“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.

10 comments:

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.

Anonymous said...

When I first read this title, I saw “Social skill deficits in people with disabilities.” My assumption was that the article might discuss people with behavioral or communication disorders. However, I had to correct myself when I reread the title. People without disabilities, such as myself, are equally capable of making errors in judgment. While I have moved on from indifference and avoidance, I realize that I can still make false assumptions that lead to social awkwardness.
I agree that people often spend so much time worrying about someone’s disability that they forget to reflect on their own actions. There have been a few times where I had a conversation with a person with a disability without being aware of it. I remember being surprised when I learned about their disabilities later. If I had known about them in advance, would I have behaved differently? More importantly, were my interactions with those people any less enjoyable? I can answer the latter question for certain: no. A disability is just one aspect of a person’s identity and should therefore not prevent us from getting to know another human being.

taylorwims said...

I thought it was very interesting how you viewed the three categories. When you said “those without disabilities in their interactions with those who do have some from of impairment”, it occurred to me that your statement was very true. Sometimes when you come into contact with someone that has a disability and you aren't familiar with it can be sometimes uncomfortable. But it doesn't have to be. We do not have to treat persons with disabilities differently but we tend to. I knew some facts about people with ASD but I did not understand the way the world treats them can affect how they act towards people in their environment. When we avoid people with disabilities it only makes sense that they will respond in a way of not wanting anything to do with anyone or thing. If someone was purposefully avoiding me or even indifferent to me always I would just try to stay away as much as possible. It is a really interesting take on the situation of awkwardness but it totally makes sense if you believe something isn’t awkward and don't act a certain way with people with disabilities it probably won’t be awkward at all. I am in that same belief that people with disabilities are just people and should be involved just like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I do not have a disability, but I am extremely awkward. I do find that I am on the path from awkwardness to involvement when it comes to my behavior towards people with disabilities. I am very stuck in my head sometimes and when I interact with people with disabilities I am too conscious of trying to act normal and come off trying too hard. I hope this does not offend people who have disabilities.

Josselyn Testino said...

I agree with this post. I feel that people with disabilities do go through indifference, avoidance, and awkwardness. I experienced this with my cousin, Glenn. My cousins and I were young and did not know how to interact with Glenn. For me, I was not indifferent, I just didn’t know how to act. My cousins and I transitioned to avoidance because we did not know what to do. Because of our lack of knowledge, we then made our whole interaction extremely awkward. Personally, I do feel I am at the point of self-involvement. I want to correct my errors and start again. Unfortunately, my cousin moved away to Oregon so I haven’t had the chance to see him in years. I hope when I do see him again that I can just treat him normally without any awkwardness. Additionally, I liked how this article took 3 characteristics of Autism and used them to describe people without disabilities. This article is great because it provides awareness to people who do not have disabilities and who do have control of how they act.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I like how you talked about how sometimes people with disabilities might not know how to interact with others who have a disability because they don't see themselves as having a disability. I think that is so interesting because sometimes we are so quick to feel bad for people with a disability but they do not even feel sorry for themselves. It makes me think differently about people with disabilities and it just shows how little it actually affects them.

Lval05 said...

Anonymous said I love this article it really leaves an inpact and it hits home. I myself am someone with a disability and I can relate to this article very much. People need to read this because no one knows what its like to be someone with a disability. No one knows how they feel or think. The world needs to read this because many children are born with disabilites and people need to understand them. I have been made fun of I even worry if my disability will keep me from marring or having children because people dont want someone with a disabilite and they look at the shell of a person but not the heart i dream of a world where disability people can have a better and happy no matter what they have.

Lval05 said...

It really was a good read it brakes my heart how people see disability people as awkward Individuals. For some one as myself who has a disability find it very heart breaking for how people view us. This article shows how these people are pouring their hearts out on the struggles they have. My disability worries me because I am afraid people will see me as weird
I have very little friends. This article gives me hope that someday people will understand people more. It needs to be more helped in schools this should be presented in schools so kids of all ages should understand people with disabilities. I view disability people as Cinderellas and underdogs who struggles, but some how manages to come on top. Love and acceptance needs to move foreword and reading this article can help.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that after being in an environment of people with disabilities for many years it would be easy to interact with them. My experience is that at the initial introduction there is always a little awkwardness. Unfortunately no matter how open and friendly I try to be, there is always that awkwardness initially. The great thing about the adults with disabilities that I have spent time with is that once they warm up and get to know you, they have these amazing personalities, and love to talk and share their lives and experiences. The social skill deficit in people without disabilities in my experiences typically comes from lack of interaction. So the awkwardness, avoidance, and indifference would be inevitable. However as I previously stated even with daily interaction there typically seems to be that initial awkwardness. I myself try to work on and find ways and strategies to improve this daily.

Anonymous said...





As I read this, I do agree that there is some tension that comes with interacting with people with disabilities. But apart from that, I do believe that we all have some sort of deficit that affects us whether or not other people know. The unfortunate part is that our world has segregated “non- disabled” and “disabled” as two different types of people. We are all Children of the Lord, and they shouldn’t be that awkward tension of communicating or being around someone with disabilities. God has created us with no flaw, and if we view others the way He views His creation, we are able to see the beauty in each other. For example, in Junior High everyone was in a weird stage, but if a junior high boy treats a girl wrong because “she’s awkward “it doesn’t make sense because they are both in a place in their life where they are trying to figure out who they are as a person. I think as we involve ourselves with people with disabilities we should think about who created them, and not think differently of them. In Songs of Solomon, it says You are all together beautiful my darling for there is no flaw in you.” That’s how we should view others.