“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, February 09, 2018

Social skill deficits in people without disabilities

In an article published by Wallin (2004) he discussed categories of social skill deficits, in particular related to the experience of ASD. His categories were

Social indifference
Social avoidance
Social awkwardness

As I thought about those categories, it reminded me not of autism but of those without disabilities in their interactions with those who do have some form of impairment. If you think about it, people without disabilities have social skill deficits in the way they interact with persons with disabilities.

Perhaps at first they are socially indifferent. Maybe they really don't know about persons with disabilities. Because they don't know they are kind of indifferent, not really caring one way or another. But then something happens in their lives where they are confronted with the reality of the experience of disability. Because they are inexperienced or scared or just don't want to be bothered, they then move into social avoidance. They know, but they avoid any involvement. Ultimately, perhaps they cannot avoid interactions with someone with a disability so they move into a phase of social awkwardness. As we have discussed elsewhere in this blog, if I am in a situation with someone with a disability and it is socially awkward, chances are, I am the one bringing the awkwardness to the situation. See  "I bring awkwardness to the situation."The person with the disability is fine. Those three areas are where Wallin left off, and he once again was talking about social skill deficits. But these social skill deficits in those without disabilities may indeed be a progression and perhaps they lead to a fourth category, social involvement. I care now. I want relationship now. I am involved now.

So perhaps it is a progression from indifference to avoidance to awkwardness to involvement. Are you on this progression? Work through YOUR awkwardness and find your way to involvement. People with disabilities are just people. Maybe if you choose one of them as your friend, that person will choose you back.

1 comment:

Ryanne Alberga said...

I recently found myself interested in social networking and branching out of the "norm".  The "norm" being segregation between people without disabilities and people with disabilities. I believe this matter begins with school-aged students.  If  Wallin’s categories (indifference, awareness and avoidance) are not dissolved in school-aged children, then the same progression may continue into adult life. I believe a new way of thinking, realizing that people with disabilities are just people, should be taught to children in order to make involvement become the new norm. The hope is that befriending people with disabilities will be natural, and will no longer be avoided or feel awkward. Children are open-minded and impressionable; this age is the perfect place to begin this mission of social involvement. I realize this may seem like an impossible quest, however, I have seen it occur. I will share this journey in hopes to inspire others. Currently, I work with a fourth grade student in a moderate-to-severe classroom.  For the most part we are segregated from the other students and staff. The children with autism sit at a different table, sit in the back of the room while mainstreaming, and socialize only with adults. I believed something could be done to change this social indifference. I have enough hope and passion to promote involvement. My non-verbal student and I have built a rapport with five girls. This relationship was created by initiating peer play during recess and by sitting together at lunch.  I also made an effort to teach these girls ways to communicate and elicit speech with my student. Soon, these friendships grew and today we socialize with about 20 typical friends. Many of the students without disabilities call my student a best friend. The typical students have asked to attend our Special Education class holiday party so they can meet the other students with autism. Seeing the social skill deficits (indifference, avoidance, awkwardness) vanish in non-disabled fourth graders can inspire hope for change in our otherwise close-minded way of thinking. I hope this comment does not offend anyone; the purpose of it is to show that change is possible and very necessary. It is important to provide opportunities for all students to become friends.