Autistic in NYC

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

Typical structure of meetings of the Queens discussion group

See also our rules and guidelines.

Structure of text-based chat meetings

During lockdown we began holding meetings via text-based chat, including two support group meetings per month. We've decided to continue holding these after lockdown, though we will now have in-person social gatherings as well.

As of February 2021, the support group chat meetings are of two types:

In both kinds of meetings, if there are newcomers present, we will begin with a round of introductions. Everyone will be asked to say, briefly, whatever they would like other members to know and that's relevant to their own reasons for attending the meeting. If there are no total newcomers present, but there are some attendees who haven't met each other yet, then those attendees will be asked to introduce themselves.

During topic-focussed meetings, the introductions should be kept brief, no more than a few sentences. During general support group meetings, the introductions can be longer.

During topic-focussed meetings, please keep discussion close to the topic. Try not to wander off on extended tangents. Do feel free to share personal experiences that are relevant to the topic, and feel free to ask for advice on personal problems that are relevant to the topic.

Structure of small, topic-focussed in-person meetings

When we met in person before COVID lockdown, we met at a diner. Our meetings were usually small enough (no more than about eight people) that it was not difficult to have topic-focussed discussion over dinner.

We aimed to follow the structure below whenever five or more people showed up, as was usually the case. When fewer people showed up, were more informal, while still spending at least some time on the main topic and still attempting to pay attention to the needs of all attendees including newcomers.

  1. Before the meeting time and during the first ten minutes or so, general getting-to-know-each-other conversation. (The facilitator will aim to make sure no one is being ignored unless they specifically want to be left alone.)

  2. (If we are meeting at a diner:)  Order food.

  3. (If we are meeting at a diner:)  5-minute pre-meal break for anyone who wants to wash hands, use the bathroom, make a phone call, go outside for a smoke, etc.

  4. Round of introductions, if there are any people present who don't yet know each other. Everyone says at least their name. Everyone who is not yet a familiar face to at least one of the other attendees (from previous meetings of either this group or another support group such as AFSS or AANE) then says whatever they feel like saying about themselves. The amount of time allowed for this per person will vary depending on how many people are present, such that the total time spent on introductions will be, hopefully, limited to no more than a half hour.

    If everyone has previously met everyone else, we'll skip the introductions (except maybe just to say our names) and just spend about ten more minutes on getting-to-know-each-other conversation while waiting for food to arrive.

    Also during this time, e.g. in between introductions, latecomers may order food. We'll try to do this in a way that minimizes disruption.

  5. Optional: If there are any pressing matters that anyone wants to talk about, regarding goings-on in one's personal life, these are discussed now. We will try to limit this to a half hour.

  6. 5-minute break.

  7. Discussion of main topic, which will usually have been announced on our Meetup site and in reminder emails, with details on the Autistic NYC blog. Usually an hour will be allotted for this; possibly less if there was discussion of pressing personal matters earlier.

  8. 5-minute break.

  9. General support-group-style discussion, for any remaining time.

Often we had a series of several meetings centered around a common theme. For example, for several meetings during the late summer and fall of 2019, the main topic was how to be assertive without being aggressive, using printouts of web-based tutorials and role-playing exercises. During the winter of 2019-2020, the main topic was friendship, discussing these questions, based primarily on our personal experiences.

Accommodating our social difficulties at larger, purely social meetings at a diner?

Figuring out how best to accommodate the difficulties many of us have with purely social gatherings (including gatherings of autistic people!) is a work in progress. We will experiment with a variety of ways of doing this. Our aims will be to help everyone feel welcome and to maximize everyone's likelihood of being able to meet and talk to compatible potential friends.

Suggestions are welcome. Feel free to share your thoughts on this matter 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 Mona Pereth privately about this issue.

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