then it’s ok.

realsocialskills said:

I agree that it’s ok, in the sense that you’re not wronging coworkers by sending them a friend request.

It’s just that it may not be advisable. It’s worth thinking about whether you really want to know the things you’ll find out by seeing their feed, and if you really want them seeing yours.

There’s no right or wrong answer to that. It’s ok to friend coworkers, and it’s ok to keep more distance. Both approaches have merits.

It’s also important to understand that a lot of people don’t friend coworkers. If a coworker doesn’t friend you back, there’s a good chance that it’s not personal, and it’s important not to take it as a personal insult. 

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

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

This is very annoying.

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

Do not do this annoying thing.

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

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

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



i recently got a job and my boss is ableist. a group of people with disabilities came in and i was talking to one of the women about the movie we had on and my boss pulled me to the side and told me i “cant do that” because “their minds dont work as fast” and told me i have to treat them like i would children. what do i do??? (if possible please respond quickly, the same group frequents the shop and i really dont know how to handle this situation at all)
realsocialskills said:
I never know a good way to respond to bosses who act this way.
The least bad approach I’ve been able to think of is listening to them say ableist things, then ignoring their advice and treating the customers with disabilities like people when they’re not looking.
Depending on the work hierarchy, it might be possible to complain to their boss. That works in some situations but not others.
There’s probably a better approach though. Have any of y’all found a good way to handle this?

freakingdork said:

you could maybe try something like “even if they don’t understand what i’m saying, it seems to make them happy when i treat them like i would any other customer. i just want to make all my customers happy.”

if you have experience with people who have similar disabilities (or are disabled yourself*), you could possibly try “i know from my experience with [insert person here], it’s actually better to treat them like [description of better treatment based on your job].” please don’t do this if you are able-bodied/don’t know someone with a similar disability.

(((*i think, and feel free to correct me if i’m wrong, if you are disabled yourself, it is okay to lie and say that it’s a cousin or someone else if you feel like telling them it’s you will get you in trouble or otherwise be harmful to yourself; i’m basing this on the fact that i often lie about “having a gay friend who…” when really i mean myself because it is not safe for me to be out at work.)))

another thought i had was…are they coming in with an aide? it might be possible - if they have a good aide who actually understands the people they work with (i know this is not always the case) - that you might be able to get them to side with you???

this is much more difficult, not just bc they might have a bad aide, but because of hipaa laws (in the usa); the aide can’t disclose what might be considered medical information. also, you don’t want to talk about the disabled people like they aren’t there. unfortunately, this is more difficult for me to come up with an example of something to say, so perhaps someone else can come up with something here.

i recently got a job and my boss is ableist. a group of people with disabilities came in and i was talking to one of the women about the movie we had on and my boss pulled me to the side and told me i “cant do that” because “their minds dont work as fast” and told me i have to treat them like i would children. what do i do??? (if possible please respond quickly, the same group frequents the shop and i really dont know how to handle this situation at all)
realsocialskills said:
I never know a good way to respond to bosses who act this way.
The least bad approach I’ve been able to think of is listening to them say ableist things, then ignoring their advice and treating the customers with disabilities like people when they’re not looking.
Depending on the work hierarchy, it might be possible to complain to their boss. That works in some situations but not others.
There’s probably a better approach though. Have any of y'all found a good way to handle this?

Shutting up won't get you heard



Tone is important. When you say things the right way, it can increase the number of people who are willing to listen to you. 

But that only goes so far. No matter how good you are at framing things, some things that need to be said will upset people who feel entitled to be comfortable. And, when you upset people who feel entitled to comfort, they will lash out at you. This is not your fault; it is theirs. Tone has its limits.

Also, getting tone right is really hard. No one starts out good at tone; it’s a very difficult skill that you can only learn with practice. And the only way to get practice is to spend a lot of time talking to people about controversial things. Which means that, in order to get good at tone, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time talking about these things while you’re still bad at tone. 

People who mean well and genuinely want you to be heard understand this, and will encourage you to keep speaking up and keep working on your skills at speaking up effectively. People who want you to shut up about the things you’re talking about will try to make you feel horrible about your tone and convince you that your tone means you have no right to say anything.

Sometimes, when people say that you should be more careful about tone so that you can be heard, what they really mean is “I don’t want to hear that, shut up and say something else I’m willing to listen to”.

Don’t believe those people, and don’t shut up. The most important thing is to keep talking. If you are bad at tone, some people will refuse to hear you. If you are good at tone, some people will still refuse to hear you. If you say nothing for fear of getting the tone wrong, no one will hear you.

Shutting up won’t get you heard. Speaking up might.

fuzzyfault said:

I am very bad at tone.  I nearly lost my job because of not using the appropriate tone with both staff and students.  I am sure some people don’t like me - and I think this is a major cause of my social anxiety - because of the tone I use for even non-controversial things.  But I have a lot of feelings about controversial things that I avoid communicating because I know the tone I tend to use will upset people/make them feel uncomfortable.  So, this is a really important skill that I need to learn, else start wearing a badge that says ‘the tone I use probably won’t be appropriate but please forgive it and listen to me anyway’.

realsocialskills said:

If you’re having trouble with tone in professional contexts, I’d suggest reading through the Ask A Manager blog. She has a lot of really helpful posts on how to communicate in professional settings, including how to give and receive effective feedback.

clueless creepiness vs skillful creepiness

There are two kinds of problems that get conflated a lot but aren’t actually that similar:

  • People who do creepy things because they have trouble understanding boundaries
  • People who do creepy things because they understand boundaries well and have highly developed skills at violating them with impunity

People who are good at violating boundaries and getting away with being creepy sometimes seem socially awkward, and sometimes don’t. Sometimes they get away with it by getting people to think things like “Oh, that’s Bill. He’s just awkward like that. He doesn’t mean anything by it,” and sometimes it’s more like, “I can’t believe James would do that! He’s like the nicest guy ever, and he does so much for this community. Don’t you remember the awesome party last month?”, and sometimes it’s more like, “Steve is really sensitive right now. Did you really have to turn him down like that? Couldn’t you have given him a chance? Don’t you understand how much courage it takes to approach a girl? What harm could giving him your number have done?”. 

People who are inadvertently creepy *care* when they’ve violated boundaries, and try to fix it. Saying, “oh, they’re just awkward” isn’t doing them any favors, because people who are inadvertently creepy don’t *want* to trample all over other people’s boundaries. They want to know, so that they can stop doing it. This doesn’t mean it’s the job of victims of their creepy actions to explain it to them – it isn’t, particularly since most creepy people are doing it on purpose, and calling skillfully creepy people on things tends to go badly. I am mentioning this because skillfully creepy people often convince others that being “just awkward” means that everyone else is obligated to refrain from objecting to their creepy actions.

Skillfully creepy people who boundaries boundaries on purpose come up with excuses about why it was ok, and try to make you feel horrible for objecting. (Eg: “I was just being friendly! Learn to take a compliment!”, or “I know that if you were in your right mind, you wouldn’t have said that you didn’t want to spend time with me. I forgive you. We can still spend time together.”, or “Wow. Harsh. I guess girls really don’t go for nice guys. Have fun dating assholes.” or just getting a lot of people to laugh at you, or any number of other things.)

As a culture, we shouldn’t tolerate creepy behavior from anyone. Part of not tolerating it means assessing when people are being cluelessly creepy, and when people are being skillfully creepy. 

If you are a supervisor/teacher/community leader, or otherwise someone responsible for intervening and keeping things safe, it’s important to respond appropriately. Communities need to help cluelessly creepy people understand how to act, and to expel skillfully creepy people so that they can’t keep preventing the people they hurt from being part of the community. 

on figuring out what's wrong

I don’t know what exactly is wrong with me (as a child, i was forbidden to even mention mental health or autism, and now it’s prolly too late to bother). But I find a lot of useful and relatable in this blog (that was thanks). Thing is, I end up just cutting all connections with society (aside from parents). Not leaving my home, being happy only in solitude. But I still need to provide for myself, so I do some coding. Except often I just can’t force myself to work for unknown reason. Any advice?
realsocialskills said:
First of all, it’s not too late to bother. Understanding yourself better is always helpful. It’s a lot easier to manage unusual things about yourself if you have the right words to describe them. Among other things, having the right words allows you to connect with others like you and learn about things that work for them.
Also, some mental health or neurological issues are treatable, even in adulthood. (For instance, many adults with depression, ADHD or OCD find that medication improves their lives).
Most of us spend most of our lives as adults. This stuff doesn’t go away when we grow up, and it doesn’t stop mattering, either. So - it’s not too late, and if you think that you have a mental health or neurological condition, it is worth taking that seriously, whether or not you pursue formal diagnosis or medical treatment.
I can’t tell you why you’re having trouble working. There could be any number of reasons. Some include:
Do you like your work?
  • If your work requires a lot of intense focus, and you find it intensely dull, it’s likely to be hard to make yourself do it, particularly if no one else is around
  • If you’re so bored with your work that you regularly can’t force yourself to do it, it’s probably time to start trying to find different work
  • Which might still be coding if that’s your skillset - not all programming projects are the same
  • There’s only so long you can work against yourself by brute force

Is being alone all the time bad for your work?

  • Some people need to work with or alongside other people in order to get stuff done consistently
  • Not everyone is like this, but some people are, even many people who enjoy solitude
  • If that’s part of your problem, it might be important to work on ways to have company that you can stand
  • This could be virtual, like one person you’re on IM with while you code
  • Or physical, like working out of an office or hackerspace
  • It doesn’t necessarily need to be intensely social
  • This might not be a problem you have, but it is a problem some people have

Are you depressed?

  • If being unable to force yourself to code is a new problem, it’s possible that you’re depressed
  • Particularly if you’re also *generally* disinterested in most things you used to like
  • For some people, depression is a treatable medical problem
  • If that sounds likely to be part of your problem, and if you can go to a doctor safely, it might be worth bringing up the possibility that you’re depressed

Do you need better cognitive cues for work?

  • For some people who work alone from home, it can be really hard to *tell* when you should be working
  • I have this problem and I don’t have a great solution to it, so I’m not sure how much I can suggest
  • For some people, making a schedule helps
  • For some people, always working early in the day helps
  • For some people, using LeechBlock makes it easier to focus
  • Some people find that HabitRPG helps them to keep track of tasks and stay motivated

Are you ok physically?

  • It’s hard to work when you feel horrible physically
  • And a lot of neurodivergent people have trouble telling when something is wrong physically
  • Do you eat enough? Do you get your nutritional needs met? Going without sufficient protein or iron can quickly make everything difficult.
  • Do you remember to drink liquids?
  • Are you in pain?
  • Is your working environment comfortable? (eg: are the lights bothering you? is your chair painful to sit in? is your keyboard at a comfortable or uncomfortable height?)

Getting supervisors to explain things

Do you have any suggestions for how to ask supervisors and employers to explain something to you in a way that they’ll understand you actually want to know? Ex: I had an issue at work with a girl using her sister’s employee discount at my register, and I didn’t know they were sisters? They could have been married for all I knew and my manager came over to talk to me about it and when I asked how to find out if a person is allowed to use the discount, she basically just said it was obvious.
realsocialskills said:
Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything that works particularly reliably.
One thing I’ve found is that a lot of people really do have trouble understanding that other people don’t know things they know.
Sometimes, if you are really explicit about the fact that you care but don’t quite understand, they eventually get it.
For instance:
  • Manager: You can’t keep letting her sister use her discount card. She’s done it several times at your register.
  • Employee: How do I tell if a person is allowed to use the discount?
  • Manager: Just don’t let people use it if they’re not allowed to.
  • Employee: I definitely want to make sure I’m following the rules, but I’m actually having a lot of trouble telling who is allowed to use the cards. I thought they might have been married or something. How can I tell?

Sometimes that works. Sometimes it just makes them more annoyed. Sometimes it makes them more annoyed, and then works. Sometimes it backfires. Sometimes you have to back down and let them end the conversation by just letting them say it is obvious.

It’s not super reliable, but it’s more reliable than anything else I know of at getting supervisors to explain things.

Another possibility is to accept that the boss isn’t going to explain it to you, and to ask another employee. Sometimes, peers are willing to believe that you don’t understand something and explain it to you, even if the boss doesn’t.

Do any of y'all have strategies for this?



Does anyone know how to take notes?



I do not know how. I pretty much just write stuff down when someone lecturing or leading a meeting makes me think of a question I want to investigate further.

I think there’s other…

igotpillstheyremultiplying said:

I have only used it for lectures, but it would work for meetings too if everyone was ok with it.

I listened a couple days later and filled in and added underlining to my notes.

Relistening after a break helps me process the information and also helps me remember, something about going over the lecture again after some time.

I would also add the time to my notes for things that seemed important so that if I needed to I could listen again.

realsocialskills said:

Have any of y'all used something like this in a professional setting?

When your right to say no is entirely hypothetical



Some scary controlling people will tell you over and over how important consent is to them. They will tell you that they want to respect your boundaries, and that if anything makes you uncomfortable, they will stop. They will say this over and over, apparently sincerely.

Until you actually say no.

And then, suddenly, they create a reason that it wasn’t ok, after all, and that you’re going to do what they wanted anyway.

They will tell you that it *would* be ok to say no, and that of course they’d respect it, but you said it wrong. And that you have to understand that it hurts them when you say it that way. (And that you should make it better by doing what they wanted).

Or they will tell you that of course they don’t want to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but you said yes before. And that this means that either it’s really ok with you, or that you don’t trust them anymore. And that you have to understand that it hurts when you withdraw trust like that (and that you should make it better by doing what they wanted.)

Or that they have a headache. Or that they just can’t deal with it right now. That maybe when they feel better or aren’t tired or grumpy or had a better day it will be ok to say no. (And that meanwhile, you should fix things by doing what they wanted).

Or that by saying no, you’re accusing them of being an awful person. And that they’d never do anything to hurt you, so why are you making accusations like that? (And, implicitly, that you should fix it by doing what they wanted.)

If this kind of thing happens every time you say no, things are really wrong. 

No isn’t a theoretical construct. In mutually respectful relationships, people say no to each other often, and it’s not a big deal

aura218 said:

Totally agree with the above. Also want to add, sometimes people are more subtle, esp in work situations, or if the intimidation has gone on for a long time, like in a family. Sometimes, the message is, “You’re a really great person and we trust you totally, but only if you never fall out of line.” If you say no to someone who thinks you shouldn’t disagree with them, then you’ve disappointed them terribly and you’re a bad person and you’ll lose status.

Sometimes you’re stuck in a situation like this, and you can only defy them internally. The best thing is to get out as quickly as you can. Don’t stay in a job or a relationship where your ideas are constantly denegrated as less intelligent or less important, or you aren’t allowed to say no because someone else’s yes is the only important or rational accepted choice. 


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


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

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

They will tell you that this…

empowerevolve said:

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

realsocialskills said:

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

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

Some thoughts on working for friends

Working for friends can destroy the friendship really easily. It can work out well, but it is risky. It’s important to not just assume that it will work out fine because you like each other.

An equal friendship is a very different type of relationship than employer-employee. Having both relationships with someone is complicated.

There are three major things I know of that can happen:

The boss uses their position as an employer to pressure their friends into doing things that aren’t work-related, or aren’t within the employee’s actual duties.

  • eg: getting a friend to plan the office Christmas party and cook all the food
  • getting a friend to cover lots of shifts that other people flake on

The worker relies on the friendship to get away with things that aren’t normally acceptable from an employee.

  • eg: stealing stuff from the office
  • talking down to other workers
  • bossing around coworkers inappropriately
  • or having a much better work schedule than everyone else
  • or showing up late all the time
  • or, more generally speaking, using friendship to avoid criticism
  • including taking it personally when the boss-friend says they’re doing something wrong

If you’re working for a friend, or employing a friend, make sure you can handle the different power relationship that goes along with employment. And that you can keep track of which things are work contexts, and which things are friendship contexts.



How do you ask someone if they know of jobs you might want? I know a professor who’s very well-connected in my field, but I have no clue what to say really. How much information do I include about my education, skills, interests, type of work I want, etc.?

I don’t actually know.

I’m fairly sure that there is a socially accepted way to do this, but I don’t know what it is.

I think you’re supposed to be at least somewhat specific about the kind of work you’re looking for. And why you’re valuable for it.

I also think it depends on what your relationship to the professor is. It makes a difference if it’s someone who’s taught you, vs someone you know socially, vs someone you’ve just met a couple of times.

But I don’t really know the rules for this. I bet some of y’all do, though.

Any of y’all know things about how to ask others if they know of work in your field?

You could say:

Professor [name],

I’m [insert name here]. I was in your [insert class] in the [insert semester and year].

I’m currently looking for a [insert type of job here]. Do you know of openings for this job? If so, could you direct me to the person I need to send my resume to?


[your name]


Social skills for autonomous people: mellopetitone asked: How do you ask someone if they know of jobs you…


How do you ask someone if they know of jobs you might want? I know a professor who’s very well-connected in my field, but I have no clue what to say really. How much information do I include about my education, skills, interests, type of work I want, etc.?

I worked under a graduate student one summer as her “field research assistant”, in the course of things, the professor she was working under came out to check on the project. The grad student gave a glowing review of my work.

When I returned to the university that fall, I visited the professor during her office hours and asked straight out of she knew of any professors or grad students looking for an assistant/intern, preferably in my field of choice (marine biology; the professor taught/researched general botany). She offered to put me in touch with one of two professors who ran marine biology labs. I chose the one that most piqued my interest, and got a job in a marine ecology lab. I still kind of regret taking that job over one working in a lab that focused on sea turtle research, but that’s neither here nor there.

All that to say, schedule an appointment or go see the professor during open office hours (if they have any) and ask. Maybe be prepared to offer a few references and/or a CV if the professor asks for them?