Central Coast Australia

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Autistic people need to meet each other and build our connections

By Spectrum Social Group
Archived 9 Apr 2024 - Posted: 9 Feb 2024
These are the words of Matthew Blakemore, the Central Coast 2024 Citizen of the Year. “Going to Spectrum Social Group events is a chill environment to meet new friends,” he says.

Spectrum Social Group was initiated by Trish Stephens, a retired psychologist, who recognized that many of her clients had a strong desire for friendships and often were alone or lonely. “I wanted to create a safe space for Autistic adults to socialise with their peers in free or no cost settings where they did not need to conform to neurotypical ways of being,” explained Ms Stephens. “The group has grown to over 120 members across the Central Coast and is guided very much by members on what activities we do as a group.”

Past events have included bushwalking, ten pin bowling, BBQs, archery, laser tag, barefoot lawn bowls, pic-nics, paint’n’fun class, virtual reality experiences and lunch meet ups. The most popular activity is the monthly cruise on Brisbane Water hosted by Dave who volunteers his boat, fuel and time to take small groups on to the water.

“I started going on the cruises and now Dave has been giving me lessons and I am about to go get my boat license,” says group member Zel. “When something good happens I feel like I am waiting for it to be taken away. Being part of Spectrum Social Group has made me feel supported, valued and safe. I don’t have to put on a mask, and I feel so valued as a person.”

For many Autistic people there is a need for society to differentiate between loneliness and being alone. Autistic people often feel that to socialise they need to conform to non-Autistic ways of being and sharing time together. The effort to conform to fit in can be draining and they may need time to recover in what is often referred to as a ‘social hangover.’

Matthew Blakemore is a younger member of Spectrum Social Group who has enjoyed group activities. “Being with other people can be easier when you are doing an activity and some of the things we have done as a group I have tried again with family. I work long hours and like that I can choose when I come to events and don’t feel pressured when I just want to be alone.”

Spectrum Social Group recognises the emotional energy required by their members who often feel that they are in a social minority. Through enabling Autistic peer to peer engagement, on their terms, in the ways they wish to be together it is hoped will lead to greater feelings of belonging and wellbeing by the Central Coast Autistic community.

In recognition of the barriers to access a diagnosis as an adult, Spectrum Social Group welcomes peers who are diagnosed or self-identify as being Autistic. Autistic adults that are interested in attending group events are invited to please join us at our Facebook group ‘Spectrum Social Group Central Coast’ here or website here.

This article archived 9 Apr 2024

 
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