you're ok

Aftermaths of social skills lessons

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I’m autistic, I went to a group that was supposed to help me with autism-related issues, and they gave me some social skills advice that I honestly think was terrible. And the group was pretty terrible in general.

I ended up quitting for various other reasons, but it’s still sorta bugging me ‘cause what if they’re RIGHT.

The advice went like this: It’s okay to disagree with someone, but it’s never okay to explain WHY, because that’s pushing your opinion on them and that’s wrong.

realsocialskills said:

That rule is way too oversimplified to be useful. It’s true in some circumstances, and completely wrong in others — and completely useless at helping you to understand when it is and isn’t ok to contradict people.

The truth about social skills is that all rules are approximations at best. And often, as in this case, rules taught in social skills classes are completely useless and misleading.

Learning to be good at social interactions isn’t a matter of Learning the Rules; it’s a matter of learning to develop your judgement. Approximations and rules of thumb can help with this. They can’t replace the need to think for yourself and rely on your own judgement.

Social skills classes often teach people really destructive things about themselves and about social interaction. Here’s one way that can happen:

  • They tell you that autism (or whatever else) is preventing you from understanding social situations
  • They tell you that there are rules and that everyone else knows the rules naturally
  • They give you some simplistic rules and tell you to always follow them
  • The rules might sometimes be plausible-sounding or half-truths
  • Following the simplistic rules does not actually get the results they claim it does (because life is more complicated than that)
  • This can be really confusing
  • If you express this confusion to them, or say that it isn’t working, they attribute it to your autism and tell you to try harder or trust the process or something
  • They sometimes say this in a harsh way, they sometimes say it in a gentle or encouraging way. That difference is mostly aesthetic.
  • Either way, it amounts to the same pressure to believe them unconditionally and stop thinking for yourself

I suspect that something like that is going on here. The rule itself is useless. There’s no way to use it to tell whether or not it’s a good idea to explain your reasoning to someone you disagree with.

But it sounds just-plausible-enough to fuel self doubt, because there are some situations in which it really is mean to explain things to someone. (An example that’s been circulating on Tumblr recently: It’s ok to dislike Minions. It’s not ok to hassle kids about liking Minions or try to convince them that it’s bad and they shouldn’t like it.)

It can be hard to remember that these tiny kernels of truth aren’t actually meaningful. But they’re not. Kernels of truth in a simplistic rule don’t make it useful — and they don’t make the people pushing simplistic rules right.

Also - people who are wrong aren’t always wrong about everything. They may have told you some things that were true. They may have told you some true things that you didn’t know. And they may have told you some true things that you *still* don’t know. That doesn’t mean that their overall approach was ok, and it doesn’t mean you should trust them or doubt yourself.

I think, push come to shove, you have to think for yourself and develop your own judgement about these things. And sometimes that will mean that you make social mistakes — but they will be *your* social mistakes, and you will learn from them. It’s ok for autistic people to make social mistakes. Everyone has to learn this stuff, not just us.

tl;dr Social skills groups can really undermine your ability to trust your own judgement. They give you simplistic rules that are impossible to follow, then blame you when it doesn’t work. It’s not your fault if this happened to you, and it’s not your fault if you’re having trouble recovering.

you don't have to be perfect at self care to deserve medical treatment

Disabilities and chronic conditions often require difficult and time-consuming self care.

For instance:

  • People who are paralyzed have to pay very close attention to their skin to avoid dangerous pressure sores
  • People with CF have to do a lot of breathing treatments
  • A lot of people have to keep track of a very complicated medication schedule
  • Or any number of other things

A lot of medical complications are preventable with the right self care. But no one manages perfect self care, because self care is hard, and people are human and nobody is perfect.

Making a mistake that leads to an injury that was theoretically preventable sometimes pisses off doctors. It’s also something that people sometimes feel very ashamed of. This can be a deterrent to getting medical care.

It’s not right that it’s this way. You don’t have to be perfect to deserve medical care. Sometimes you make mistakes and need treatment. That’s part of the human condition, and it doesn’t mean you’re somehow less deserving.

Nondisabled people injure themselves doing careless things all the time. People who fall off bikes in a moment of carelessness and break bones get to have medical treatment without facing that kind of hate. So do people who burn themselves cooking. Doctors are capable of understanding that people make mistakes and get hurt — and people with disabilities deserve this understanding just as much as anyone else.

Everyone who needs medical care deserves it. Including people who make mistakes. Including people with disabilities who make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect at self care to deserve treatment.

Rigorous attention to self care is important. So is medical support for needs that arise, including as the result of mistakes.

thoughts on dating while autistic

Anonymous said to :

Hi! I’m autistic, and I’ve never dated anyone, although I have been asked out before. Truthfully, I’m terrified of dating or being in a relationship, because I’m almost 18 and I’ve never even kissed anyone before, and I’m embarrassed!

I’m a pretty attractive girl and very good at hiding my autism, so people are interested in me at first, until I totally mess up flirting because of my social awkwardness.

Can you tell me what dating/relationships are like, so I know what to expect/how to act? thanks!

realsocialskills said:

I can’t answer this directly because dating and relationships are different for everyone. They aren’t about scripts; they’re about building something with another person that works for both of you. I don’t know what they will be like for you. That is something that you will figure out as you get more experience.

But I can tell you some related things:

It’s ok to be embarrassed. Figuring out dating is embarrassing for most people. That doesn’t mean that you can’t date or have relationships. It just means that you will be embarrassed sometimes.

Flirting is at least sort of embarrassing even when it’s working. Figuring out whether or not someone is interested in you is at least somewhat embarrassing for almost everyone. Flirting is a way to make the process of figuring it out more pleasant than embarrassing.

Flirting effectively is a bit like learning to play the violin — just like initial attempts to play the violin sound terrible, initial attempts to learn how to flirt tend to be acutely embarrassing. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. It just means that there’s a learning curve.

Also — it’s not unusual to be 17 and not have kissed anyone yet. Sometimes the way people talk about teenagers can make it sound like everyone is dating and having sex, but it’s not true. Some people are, and some people aren’t. Both are ok. A lot of people your age haven’t kissed anyone. And the people who are kissing others also get embarrassed and unsure of themselves.

(It would also be ok even if it was unusual. It’s ok if some things are harder or take longer for you than they do for most people.)

Many of the skills involved in romantic relationships are the same skills involved in friendship. And one of the most important skills involved in friendship is figuring out how to tell whether you like someone, and whether they like you.

Figuring out whether you like someone can be hard for a lot of autistic people. Among other reasons, a lot of us are taught that we have to be friends with anyone who will tolerate our company. That’s not how dating works and it’s not how friendship works either.

If you don’t like someone, you shouldn’t date them. If you don’t like spending time with someone, you shouldn’t date them. If you’re hoping that they will change dramatically, you shouldn’t date them. It’s only a good idea to date someone if you like them and enjoy their company as they are now. You can’t build a good relationship with an imaginary person.

Similarly, it’s important to only date people who like you. People who are hoping that you will change, or who want you to act nonautistic all the time, are not people who like you.

You can’t become nonautistic to please people who find autism repellant, and you aren’t going to be able to hide autism from them forever. It always becomes noticeable sooner or later, because autism affects you and your experiences and impairments matter. You are who you are, and your disability is part of that. And that’s ok, because disabled people can date, and we can do it well.

The most important thing to know about dating and relationships is that, in good relationships, the people involved like and respect each other. Respecting and liking yourself is an important part of learning to build a mutually respectful relationship. Liking yourself helps you to like others; and to tell whether others like you. Respecting yourself helps you to learn to treat others respectfully; and to understand whether or not the ways others are treating you are ok.

From the way you phrased your ask, I think that you might be having a lot of trouble feeling ok about yourself as an autistic person. I think that it would help you a lot to work on understanding that it’s ok to be autistic, and that you can be a fabulous autistic human being.

It sounds to me that you think that you have to pass as non-autistic to be dateable. You don’t have to do that. Autism doesn’t prevent kissing and it doesn’t prevent love.

A lot of autistic people struggle to feel worthy of love and friendship. A lot of us feel repulsive a lot of the time. We’re often made to feel that our thoughts, feelings, interests, and body language are disgusting flaws. But they are not. We’re ok. Being autistic is ok.

We are beautiful. The way we look and the way we move and the way we think is beautiful. Autistic beauty is real, and there are people in the world who appreciate it.

We are often taught that, unless we learn to pretend that we’re normal, no one will ever like us. (That’s the basic message of the Social Thinking curriculum, for instance). We’re also often taught that we’re not allowed to make mistakes. A lot of us feel like every time we make a social mistake, it’s showing that we’re deeply flawed and hopelessly unworthy.

That makes dating really hard, because everyone makes acutely embarrassing social mistakes as they learn how to date. (And often even after they have a lot of experience.). It sounds to me like you might feel like you have to earn the right to date by never making any embarrassing mistakes. You don’t. If that was the standard, no one would ever be able to date. It’s ok to be fallible and embarrassed and unsure of things. You’re ok.

There are people who will appreciate your beauty. There are people who will find you attractive. There are people who will love you.

You can learn how to date, and you can do it as yourself.