Autistic in NYC

Resources and new ideas for the autistic adult community in the New York City metro area.

Autistic Peer Leadership Group

The Autistic Peer Leadership Group (APLeG) is a group of autistic or similarly neurodivergent adults who either lead/facilitate or would like to lead/facilitate other small groups of autistic/neurodivergent people.

For examples of the kinds of groups that members might lead or aspire to lead, see Longterm visions for the autistic community. And here are the groups some of us currently lead.

APLeG's main purpose is to help us develop leadership skills.

Occasionally we may hold formal leadership training sessions given by professionals, if and when we ever manage to get funding for same. This will likely have to wait until we are big enough and well-established enough to attain official nonprofit organization status.

Until then, we will just teach ourselves, as follows:

  1. We will study and discuss relevant online tutorials together, including both (a) tutorials on leadership and facilitation per se and (b) tutorials on what we call autistic-friendly social skills, including autistic-friendly variants of conflict-resolution skills such as assertiveness, active listening, and responding gracefully to constructive criticism.

  2. We will discuss ways the ideas in these tutorials can be adapted to the specific situation of a small group of autistic/neurodivergent adults. What works fine in a group of NT's might not work well for us, and vice versa.

  3. APLeG will have rotating leadership of its meetings, so we can each get practice leading the group and give each other feedback on our development of leadership skills.

  4. We will discuss specific difficulties we ourselves may have had with participating in groups (including APLeG itself) as a non-leader/facilitator. We will then brainstorm ways to lead/facilitate a group so as to be sensitive to the needs of people with these same specific difficulties.

  5. We will discuss our experiences leading or facilitating our other small groups of autistic/neurodivergent people (without mentioning names of specific individual members thereof) and brainstorm solutions to difficulties we have encountered.

  6. We will discuss ways our groups can accommodate the needs of people with as wide a variety of autism spectrum conditions as is reasonably possible, given the size and aims of a particular group.

  7. We will read up on and discuss specific issues facing autistic African Americans, autistic Indigenous Americans, and autistic people in various immigrant communities, with the aim of figuring out how our groups can better serve them. We will also study and discuss tutorials on how a predominantly white group can make itself a more welcoming place for people of color, given that the organized autistic community (what little there is of one) currently is very white-dominated.

  8. We will discuss various gender-related issues and how we can address them, if possible, including: (a) How to enable women to feel safe -- and actually be safe -- in our groups. (b) How to deal with the large number of lonely, sexually frustrated heterosexual autistic men (a problem we can't fully solve in the short run, although we might be able to develop some creative solutions in the long run). (c) Various specific issues affecting LGBT+ autistic people, and how to provide a welcoming environment for LGBT+ people in a cis/het-dominated group.

  9. We will discuss how to protect the privacy of members of our groups, and how to deal with members (or ex-members) who dox or otherwise harass other members.

  10. Members of APLeG are asked to commit to developing their conflict resolution skills by, among other things, making an effort to resolve any conflicts that may arise between themselves and other APLeG members. Let's commit to learning either to negotiate mutually acceptable compromises or to agree to disagree, depending on the situation. By learning to resolve conflicts among ourselves, we thereby also will not only become much better leaders/facilitators of our own groups, but become better able to handle interpersonal issues in our daily lives as well.

"What???" some readers may ask. How can a bunch of people who have trouble with ordinary social skills learn leadership skills?

Just as some of us may find academic skills easier to learn than social skills, many of us may also find some social skills easier to learn than others, and what's relatively easy or difficult for us may differ from what's relatively easy or difficult for most NT's. (Again see autistic-friendly social skills.) In particular, some of us may find it easier to lead a group than to participate in groups led by others. (Some of us may, for example, find it easier to focus our attention on a group when we are leading it than when we are not leading it.)

That's not the case for all of us, of course. But, even so, attempting to develop leadership skills can be a good way to help us improve our social skills more generally.

As we create more and more small groups for us all to lead/facilitate, another important purpose of APLeG will be simply to enable us to stay in touch with each other, thereby enabling our various groups to serve their members better by functioning as a community rather than just a bunch of isolated little silos.

As mentioned above, members of APLeG are asked to commit to making an effort to resolve any conflicts that may arise among us. Many autistic people have been repeatedly hurt by NT's suddenly dropping us as friends for no apparent reason, without any explanation. Let's agree not to treat each other that way. We don't all have to be friends, but we should seek mutually acceptable solutions to any issues that would otherwise stop us from getting along well enough to function comfortably as a group.

During the remainder of the COVID crisis, we will hold text-based chat meetings only. After the COVID crisis is over, we will hold both in-person meetings and text-based chat meetings.

Although APLeG is based in NYC, our online text-based chat meetings are open to people from other parts of the country and other parts of the world. We aim to encourage the creation of other, similar leadership self-training groups in other parts of the country and other parts of the world as well, and we hope they will stay in touch with us.

At least for now, our chat meetings will be held on the first Thursday of each month. Please RSVP via Meetup. (Currently we use the Meetup site of the Queens discussion group. Eventually a separate Meetup site will be created.)

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