Finding your autistic tribe. This summer I returned from an event designed by autistic people for autistic people. For a few days I could relax, be myself, dress how I wanted, speak how I wanted. Drop my mask. Be myself. Bliss. I was in an environment where I no longer felt like a foreigner, stranger in my own land. Acting to fit in.
When you think, see and interact with the world differently, as others expect, it takes it’s toll in time, energy and you cannot be yourself. I often think, am I talking too long, too excitedly, are they even interested? I can’t tell from their faces!!! Are they judging me? Will they put me down? When is the right time to join the conversation? By being silent, but still feeling part of the group, but do others think I’m sulking?
Rather there was an atmosphere of openness, and apologies given freely if it was felt something was said or done wrong (even if others did not show or feel upset). It makes us feel better. You could do what you liked, jigsaws, crafts, talk, or not talk. Written rules made social conventions ultra clear. Unlike other events no time was required to recover from it. Rather it was sad to return to the neurotypical world.
So how to find a tribe and interact with it?
Forms of tribes
They can come in many forms, I provide just a few possible conditions below. They are not dependent on age, but should provide the chance to share information in detail, information which others do not find of interest or relevance, or provides support.
Shared interests – clothes, TV programmes, history, crafts. Common TV interests are Doctor Who, Star Trek, historical characters or periods, clothing eras.
Medical condition – autism, dyslexia and other invisible conditions, physical conditions. Sharing information about symptoms, struggles, successes etc. In a safe, understanding places.
Locations – places of birth, childhood, holidays, education etc. It can be nice to share memories.
With the advent of online communication, interaction can happen in many formats, but still include traditional forms.
In person – The traditional way of getting together. This could be informal gatherings, such as cafes, conventions, AGMs. As a child I enjoyed speaking to adults at Nelson events. This is still a valuable way of meeting in an electronic age.
Online – This could cover so many options. The ones I use most are Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogs. These have been general posts, or groups, where what happens in a group, stays in a group. I have attended online conferences, due to COVID-19, and international conferences. Also where travel is a challenge this allows taking part.
Hybrid – A mix of online and in person for many reasons.
It is still nice to catch up on information, read articles, contribute comments. There are various options, all with pros and cons. They can provide information events as well.
Paper – it is still nice to be able to hold a solid document. Pictures can be so much easier to see. It does cost more where subscriptions are involved or for the cost of magazines.
Electronic – It is nice to have something to read and contribute to, read, provide information on events.
Support from others
It is not always possible for someone to indulge in their interests without support from others, in many ways. These can be parents, friends or carers, other enthusiasts willing to help who may just want to help, and can make it possible to help indulge in hobbies, especially when in my case I was a child and relied on my Mum.
Physical/mental support – where there are visible, invisible or mobility disabilities. This could include getting to or from events. Or assistance at events, basic or practical ways, occasionally or throughout an event, sometimes from strangers. I needed this help as a result of injuring myself at a scouting event, for a few months. Without this I could not have coped.
Paying subscriptions – where the person is a minor or paying electronically is not easy.
Equipment – paying for equipment, as my Granny did for my brother, where the equipment was expensive, and it was a hobby she had had when she was younger.
Internet – access to social media for finding information or acting for a minor. Not for allowing free access to others where it is not appropriate.
It is good to find a place, in person, online or hybrid, for both mental and physical health. A place and time to indulge in your interests and hobbies. A peer group not restricted to age or location. I have made just a few suggestions but you may find others but it is important to find a place, if only for a while.
A place to be you