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The Formation of Asperger Social & Support Group, by Tara Kimberley Torme

April 1, 2010
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The Formation of Asperger Social & Support Group

By: Tara Kimberley Torme

 On Friday March 2, 2001 at about 9am my life changed – I had just been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Bewildered and stunned I did not know how to deal with my newly found diagnosis. I could not believe that I had been placed on the autism spectrum disorder nor did I quite fully understand what it was. I felt I had nowhere to turn and no one to talk to and so I became angry at myself and at the world for being different or so different from everybody else. Why did I not fit in? I needed to connect to others who were like me and who processed information in the same manner as I did.

In elementary school I joined the choir and the chess club. I also took tap dancing, ballet, violin, judo and karate. At the local community centre I was part of the drama, teen jazz and skating programs. I made friends, but I never felt like part of the groups. My extra curricular activities in high school included – the library club, chess, curling, time scorer/keeper for basketball & volleyball, student and the yearbook. I was also part of UBC New Shoots writing group. Thinking back to my summer as a camper I decided to join the leadership program in order to become a camp counselor. There I participated in winter and early spring outdoor treks and canoe trips – the latter in pouring cold rain. None of these resulted in total inclusion or lasting friendships.

 I felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland’s looking glass world. I started to search the Internet and found a couple of email lists specifically for autistic people. A place where I could share my thoughts and concerns about my feelings. A place to meet and talk to people online and to make friends with people who were just like me. I made friends in cyberspace from different parts of the world, but I still wanted a normal social life. I wanted to communicate with people in my age group face to face, go to the movies and events with my peers.

I had been referred to Gastown Vocational Services and Burnaby Day Program. There, besides the services I had also hoped to meet others like myself. Unfortunately I was paired with people who dealt with mental illnesses such as bi-polar and schizophrenia. The Autism Society of BC supplied me with books and information on autism but no people contact. Once again I turned to the Internet for assistance and someone on my lists informed me of ANCA, a local support foundation for people on the autistic spectrum. My budget was not open to the substantial fee to access this service.

At wits end I decided to start my own group to meet my needs. I envisioned a group of people with Asperger Syndrome meeting for conversation and social outings. I created a flyer and started to advertise around the city on lamp posts and the Autism Society of BC. I connected to a few people and we started to meet weekly a nearby coffee shop. The group grew to 12 people and we also scheduled in a couple of outings. As the group progressed I found that my definition of adults needed to be amended. I had attracted people aged 18 – 55+ years of age. Obviously there was little commonality between the different members. After a while the weekly commitment also seemed to wear on most people. In 2004 I stopped the group, but stayed connected to some of the people.

After many phone calls and requests directed to me by the Autism Society of BC I started the group again in January 2008. This time I put out the word through the Autism Society of BC and previous contacts via email. We meet the first Saturday of every month at Starbucks on Broadway and Commercial from 2-5pm. We talk about whatever concerns us at the time. It is an informal meeting of friends who have one thing in common – we are Aspies. Some young men have come to check out my group and have not returned. Many of them found the trek into the city too far as they live in Chilliwack , Maple Ridge and Abbotsford. My group is a social meet for people with similar interests. All people with Asperger Syndrome do not necessarily connect. Judging from the emails and phone calls I feel that there is a need for social groups for young people in BC.

For further information contact Tara Kimberley Torme at AspergerGalAspieSocial@yahoo.ca.

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