There are many places where persons with Asperger’s can meet people, but too often they don’t know where they can comfortably and satisfactorily do this. Bars, cocktail parties, and other such events work well in the neurotypical culture, but those with Asperger’s desiring to meet new friends or significant others too often are disappointed and even depressed by these environments. In an effort to break this vicious cycle, a list of suitable social events and websites has been compiled.
Aspies for Social Success is an unstructured social group that meets 2 times a month. The meetings usually take place on weekends; announcements are usually placed online on Facebook (FB) by the current moderator, Steve Katz. If people friend-request Steve with interest in Aspies for Social Success, he will place them on a FB mailing list for the announcements of the dates and locations.
AHA/Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association has monthly groups for Aspies both in Manhattan and on Long Island. The Manhattan groups are usually facilitated in a structured manner by Dr. Lynda Geller, PhD at Spectrum Services (303 5th Ave., between 32nd and 31st) and Pat Schissel, LMSW, director of AHA. The group is typically an hour and a half long, beginning at 7pm, and everyone gets a chance to speak individually to the group about any circumstances they have questions about or need support on and seek feedback. Afterward, a social dinner usually follows at another location agreed upon by the group. The Long Island group is partnered with GRASP and run by Branden Plank, a fellow Aspie, in Brentwood.
There are also a variety of organizations that have programs for ASD populations. Adaptations at the JCC, YAI (Manhattan and Bronx), and AHRC are three such organizations. Adaptations have hosted a speed dating event, outings, and other social events. There are also some classes specifically for people on the spectrum, like yoga, periodically available, at YAI, on 34th street. YAI also has an East Bronx division, AHRC is similar. (Similar with the Yoga class or with an East Bronx division?)
ASAN (Autism Self Advocacy Network) group meets once a month on the first Sunday of every month at 2pm in the Sony Atrium at 56th and Madison. This is also social in nature.
GRASP’s official meeting is once a month at the ARE (Association for Research and Enlightenment) Edgar Cayce Center at 5:30pm every 2nd Wednesday of the month in Manhattan. A Bronx group is currently being developed.
Mensa events can also be quite gratifying for those desiring intellectual company. They have separate focusing on special interests, and if a group doesn’t exist for a specific interest, one can be started. Mensa people are very supportive and friendly, not at all like the stereotype of conceited snobby intellectuals.
There is a Ladies on the Spectrum group funded by the Simons Foundation that meets 2x a month. Activities they provide range from martial art lessons, to sketch lessons, to movie and dinner nights, at no expense to the spectrum women. This group is facilitated by Sharon Valencia, who can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The internet has a plethora of resources. Online dating and social networking are becoming more common, even for employment. Facebook features several online groups and pages just for autism/asperger’s. Sites like GRASP.org (by Michael John Carley), WrongPlanet.net (by Alex Plank), and TheAutcast.com (by Landon Bryce) are designed to be informative and encourage social networking and expression among spectrumites and their supporters. Dating sites like AspieAffection.com are intended to assist in the search for significant others, but some complain about the male-female ratio, since such sites feature a vast majority of males. But there are events and websites where an Aspie’s special interests can be shared with others in a more gender-even environment. There are many women with Asperger’s who remain undiagnosed; seeking them out in areas known only to those who are diagnosed is illogical. Places and websites that seem to be havens for Aspies, diagnosed and undiagnosed alike, are conventions (comics, sci fi, technology, astronomy, etc.), clubs, and meetups geared towards the same, etc.
In summary, it’s important to find sites and activities that focus on special interests. This allows one to meet others who share the same interests with, hopefully, the same amount of passion, enough to form a connection. Also, if attending an event in person for the first time, to ease anxiety, it may be more comfortable to invite a trusted friend or family member for moral support.
The world is a big place. There are many people out there; they are more accessible now than ever before and in good enough variety so those with Asperger’s can find friends much more readily than ever before. Further internet and transportation advances should only make this easier. Happy networking 🙂
Sybelle Silverphoenix is a NYC based actress and vocalist for the rock band Kings Valentine. She and her daughter were diagnosed on the spectrum in 2011. This article was originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association’s (AHA) print publication, On The Spectrum. Sybelle Silverphoenix is active in the support group offered by AHA at Spectrum Services in NYC.