Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Teaching Us To Be Silent

Reprint from Yes, That Too.

Trigger Warning: Abuse

They teach us how to ask nicely, but not when it's time to demand.
They teach us how to engage, but not how, when, or why to disengage.
They teach us how they wished social interaction worked, but not how it really does.
They teach us how to accept, but not to decline.
They teach us how not to offend, but not when we need to offend.
They teach us how to act the same, but not that we shouldn't need to.
They teach us how to fit in, but not how to stand apart.
They teach us to be kind, but not how to respond when others aren't.
They teach us how to accept, but not when to reject.
They teach us the rules, but not when to break them.

That's how they teach us to be silent. That's how they teach us to accept whatever abuse they may give. That's how we learn we are broken and wrong, because we are expected to engage all the time, more than even they are, and we simply can not do it.
That's what's wrong with our therapy; that's what's wrong with social skills training.
They are not teaching us the way people really act, but how to be invisible. 

That's not to say that all social skills classes have to be bad. It's a great idea when done right. It's just that almost no one does it right. Teach us when to swear. Teach us what white lies are for and when to use them. Teach us about euphemisms. Teach us how to politely decline invitations [and how to do so rudely when polite is getting ignored.] Teach us how to say no. Teach us when to demand, and how to ask questions that aren't really questions. If you're going to do it to us, teach us how to do it back, and teach us to know when you are doing it. 

But they don't really want to do that. They want us to be easy to handle, easy to manage. If we can not be normal, they want us to be invisible. They teach us to be silent, turning a wonderful idea for helping us navigate the world into a tool to help them manage us. 
These lessons? Make it harder for your child to gain the skills you say you want them to have.


  1. Thanks for this. Breaks my heart. As the mother of a nearly 4 year old Autistic daughter, my goal with therapy is to give her tools to express HERSELF. When she says no to something, I praise her- tell her good telling me no! (and so does her therapist who works with her). We realy try to look for opportunities to show her ways to socialize, but its never forced, never done out of shame, never repirmanded when she doesnt want to, and always praise for any way that she wants to communicate her desires, preferences, or needs. I DONT want her to feel like she has to be someone she isnt, or has to play a roll. I just want to continue to lay out more tools for her toolbox. I so appreciate your input! :)

  2. The two most powerful words in any language are "yes" and "no".

  3. This crossed my social media today, and I just had to say, this is pivotal. Because as a rule, this world wants "different" people to be compliant - POCs, women, members of the LGBTQ community. It just gets acted out on us to a terrifying degree. When we advocate for ourselves, it makes people very angry.

  4. Thank you. Just shared on FB. And will share in my presentation at the attorney general's conference with leo's and advocates and first responders. And again at the patient and teacher workshops which I am so privileged to do. Silence and invisible? Broken? By (I hope) well intentioned care givers and therapists. Sad and angry.... Thank you for the words.

  5. Writing for a book collection about Getting in Trouble. I used to get in trouble for behaving like myself...Why can't you be NORMAL? Now I get in trouble for being myself: Why can't you accept difference? It has taken decades to have the courage. I love what you write here. Thank you. Encouraging to discover similar 'voices.' CarolAnn