How disabled kids learn to be suspicious of optimistic teachers

This happens a lot in school:

  • A disabled kid goes to school.
  • A teacher is initially friendly and optimistic.
  • The teacher expects that their teaching will make the kid’s disability irrelevant.
  • Eventually it becomes clear that the kid’s disability is going to stay important.
  • Then the teacher gets frustrated, gives up, or stops being nice.
  • Sometimes this is overt and sometimes it’s subtle; it’s always hurtful.

A lot of kids go through this over and over during childhood. And, it often persists into adulthood and becomes a lifelong thing. It hurts. It does damage. And it means that people with disabilities are often suspicious of immediate kindly optimistic affect, and may take a long time to trust that you won’t reject them for being disabled.

If you’re teaching, be careful not to come in with the expectation that your teaching will erase disability or render it irrelevant. It won’t. Instead, start with the expectation that disability will matter and that you will be teaching students with disabilities. Disability acceptance is a key emotional skill for effective teaching. If you think around disability, it’s nearly impossible to apply any creativity to accommodating it. If you’re willing to face disability head on, it’s often possible to find good ways to adapt teaching so that a student can learn.

Trust is never guaranteed

Way to regain trust after losing it?
realsocialskills answered:
First and foremost, you have to accept that you might not get the trust back. When you’ve lost someone’s trust, it’s their decision whether or not they ever want to trust you again.
Nothing you do can guarantee that they will ever trust you again.
But, what you can do is work on being trustworthy. Whether or not this person ever trusts you again, it’s worth doing and will help you to treat others better and maintain good relationships.
Respect that person’s boundaries.
  • If they’ve asked you not to contact them, don’t. (Not even to apologize).
  • If they’ve asked you to avoid particular methods of contact (eg phone), don’t use them
Understand what you did.
  • If the person wants to tell you, listen
  • If they don’t, think about it on your own
  • (Actually, think through it even if they do want to tell you; you have to develop your own understanding; repeating what they say and apologizing isn’t enough.)
  • You can get a lot of understanding by thinking
  • If there are things you can read relevant to what happened, that can also be helpful
Apologize if apologies are welcome.
  • But do not do this if they have told you not to contact them
  • And do not do it with an expectation that this means they will forgive you and trust you again
  • Apologies can be important, but they aren’t magic
  • And they’re particularly not magical incantations which make people trust you
  • What they do is communicate that you know that you did wrong, and that you care about not repeating that mistake
  • That isn’t necessarily going to be enough; whether it is enough is ultimately their decision
  • But it’s still a worthwhile message
  • And knowing that you understand what you did wrong sometimes does make it possible for people to trust you again
If you have personal demons that are making it hard for you to act ways that make it safe for others to trust you, work on addressing that:
  • Do not explain this to the other person in order to deflect criticism or downplay what you did.
  • They are not responsible for helping you to get past the things that are currently making you unsafe for them to be around
  • But do recognize it as a contributing factor and do what you can to fix it
  • Some common examples:
  • Having trouble being honest about your boundaries
  • Being hurt and angry when your friends don’t do what you want them to do
  • Finding it emotionally threatening when your friends have significant bonds with other people
  • Finding criticism and conflict unbearably threatening to your self image
  • Disability shame. If you’re trying to avoid facing your disability or mental illness, it’s hard to accurately predict what you can and can’t do. It can also be hard to be honest with others, and this can cause a lot of relationship problems.
  • None of these things mean you’re doomed, but they might mean you have what to work on

If you have access to a safe and insightful therapist, it might be worth considering getting professional help:

  • Therapy is not a viable option for everyone
  • It is also not a magical solution. Going to therapy will not, in itself, make you trustworthy. It’s one method of support that can help you find ways forward
  • If therapy is not a viable an option for you, you are not doomed; you can still work on learning how to be ok and treat others right
  • But for some people, therapy can make this much, much easier
  • If you think that might be the case for you, look into it

Relying on others for reassurance

A reader said:

When people rely on the reassurance of someone else it can be very dangerous for everyone involved.

realsocialskills said:

It depends a lot on the context.

I think there are different kinds of relying on others.

There’s relying on others when you know that your perceptions in some areas are unreliable:

  • If you know that you often think things are awful when they aren’t, or that you’ve done something horribly wrong when you haven’t, checking in with others who you trust to have a more reliable perspective can be a good strategy
  • You have to be careful who you trust this way
  • It has to be someone who is both trustworthy and genuinely willing to do this for you
  • And when one or both elements are missing, this can go badly wrong.
  • But this is a strategy that works really well for a lot of people, under the right circumstances

Then there’s the kind of relying on others that’s about needing universal approval:

  • Sometimes people have a self image that depends on other people constantly approving of them
  • And reassuring them that they are good and what they are doing is good
  • This gets really bad really quickly
  • And often leads to people on both sides of it manipulating each other in destructive ways, and pretty much always leads to one or the other person doing so
  • It’s important to be able to accept that not everyone will like you, and that even people who like you will not always like what you do and will be upset with you from time to time
  • People who can’t accept this cause a lot of problems for themselves and others

These things are very different, but they tend to get conflated.

Some things I think I know about trust

  • Trust isn’t automatic
  • It’s something that develops over time as you learn things about someone
  • You don’t have to trust someone right away just because they seem like an ok-ish person
  • Someone trusting you does not mean you have to trust them
  • Someone having a strong emotional need for you to trust them does not mean you should.
  • Even if someone says that not trusting them is *ist, you still do not have to trust them
  • You don’t have to make yourself vulnerable just because someone else wants you to

Tips on how to figure out who is trustworthy and who is not

Do you have any tips on how to figure out who is trustworthy and who is not? As in whether or not someone intends to cause harm to you, etc. I find that I never realize I’m being mistreated until it’s too late, and it makes it really hard for me to find good friend, especially IRL. Advice/tips?
realsocialskills said:
Here are some things I consider to be red flags:
Having a strong self-image as not being the kind of person who does bad things:
  • We all do bad things, even awful things, from time to time
  • People who think that they’re “not that kind of person” actively avoid noticing when they’ve done bad things
  • People who deal with one another regularly hurt one another from time to time, and it’s important to be able to acknowledge this and fix things
  • If you’re dealing with someone who can’t bear the thought of having done something wrong, you’re not going to be able to tell them when they’ve hurt you
  • Because they will blow up at you and hurt you worse when you try, or else they’ll cry and convince you that you’re a terrible person for making mean baseless accusations.
  • Either way, it will make it impossible to deal with problems, and you’ll end up tolerating things that hurt you badly
  • I wrote about that some here
Expecting immediate trust
  • Trust is developed over time
  • If someone wants you to talk about deeply personal things right away, and gets upset when you don’t, they’re not respecting your boundaries and that’s dangerous
Asserting that a deeply intimate relationship exists without considering your opinion on the matter relevant
  • Close friendship only exists if you *both* think it does
  • You are only dating if *both* of you think that you are dating
  • Someone can’t just decide that they’re close to you and that you have a deep close committed relationship; you both have to want it
  • If someone considers your opinion of the matter irrelevant, run.
  • I wrote a post about that here

Wanting you to depend on them

  • If someone tells you that you couldn’t function without them, do not trust them
  • If they want you to fix your life, do not trust them
  • If they think your sanity depends on their loving understanding care, *seriously* do not trust them
  • If they get angry, or hurt, or cry when you don’t do what they want you to do in your personal life, don’t trust them

Being under the impression that they’re doing you a favor:

  • If they think that they’re doing you a favor by being friends with someone like you, they’re not likely to treat you well
  • Friendship is not a charitable act. It is a mutual relationship between people who regard one another as equals.
  • Similarly, when someone thinks they’re doing you a favor by employing you, it will probably end badly

If people you trust dislike them:

  • If you have people you know to be trustworthy, and they don’t like a new person in your life, it’s important to find out why
  • Sometimes they will be wrong, but often they will be right
  • It’s important to figure out what’s going on, and why they think that – then if you disagree that’s fine, but it’s not a good idea to dismiss it without thinking about it

I’ve also written a lot of posts relevant to this issue. It might help you to read through some of the related tags.


Journalists are not your friends or advocates when they interview you.

They might maintain a really friendly affect. They might sound really sympathetic. They might be really good at making you feel heard. This is often a way of manipulating you into saying things that are useful to them. Sounding friendly doesn’t mean that they are on your side.

Journalists write the article that they want to write. It is for their benefit, not yours.

If you keep that in mind, it’s a lot easier to avoid getting into trouble when talking with them.

Don’t confuse being on the right side with being trustworthy

One of my favorite things about the earlier Harry Potter books is the description of Professor Snape.

Because he’s openly and unapologetically abusive. And so the kids suspect, over and over, that he’s secretely in league with the bad guys. And he isn’t. He’s a bad person, and he hurts people. But he’s not on the side of evil, he’s not working to make Voldemort be in charge again.

And that’s so important, and so rarely depicted, especially in books for kids. It’s really good that it’s in Harry Potter (even though this was somewhat betrayed in the last book).Because people are complicated.

People on the side of good can be assholes. People with the right ideologies, and the right positions on certain life-or-death issues, can still be horrible and hurt people. Someone can get substantive and important things right, and still be an abuser.

Be careful who you trust.Don’t trust someone just because they are liberal. Or conservative. Or radical. Or the same religion as you. Or secular like you. Or because they make beautiful art depicting something important to you. Or because you know they fight against some evil things.

You have to know someone more personally than than to know whether they can be trusted.