History of the Queens discussion group
by Mona Pereth
The Queens discussion group was originally founded in summer 2018. As I wrote in the blog post My life as one of the many belatedly-diagnosed autistic older people:
... During tthe spring and summer of 2018, a young man attending one of the Manhattan support groups organized a weekly telephone conference call, which I participated in for a while. He then organized, with some help from me, a small peer support / self-help group that met monthly in Queens. Soon afterward, he moved to Brooklyn and was no longer able to attend.
When he left, I took over the Queens group, because I was the only attendee with past experience leading groups of any kind. But I felt uncomfortable leading it, because I hadn't yet been officially diagnosed, although, by that point, I was 99% sure I fit the definition of "ASD." So, after a few more meetings, I put the group on hiatus until I finally got my official diagnosis in May 2019.
In May 2019, I finally received my official ASD diagnosis. Before then, I had been attending three adult autism support groups in Manhattan regularly since early spring 2018, and I had spent a lot of time reading up on autism online.
Also, given my long personal history of participating in -- and sometimes leading groups in -- various oddball subcultures, I began developing a vision of how the autistic community could become much better organized and much more helpful to autistic adults. (See Longterm visions for the autistic community and Autistic workers project.)
In the summer of 2019, I re-started the Queens discussion group, inviting some people from the Manhattan groups. We held monthly meetings at the Atlantic Diner, usually attended by between four and eight people. Meetings were focussed on specific topics, usually having to do with what I call Autistic-friendly social skills, as distinct from blending in with NT's.
In January 2020, I launched both this website and the Autistic in NYC / Queens Meetup group. The first two events of ours that were announced via our Meetup group were two in-person discussion meetings on the topic of friendship, one on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 and one on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
Then, along came the COVID lockdown.
During COVID lockdown
During COVID lockdown, it was no longer possible to hold in-person meetings.
We decided to hold text-based chat meetings, instead of the Zoom meetings many other groups held. Our reasons were mainly personal to my boyfriend and myself. My partner has sensory issues that make it impossible for him to use Zoom without getting severe headaches. I dislike video chat for privacy reasons, and because I find text-based conversations easier to follow.
On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, we tried to hold a text-based chat meeting using a simple chat program I wrote. It crashed.
For the remainder of 2020, we held two chat meetings per month, usually on the first and second Tuesday of each month.
In the fall of 2020, a very unpleasant quarrel, mostly about politics, resulted in one longtime member feeling very insulted and leaving the group. We decided then to have a rule against discussing politics and other controversial matters in our support group meetings.
In February 2021, we began holding two types of support group chat meetings:
First Tuesday of each month: General support group meeting, usually informal, without a pre-announced topic.
Second Tuesday of each month: Topic-focussed meetings on some pre-announced topic, usually pertaining to autistic-friendly social skills, sometimes on other autism-related topics. For these, sometimes there will be a relevant online tutorial that we will recommend (but not require) attendees to read before the meeting.
In late 2020 and 2021, we decided also to begin acting on my Longterm visions for the autistic community and move beyond just being a support and self-help group. We decided to begin creating Career-oriented groups, focussed on specific categories of professions/occupations, and Hobby-oriented social groups, focussed on specific interests and recreational activities.
Among the majority of our most active members at that time, the most common career categories happened to be engineering and computer software development, and the most common hobby happened to meteorology. So, on Monday, January 18, 2021, we held the first meeting of the Amateur Meteorology Club, and on Monday, February 22, 2021, we held the first meeting of Autistic Techies of the NYC Area.
We have not yet created any other career-oriented groups or hobby-oriented social groups, but we hope to create more of them in the future, or to inspire other people to do so. (For more about career-oriented groups, see Autistic workers project.)
Then, so that the political discussions forbidden in our support group meetings could have somewhere to go, we decided to create our Societal / political discussion groups. First we created the General Societal/Political Discussion Group, which held its first meeting on Thursday, April 29, 2021, and then we created the Autism Politics Discussion Group, which held its first meeting on Thursday, May 27, 2021.
In 2022, in meetings of both the Autistic Peer Leadership Group and the Autism Politics Discussion Group, we began discussing the possible creation of an autistic rights activist/advocacy group, since no such group currently exists in NYC as far as we can tell. We decided that we first need to create some well-organized lists of resources on various issues pertaining to autism.
NOTE: Although all of the above groups grew out of the Queens discussion group and currently share the Autistic in NYC / Queens Meetup group, the "Queens discussion group" itself is just the basic support and self-help group. Only the general support group meetings and the topic-focussed self-help/support group meetings are listed in the "Queens discussion group" section of this website. The other groups each have their own sections of this website. The general category encompassing all our groups is "Groups led or facilitated by members of the Autistic Peer Leadership Group."
After (???) lockdown
Our first in-person meeting after lockdown was held at the Atlantic Diner on Sunday, May 22, 2022. About eight people attended.
We had considered holding a picnic in a nearby park, but we decided against it because NYC park bathrooms are closed and locked at 4:00 PM (well before the parks themselves close!), and most of us did not want to begin our meeting before 3:00 PM or so.
We held no in-person meetings during the summer, both to avoid the heat and because we feared another wave of COVID. However, by the end of summer, it appeared that the latest COVID variants were mild, at least for people who had been vaccinated.
Our second in-person meeting after lockdown was held at the Atlantic Diner on Saturday, September 17, 2022. About fourteen people attended -- our best-attended meeting ever, so far. It was a purely social gathering, with no structure except for my requests that (1) most of the techies sit at one end, so that they could freely have conversations that would likely be incomprehensible to everyone else, and (2) some seats be reserved for newcomers (and for myself, to welcome the newcomers) near the middle.
As of September 2022, we will likely have monthly (except during December and the summer months) dinner meetings, while continuing to have monthly online text-based chats of all our various groups.
Because our text-based chat meetings are purposeful, not purely social, and because it's inherently difficult to have a purposeful, structured meeting of more than seven or eight people at a diner, it is likely that our in-person dinner meetings will be purely social from henceforth.
As of September 2022, we have yet to figure out how best to accommodate the difficulties many autistic people have with purely social gatherings, especially gatherings of our current likely size range (anywhere from eight to fifteen people). Perhaps we could, for example, somehow make a point of introducing attendees to other members with whom they share common interests? Perhaps we could provide some not-too-time-consuming puzzles or games, if enough members are into that sort of thing? Feel free to share your thoughts on this issue at chat meetings of the Queens discussion group, or the Autistic Peer Leadership Group, or the Autism Politics Discussion Group. Feel free also to contact me privately about this issue.
Various autistic peer-led groups including support groups, career-oriented groups, and hobby-oriented social groups, led or facilitated by members of the Autistic Peer Leadership Group. Our newest group is the Autistic Women's Support & Social Group. All groups currently meet via text-based chat. Some groups will hopefully meet in-person after the COVID crisis is finally over with.
Where to get an ASD evaluation as an adult: This page will be expanded and updated sometime after the COVID crisis is over with.