Social experiences are very important for people whether they are on the autism spectrum or not. These experiences encourage people to relate to each other and to get along well in society. Social experiences can sometimes be very hard for autistic people for many different reasons. I believe that autistic people should be allowed to socialize on their own terms, not on the terms decided by neurotypical people.
There are many different ways to socialize with others. You don’t need to make eye contact with someone to hear and understand them. People socialize on social media by posting things on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. TMA even hosts Musical Monday posts on Instagram and encourages people to interact socially by answering questions and connecting through social media comments. Music is another way to socialize. TMA participants perform together in one of our programs called Troupe, where we socialize by checking in with each other, listening to songs, and practicing music together.
The fliers for TMA’s Sensory Friendly Concerts state that “autistic vocalization is to be accepted and respected.” Typically in a traditional concert venue, these vocalizations would be discouraged. In a classical concert, people are expected to sit still, and only clap when they are supposed to. This can be a struggle for people on the spectrum due to their sensory needs. Many people on the spectrum need to move around/or vocalize to self regulate. I think a way that we as a community can make traditional concerts more accessible to support many different types of social experiences and preferences is by making accommodations, such as offering nose reduction headphones, a sensory quiet room, and fidgets. TMA encourages its participants to socialize in whatever way feels comfortable for them within that environment.
Like all people, I work on having good social experiences every day when I am engaged in my community. I understand that when people are in different environments, we socialize in different ways. When I am in professional meetings, for example, having good social skills is important to further advocacy work and career development. These meetings that I attend help me work on being patient and being a good leader. I feel that I get something out of it when I am interacting with others wherever I go, no matter the environment.
I encourage everyone to approach social experiences with positivity, because they can help you relate to others and develop meaningful relationships with people. Social relationships are one way that we can learn from each other and learn new things. The Musical Autist encourages its participants to socialize and have meaningful relationships, and our three programs encourage participants to socialize on their own terms and develop meaningful friendships . In this way, and in environments that cultivate individuality and social accommodations, we can lead healthy, productive and fulfilling lives through positive social experiences.