Rules and guidelines of the Queens discussion group for autistic (and similarly neurodivergent) adults
- Confidentiality / anonymity
- In topic-focussed meetings, please stay on-topic
- Try to be considerate
- Discuss politics in our politics discussion groups, NOT in our support group meetings
- Getting acquainted with other members
- Don't bring conflicts with other members/attendees into meetings
- Try to resolve quarrels with other members/attendees (outside of meetings)
- Do not harass other members/attendees
- No illegal activities
- Sanitary precautions at indoor in-person gatherings
See also the typical structure of our meetings.
Confidentiality / anonymity
Do not reveal the real-world identity of any member or attendee of the group without that person's explicit permission. Please keep this in mind regardless of how you found out the identity of a fellow member/attendee, e.g. please do not amplify someone else's breach of confidentiality.
Members/attendees are encouraged to take steps to protect their own real-world identities. For example, on our Meetup site, it is recommended that you use either a pseudonym or just your first name and last initial (as per the custom of "Anonymous" 12-step groups, although we are not a 12-step group). Note that Meetup.com doesn't care what name you use as long as you do NOT impersonate anyone else. Please see Warnings about online harassment for more info about the potential dangers.
In topic-focussed meetings, please stay on-topic
Currently we hold two kinds of chat meetings: (1) general support group meetings, with no pre-announced topic, and (2) topic-focussed discussions,
When we hold topic-focussed meetings, please try not to stray too far from the main topic, at least not for very long. Do feel free to share personal experiences that are relevant to the topic, and do feel free to ask for advice on matters relevant to the main topic.
Near the beginning of each meeting, even a topic-focussed discussion meeting, we may talk briefly about any urgent matters in our personal lives, even if not related to the main topic. However, in a topic-focussed discussion meeting, this portion of the meeting should be kept brief.
Also, in topic-focussed chat meetings, it's okay to have off-topic discussions after the official end time of the meeting (usually 9:00 PM, or after we have finished going through the agenda/tutorial).
Try to be considerate
Try to be considerate toward other members/attendees.
We won't always succeed at this, of course. We must accept the reality that, as autistic people, we are all highly likely to misunderstand and/or inadvertantly offend each other now and then. (This is one of the reasons why many of our topic-focussed meetings will be devoted to what we call autistic-friendly social skills, most of which pertain to conflict resolution and conflict prevention.) We should aim to be forgiving toward each other as we each, also, take responsibility for improving how we behave toward each other.
Below are some common pitfalls likely to come up in our meetings, and how we can try to avoid them or at least prevent them from turning into nasty quarrels:
When giving advice: It's all too easy for an advice-giver to come across as a condescending know-it-all. To avoid this, try to express your advice in a way that shows awareness of the possibilities that (1) the person might have tried it already, and (2) the advice might not be workable for that perticular person, for whatever reason. For example, you can say somthing like, "This worked for me, but YMMV." It's also a good idea to preface your advice with sincere expressions of sympathy.
Please be especially cautious about giving unsolicited advice. Especially in our general support group meetings, if someone is venting about a personal problem but has not specifically asked for advice, it's likely that the person wants sympathy more than advice.
When disagreeing with someone's interpretation of their own experiences: If you believe that someone is misinterpreting something that has happened in their own life, please be super-extra-careful about how you voice such an opinion. It's all too easy to come across as not just arrogant and condescending, but downright gaslighting, as insinuating that the other person is too stupid or too insane to know what is happening to them, whereas you are oh-so-much smarter and oh-so-much more rational. It can seem especially arrogant and insulting if you weren't even physically present for the events the other person is complaining about, yet you claim to understand them better than someone who was there.
To avoid this, it helps to be tentative. Make it clear that you realize you don't know all the relevant particulars of the other person's situation, but you suspect another interpretation might be more likely. You could, perhaps, ask the person why they believe hypothetical explanation X, rather than hypothetical explanation Y, to be the reason for what happened to them. Then state clearly the reasons for your own belief, while continuing to be as tentative as you can possibly be and still be honest.
"If even I managed to attain accomplishment X, then surely anyone can!" No, no, no, no, and again no! Please do not ever assume such a thing! It's insulting to anyone in the group who has tried hard and failed to accomplish the same thing, or who faces barriers you didn't face.
It also is not sound reasoning. There's a scientific name for it, "survivorship bias." See:
- Survivorship Bias: The Tale of Forgotten Failures, on a blog sponsored by Greenhaven Road Capital
- How the Survivor Bias Distorts Reality by Michael Shermer, Scientific American, September 1, 2014
- How 'survivorship bias' can cause you to make mistakes by Brendan Miller, BBC, 28th August 2020
- Survivorship Bias in Wikipedia
At most, maybe you could say something like, "If even I managed to attain accomplishment X, it is my hope that many more of us can too, if only circumstance Y could be brought about."
Difficulties with newly emerging social norms, such as the sharing of pronouns when introducing oneself.
Given the high number of trans and nonbinary people in the autistic community, we want trans and nonbinary people to feel welcome at all our meetings. To that end, as of October 2022, we encourage -- but do not require -- the sharing of pronouns when introducing oneself in chat. Some reasons for this newly emerging social norm are explained in the articles below:
- Sharing Your Pronouns -- What It Means And Why You Should Consider It by Natalie Michie, December 7, 2021
- Pronouns: A How-To by The Diversity Center.
If you feel awkward or otherwise unconfortable about this emerging new social norm, you don't have to do it. Feel free to introduce yourself in whatever way you feel comfortable with. However, please do not respond to other people's sharing of pronouns by ridiculing it (e.g. by announcing outlandish pronouns that you don't actually use) or by otherwise making a scene about it. If you want to discuss the reasons for this new social custom, we can discuss it briefly. Prolonged debates about it will be deferred to either the Autism Politics Discussion Group or the General Societal/Political Discussion Group.
Miscellaneous unintended offenses: If someone sincerely asks you to stop saying or doing X because it's upsetting them for whatever reason, then please stop saying or doing X, if at all possible, even if you don't fully understand what the problem is. Ask for clarification if needed (unless the issue has to do with racism or something similar, in which case please Google it yourself, if possible, before asking for explanations).
In any case, in a topic-focussed meeting, please try to avoid derailing the meeting with prolonged discussion or debate about why X is (or is not) a problem.
If saying or doing X happens to be essential to the conduct of the meeting, or essential to something you wanted to talk about, then please try to improvise an alternate, non-bothersome near-equivalent of X.
More pitfalls will be listed here later, as they happen to arise in our meetings.
Of course, attendees should also avoid obvious insults like name-calling.
Discuss politics in our politics discussion groups, NOT in our support group meetings
Please DO NOT discuss political topics at our support group meetings. Instead:
Please discuss controversial autism-related matters in our separate Autism Politics Discussion Group.
To discuss general (not autism-specific) political matters: If you've attended at least three meetings in the past six months, you may join our separate General Societal/Political Discussion Group. (Before then, you can discuss politics in the appropriate sub-forums of online forums for autistic people.)
However, at our self-help / support group meetings, please avoid even mentioning any specific political topics or viewpoints. Even a mere mention -- indeed, even a mere hint -- tends to spark debates that take over the entire meeting and result in some members feeling outraged, excluded, personally insulted, etc., alienating them from the support group.
In discussion after the meeting officially ends (usually at 9:00 PM), it may be okay to wander onto political or otherwise controversial topics, depending on who is present. If, for example, there are people present who strongly disagree with key stances of either the disability rights movement in general or the neurodiversity movement in particular, debates on these topics should still be deferred to the Autism Politics Discussion Group. Likewise, discussion of any strong disagreements on any other political topics should still be deferred to the next General Politics Discussion Group, or to an online forum.
During the meeting itself, it's usually okay to have brief mention of political/controversial topics that pertain directly to autism itself, or to the autistic community. However, if there are people present with strongly differing views on these topics, please do nothing more than point us to a relevant web page, blog post, or thread in one of the autistic community online forums. (In that case, please say nothing more than something like, "I think this is an important issue we should all think about and discuss at the next Autism Politics Discussion Group." Please do NOT ask other members to voice their opinions about it, and please don't argue for your own opinion either.).
If you need advice on how to talk about politics with family members or close friends who disagree with you, it is best to discuss this in either the General Societal/Political Discussion Group or the Autism Politics Discussion Group, as appropriate. But if you need to discuss this in our main support group, please do NOT talk about, in our main support group, the specific issues on which you disagree. Instead, any such discussion should focus on general methods for discussing controversial topics in a non-hostile way.
Getting acquainted with other members
Members are encouraged, though certainly not required, to get to know other members/attendees and perhaps become friends.
It is generally best to start by continuing some aspect of a group discussion in private messages via Meetup. To be safe (see Warnings about online harassment regarding some of the relevant dangers), it is recommended that you NOT give the person other, more real-world contact information until after you have gotten to know them fairly well, both via our meetings and via private Meetup messages.
If you are looking not just for friends but for a romantic relationship and/or sex partners, please approach this very slowly and cautiously. If two or more members complain about unwelcome sex talk, sexual advances, etc. from you, then you will be asked to leave the group,
Don't bring conflicts with other members/attendees into meetings
If a quarrel or conflict arises between you and another member/attendee outside of the meeting, please do not bring it up in the meeting.
(Possible rare exception: If both/all parties to a quarrel want feedback from the group on some issue pertaining to their quarrel, they may bring it up only with the prior consent of both/all parties, and with the permission of the facilitator.)
If a quarrel erupts during a meeting, try to resolve it ASAP if possible. But, if it cannot be resolved almost immediately, the people involved are asked to put it on hold for the remainder of the meeting, and then discuss the issue separately later, perhaps with input from one or more other members who are trusted by both sides.
Try to resolve quarrels with other members/attendees (outside of meetings)
As noted above, many of our topic-focussed meetings will be devoted to what we call autistic-friendly social skills, most of which pertain to conflict resolution and conflict prevention. It is strongly recommended, though not required, that members/attendees practice using these skills by, among other things, making an effort to resolve any conflicts that may arise among us. Such efforts should happen primarily outside of meetings.
Many autistic people have been repeatedly hurt by NT's suddenly dropping us as friends for no apparent reason, without any explanation. Let's try not to treat each other that way. We don't all have to be friends, but we should, if possible, seek mutually acceptable solutions to any issues that would otherwise stop us from getting along well enough to function comfortably as a group.
Note that the aim of conflict resolution is not necessarily a total repair of the pre-existing relationship. (For example, sometimes a romantic relationship needs to break up. In that case, the aims of conflict resolution might be merely to quell drama and reach enough of a mutually acceptable closure that both parties can move on and cease being too uncomfortable when they happen to run into each other, within our community or elsewhere.)
Do not harass other members/attendees
If another member asks you not to contact them privately anymore, don't contact them privately anymore.
Although we strongly encourage members to try to resolve their differences by talking them out, we don't require this. If another member does not want further private contact with you, please respect this.
No illegal activities
At our meetings, do not advocate any illegal activities, of any kind.
Do not invite another member to participate in any illegal activity with you. Do not offer to do anything illegal as a favor to another member.
In our chat meetings, do not post links to websites that feature illegal content.
And, of course, do not threaten violence, harassment, or other illegal activity against another member, or against anyone else.
Sanitary precautions at indoor in-person gatherings
Important safety note for in-person meetings: While eating together at the diner, it won't be physically possible to wear a mask or sit six feet apart. But, until the COVID crisis is completely over with, let's take the following better-than-nothing minimal precautions:
Don't attend if you have either a fever or an uncontrollable cough.
Even if you feel completely healthy, if you feel an occasional cough or sneeze coming on, immediately grab one of the facial tissues or extra napkins we will have provided and cover your mouth and nose as completely as you can.
No handshaking or otherwise touching each other.
Wash your hands at least once, as soon as possible after you arrive, before you eat, and again before you leave, after you pay. We will also provide hand sanitizer.
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.