Community: Online Autistic Pals

You know when your struggles seem so unique and ridiculous and they make you see yourself as an alien? Well, I found the place where all the aliens hang out and it’s pretty okay.

I belong to a lot of Facebook groups, some for music, which I’d been invited to, and many for animal rights and veganism, some of which I’ve started or been admin for, but I’ve never been more thankful for a group than I am for the autism ones.

Some Facebook pages from YouTube, podcast, and blog folks (Autistic Not Weird, Quirky.Stimmy.Cool, NeuroClastic, Neurodivergent Rebel, Autistic, Typing, Zoom Magazine–seriously, so many) have been helpful, not just for information and resources from the page owner themselves, but people do tend to help one another in the comments, which the page owners can’t always get to, since they’re focused on creating content. Also, as public pages, everyone can see everything and comment on everything, and page owners have to spend a lot of time policing, keeping their pages safe from harmful language and the like. (Fun fact: A vegan page I used to run had a portrait series and the first post almost made us give up on the project because there was so much body shaming to delete.)

The groups are different in that they have a bit of a gatekeeping system in the form of acceptance questions. They keep out the “vaccines cause autism” crowd and lay out the rules, all the behavior that can get you booted. You don’t answer the questions and agree to follow the rules, you don’t get in. I’ve joined two groups so far, one private women’s group and one public adults’ group, to see how useful they are for me or how I can be useful to them. I personally don’t have an issue being in the public group, since I’ve been pretty damn open about my self-diagnosis/discovery journey, but I totally understand if it’s not something everyone is or even can be open about. Either way, the groups amplify that aspect of the Facebook pages where people help each other in the comments. A group member will post a question, a rant, or a meme you didn’t know you needed until you saw it…and then everyone chimes in and suddenly there’s a discussion that spans the globe and depth of experience. When there’s a misunderstanding or a disagreement, there’s almost-immediate support and things straighten themselves out.

What’s really funny is that as much as I’ve been researching the autism spectrum and neurodivergence in general, reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos (my favorites on my Resources page), there was still this hard barrier between me and the writer/content creator, keeping it a one-way flow. That barrier totally melts away in the groups. Suddenly, you have something to give back, a perspective. You start to recognize names. Eventually, people start to recognize yours. You’ve become part of a community.

My interaction within the groups has been minimal so far, but even so, pretty much on day one I had a real “I found my people” moment. (I honestly don’t interact with a single real-life diagnosed/discovered autistic person.) Seeing the experiences of others going through the pre-assessment waiting process, big opinions about headphones and comfortable clothing, and the examples of how “neurotypicals are so weird and imprecise,” yeeahhh, there’s no way I’m not on the spectrum. And especially in the women’s group, the most often used react is the caring, hugging-the-heart one. Nobody’s in there looking to tear you down.

So I’m still going to keep reading and watching and absorbing all the other information I can. I mean, there’s a lot to be said for carefully researched, distilled, edited, and presented data (and longform rambles). But these off-the-cuff, a-dozen-a-day discussions are pretty great too. Maybe see ya there.

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