Purposes of the Queens discussion group for autistic (and autistic-like) adults
To be the first of, hopefully, eventually, many peer support / self-help groups for adults on the autism spectrum in various neighborhoods here in Queens.
To have a peer support / self-help group whose meetings are somewhat more structured and focused than the meetings of the already-existing peer-led support groups for adults on the autism spectrum in NYC. Many (though not all) autistic people need predictable structure and focus in conversations involving more than two people. The Queens discussion group aims to accommodate this need. (Here is the typical structure of our meetings.)
(Currently, during COVID lockdown, we have two types of online meetings: (1) Topic-focused meetings, which are intended to be highly focused on a pre-announced topic, and (2) general support group meetings, which are unstructured.)
To work together on developing what we call autistic-friendly social skills, i.e. the kinds of skills that will help us get along well with each other. These include the purely verbal (spoken or written) aspects of:
- Assertiveness (how to be assertive without being aggressive)
- Active listening
- Giving and receiving constructive criticism
- Conflict resolution
These are very different from the kinds of "social skills" that revolve around blending in with NTs. It so happens, however, that the above-listed "autistic-friendly social skills" are ALSO very useful - even required -- in many jobs these days.
[Note: We do not offer professional training in these skills. Rather, we will be learning them together, using printouts of web-based tutorials and role-playing exercises. "Autistic-friendly social skills" naturally lend themselves to learning in a non-professional autistic-only self-help context, whereas the more "blending-in-with-NTs" types of "social skills" are best learned from NTs, via either therapy or a drama class, if one chooses to learn them.]
To help our members find compatible friends, either within our group itself or within our hopefully ever-expanding network, or via a hopefully soon-forthcoming website, in ways that are as systematic (yet individuality-respecting) as possible. Also, to have occasional group discussions on how to develop friendships in ways that work with, rather than against, our autistic traits, and in ways that can help us avoid social burnout.
As our group grows, to encourage some of our members self-train in leadership skills via the Autistic Peer Leadership Group, with the longterm aim of spawning a variety of new groups that will be useful to autistic people in various ways, including, among others:
Neighborhood-based support groups in as many different geographic locations within the NYC area as possible, and/or accommodating different subcategories of autistic people.
Career-oriented groups for autistic people who are either working in or interested in working in particular professions/occupations. (These groups will exist mostly online until sufficient critical mass is reached for worthwhile in-person activities.)
Hobby-oriented social groups devoted (eventually) to a wide variety of specific hobbies.
The eventual longterm aim is to build a large and well-organized autistic subculture, including autistic-friendly workplaces, thereby freeing as many of us as possible to focus on productive work rather than driving ourselves crazy trying to blend in with NTs.
In the shorter term, we will aim to build a network of small groups, of various kinds, that will be useful to autistic people in the here-and-now. The groups will meet both in-person and online.