Social Skills for Everyone

ableism, Autism, Disability, Education, Friendship, Infographics, Neurodiversity, Parenting

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[Each of the slides above has its own image description. Slideshow can be paused for ease of reading text. Full transcript at the end of this post, with a downloadable PDF.]

Issues of social inclusion are often persistent throughout a disabled person’s lifespan. Lack of inclusion can be a vicious cycle if non-disabled people are unfamiliar with how to include and interact with disabled people in their community:

1. disabled people are excluded, are segregated to disabled-only spaces, and/or withdraw from community life when they are socially rejected

2. non-disabled people continue to have social spaces and groups that have no disabled people in them, and they never become familiar or intimately connected with disabled people

3. disabled people continue to be rejected or excluded by non-disabled people who are unfamiliar with how to include us

And, REPEAT.

How do we break this cycle? Traditionally, most of the onus has been on disabled people to assimilate and “normalize,” but this not only doesn’t work well, it’s unfair and ableist. Mainstream culture is beginning to realize that non-disabled need to do more to include us without trying to “fix” us, but it’s crucial to understand that acceptance is more than just a feeling. It’s a series of actions, and for most it will require some learning and listening to disabled people.

I have a dream that parents of non-disabled children will begin to talk to their kids about disability, as early and as often as possible. Just as with other issues of discrimination, it’s not enough to trust that your kids will be “nice” – even nice, lovely, kind hearted children may discriminate against or exclude disabled children if they simply do not know how to include them, and don’t understand people who are different from themselves in ways that a child can easily perceive.

This guide is a start. Please please share it with your kids and talk to them about what disability inclusion means. It’s not about pity or charity, it’s about equality.

Social Skills for Everyone PDF

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Cover.
Infographic cover has the title Social Skills for Everyone,” subtitle making friends and getting along.” Above the title are two human figures, one waving their arms with a speech bubble saying hi!” and the other with arms akimbo and a speech bubble containing ellipses. 
Page One.
Infographic text says: You might have noticed… there are all kinds of people in the world. no two are exactly alike. Not even twins! You probably won’t be friends with everyone you meet (and that’s ok!) but learning to get along with people makes life a little better for all of us.” One group of human figures is multicolored, with a green figure waving and saying hello!” A pair of orange figures who look the same as each other stand side by side, one saying I love drawing comic books” and the other saying I don’t draw. But I love Minecraft!” 
Page Two.
Infographic text says: There isn’t only one right way” to socialize… Just like there isn’t only one way to play! Everyone has their own style figure adds, and I think that’s cool!’ and learning someone else’s style is how you include someone new figure adds, and hey, remember… next time, the new person… could be you!’” Bottom image shows a green figure standing in foreground holding/touching their own head, with other figures in the background playing and one waving in greeting to the green new person.
Page Three.
Infographic text says: When you meet someone new… it’s nice to greet them and ever nicer to invite them to talk or play with you.” Image shows two human figures in foreground and two more playing in the background. A green figure waves and says to the orange figure, Hi, I’m Alex. Do you want to play tag with us?’ More text: but what if they don’t answer?” The green figure stands with a question mark thought bubble, while the orange figure touches/holds their own head and stands with a thought bubble containing ellipses.
Page Four.
Infographic text says: It might NOT mean they don’t want to play. Try this! Wait a few more seconds some people just need a little more time to answer questions or think of what to say.” Orange figure has a speech bubble that says …………okay!’ Move so they can see your face some people need to read your lips while you talk.” Two green heads in profile face each other, one with sound waves around mouth. Ask in a different way if they aren’t sure how to answer, using different words might help.” Green figure points to the side and says to orange figure, He’s it.” Let’s run!’ Or maybe just try again later. They might not be ready to join in yet, and that’s okay too!
Page Five.
Infographic text says: Some people do not speak at all (or not very much) but you can still include them! People who don’t speak communicate in other ways, like: Body Language! (orange figure in a variety of poses/gestures), using their voice in other ways (orange laughing face with speech bubble hahaha!’) or even using an app on a tablet! (orange figure holds a black tablet which has a dialog box saying okay. let’s play!’)
Page Six.
Infographic text says: When you meet someone who seems different, you might notice that they look, talk, or act differently than anyone else you’ve met before.” A green figure stands touching/holding their own head with a question mark thought bubble. It’s okay to ask polite questions.” A green figure asks, Does that hurt?’ to an orange figure with a small red mark on their face, who responds, No. It’s just a birthmark.’ More text: It’s good to celebrate our differences AND remember we aren’t all that different on the inside we all pretty much want the same things: to be accepted, to feel we belong, and to have fun doing things we enjoy.” At the bottom is a row of human figures: a green one with arms akimbo, orange one with heart-shaped birthmark, gray one waving arms, green one with headphones high-fiving a gray one with an orange wheelchair.

Autism Acceptance 101

Autism, Disability, Neurodiversity, Parenting

Autism Acceptance 101

Image is an infographic with the following text:
guide for parents
Autism Acceptance 101
Autism Acceptance sounds simple enough, but what does it really mean for parents of autistic children?
[photo of a red tricycle on a sidewalk]
Autism Acceptance is NOT:
– ignoring challenges for parents or children
– giving up on your child or having low expectations
– pretending that life is all unicorn farts and rainbows!
[photo of a smiling child on a swing]
Autism Acceptance IS:
– accepting that autism is an inextricable part of your child
– acknowledging your child’s unique challenges & needs
– providing supports & helping your child thrive….
as an autistic person!
Erin Human
facebook.com/theeisforerin
erinhuman.com
This infographic also comes in a printable PDF:
Autism Acceptance 101

Zen and the Art of Housework

Identity, Parenting

I dread housework, I dislike it, and I’m not very good at it.

Well, that’s what I’ve always told myself, but things are beginning to shift.

I’ll probably never be GOOD at housework; I lack the patience, the focus, the energy, the pure elbow greasability to really do an excellent job of cleaning. But it seems that I dislike it less and less as time goes on, at times I would say that I even enjoy it, and that means I dread it less, too.

Mike and I always had a fairly egalitarian arrangement when it came to keeping house. (It was no accident that I married a man who had clearly managed to keep a tiny studio apartment (even tinier than my tiny studio apartment at the time) relatively tidy.) But, things change. I didn’t foresee ever wanting to be a stay/work at home parent, I didn’t foresee how much Mike would work or how physically hard he would work, I didn’t foresee being a person who would never send my kids off to school (which means they are HERE ALL DAY playing and making messes), I didn’t foresee being a parent who would choose not to use behaviorism to get people to do what I wanted them to do.

All of the above factors led to a reality where I found myself doing more housework. Initially, I rebelled internally. I resented, wallowed, nagged, and sometimes lashed out. That made me unhappy. Then I tried another tack. I sank into the work. What would happen if, instead of spending time thinking about what was fair or how much I “should” be doing or how much I hated doing it, I embraced the work and owned it as my work.

Zen HouseworkI recognized, when I turned down the volume on my inner whining, that Mike was already working a lot; he was willing to do his part at home, but his part was simply a lot smaller – he is home a lot less and does not have much time for housework, while I have lots. I recognized that the kids had their own work to do, of learning basically everything there is to know about life, and their work was valid too. I recognized that I was lucky, in fact, to stay home with the kids, I wanted to be there, I appreciate our home and want to take care of it, I was happy that we’d been able to provide this enormous mess of toys and abundance of food that was spilled all over the table and floor, I was – though I hate this word, it’s so sentimental – grateful.

I admitted to myself that huffing around the house complaining about the mess and cleaning with a scowl on my face was teaching my children that housework is dreadful, no fun, a burden, a drudgery. Why then would they ever want to do it??? Sure, I could MAKE them do it, but they’d do it against their will and hate housework all their lives. There had to be a better lesson to be learned than that.

So I sort of suspended my opinion about what housework is like. Just pretended I had no feelings about it one way or the other, it was just something to be done and I would do it. Not by setting a timer or making a schedule or checking a checklist or “making it fun” with some assortment of tricks, but actually turning my attention to the tasks before me and doing the work.

And the weirdest thing happened. I started to like it.

Sometimes I listen to music or a podcast, and sometimes doing laundry or dishes can be a way to get a break from the kids’ demands, yes, but none of that is really the point. It’s almost hard to put into words, because it’s a wordless kind of experience. When I wipe down the kitchen, I am just wiping down the kitchen. I do the steps without judgment. When I clean the floors, I am just walking around pushing my steam vac. The floors get filthy again by the end of the day and I don’t care. I did the work and I’ll do it again. There’s a simplicity to it that is restful even though my body is at work.

So a funny thing began to happen when I found contentment in housework; the other people in my family began to join in more often. Mike has taken up an interest in cooking, and is teaching himself how to make things like pancakes and French toast on the weekend mornings, and tried his hand at granola bars. The boys get out the broom and try to sweep sometimes when they’ve dropped a bunch of kinetic sand on the floor, and they pick up their toys now and then without being asked.

Housework to me, now, is peaceful. It’s a way to rest my mind, to use my body, and to care for my home and my family. It requires no expert advice or knowledge – at least not the way I do it! – no thought, no anxiety, no busy-ness, just attention.

#Introvert(Parent)Problems

Parenting

Being an introverted parent comes with a unique set of challenges. Lately I’ve tried to become more aware of how MY challenges and needs are contributing to my own parental “misbehavior” – yelling, losing my cool, or just being unable to weather the everyday demands of parenting with a calm and compassionate attitude.

I am prone to sensory overload, particularly in the realm of NOISE. It was only in the last year or so, when I read Quiet by Susan Cain, that I learned that sensory overload is a very common trait of introverts. I always thought I was just grouchy! And I might be a little grouchy by nature, but being sensitive to sound and what I perceive as “chaos” (too many people talking at once, too many different inputs at once) is an enormous influence not only on my mood, but on how well I am able to function.

The most difficult times are when we come home from being somewhere that has completely drained my energy – a play date, the children’s museum – and I desperately need to be alone. The best way I can describe the feeling is that it’s like having low blood sugar, but instead of needing to eat I need to escape into my own head, preferably in silence. That need to recharge is real and it’s strong.

A common pitfall of introvert parenting for me is winding up someplace that’s very noisy and crazy and only THEN realizing that I just don’t have the ability to handle that much stimulation at the moment. If I’m tired (which is often, obviously) or I’ve done too much already, I have a weakened ability to handle sensory input like a noisy room. Having to speak loudly or yell to make myself heard above the din is likely to send me over the edge. Places like the children’s museum or a bounce house place (all the white noise of the fans that keep the bouncers inflated is very intense for me) can be too much if I’m not in the right mood.

This all makes me sound sensitive and ill tempered, and I guess I can be. But at the same time, I can recharge and rebound if I just get some time with a quiet activity (and let’s face it, a little caffeine might help). Smartphones are a boon to introvert parenting, because to some extent, it’s a way to escape and recharge on the go without having to actually BE alone or take a lot of time to myself. Having said that, I’m no good at multitasking, so if I’m somewhere where I need to keep both eyes on the kids, I can’t be checking out Facebook too. Being alone to write or read is definitely a more potent battery charge for me but it has to be a solid chunk of uninterrupted time to be any good – and we all know how easy to come by those chunks are for parents!

One common misconception, or maybe it’s just a gross overgeneralization, about introverts is that we don’t like to be social at all. That is not true of me and I know not every introvert feels that way. I enjoy time with people and crave it when I go too long without it. But it’s tiring. It’s like how some people enjoy workouts (I’m not one of them!) – you have fun and it feels good while you’re doing it, but you have your limits and afterward you need to rest. If you push too hard or don’t rest properly, it feels bad and takes longer to recover. But I never want people to think that while I’m sitting there talking to them I’m longing to get away – that’s hardly ever the case. I just might need a nap when we’re done!

As the kids get older I will do my best to explain to them what introverts and extroverts are all about, so they understand themselves and other people better. I wish I’d known all my life that I wasn’t totally weird, in fact I was a pretty classic introvert (well, and maybe a little weird too).