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 appropriate autistic community forums, NOT in our 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
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 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. 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.
When we hold general support group meetings, not focused on a particular topic, please try to avoid the extremes of (1) rambling on at length about one topic and (2) lots of sudden rapid changes in topic.
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 most of our topic-focussed meetings will be devoted to 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."
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, in lieu of asking the person to explain it).
In any case, please try to avoid derailing the meeting with prolonged discussion or debate about why X is (or is not) a problem. Such discussion can be had separately later.
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 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 appropriate autistic community forums, NOT in our meetings
Please DO NOT discuss political topics at our meetings. If you've attended at least two meetings in the past six months, you may join our separate Autism Politics Discussion Group and discuss controversial autism-related matters there. If you've attended at least three meetings in the past six months, you may join our separate General Societal/Political Discussion Group and discuss general (not autism-specific) political matters there. 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 do NOT even mention ANY specific political topics or viewpoints. Even a mere mention -- indeed, even a mere hint -- tends to result in debates that take over the entire meeting and result in some members feeling outraged, excluded, personally insulted, etc., alienating them from the support group.
Regarding political or otherwise controversial topics that pertain to autism itself, or to the autistic community itself, if you want to call our attention to such a topic, please do nothing more than point us to a relevant thread in one of the autistic community online forums. You may say something like, "I think this is an important issue we should all think about," but please do NOT ask other members to voice their opinions about it in the support group itself, 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, please do NOT mention, in our support group, the specific issues on which you disagree. Instead, any such discussion should be confined to general principles of methods for discussing controversial topics in a non-hostile way, such as Street Epistemology. If you want more detailed advice, ask to be allowed to join the Autism Politics Discussion Group or the General Societal/Political Discussion Group, as appropriate.
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 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, most of our topic-focussed meetings will be devoted to 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 agree 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 aim of conflict resolution might be merely to quell drama, by reaching 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.