Dorset Adult Aspergers Support

Programme Review Newsletter

of the DAAS meeting held on

Tuesday 21st March 2017, 7.00pm
Bournemouth University, Wallisdown

WelcomeSteve Mason hosted the meeting and warmly greeted newcomers. Steve has now joined the ranks of DAAS Voluntary Directors and has taken on the role of Chairman. This is a very welcome appointment. Notices on the tables set out a list of job opportunities and Steve encouraged people to consider whether they could help in any way, particularly to ensure our monthly meetings flourish and continue to provide support and guidance.
MembershipDAAS membership year starts on 1st April and Steve reminded people that subscriptions remain at £5 single and £10 family. DAAS is run by Voluntary Directors so fees and donations all go towards essential running expenses. Forms are available on our website and at meetings.
The Way ForwardDAAS continues to grow and offers a variety of talks and discussion opportunities which receive very good feedback. Our aim is to deliver a quality service and with a very small band of Voluntary Directors we need to make sure we don’t overstretch ourselves. So we have decided to concentrate our efforts on maintaining and improving the monthly meetings and to hold back on too many extra/outside activities. But the DAAS Drop-ins will continue for the time being (1st and 3rd Friday mornings) and we will support any activities and events organised by group members as far as we can. For example Ladies nights and some Social activities are being run by DAAS members. The DAAS West group in Dorchester is being run currently by Carole Driver, who would also welcome some extra support there.
Future MeetingsIn April our theme will be Welfare Reform and Benefits Update, a topic which should be relevant to many members.
The May meeting will be a Table Top Talk evening with a new twist. There will be a group specifically for carers/supporters; one, or two, groups for people on the spectrum to chat and share on particular topics; and another group with a social theme with board games etc. If people choose to just listen then that’s also fine, as is swapping tables part way through.
Autism Friendly LibrariesAll Dorset main libraries now have autism friendly areas, books and staff. Leaflets are available at the meetings and suggestions for additions to the stock will be welcomed. Do see what’s on offer. There’s a wealth of good books now being published.
Founder memberSteve welcomed Tim Downing, the son of John Downing who was a founder member of DAAS. Sadly John passed away a couple of years ago but we are grateful to the efforts he put in to establish DAAS back in 2008.
5 km RunElaine Seyd has signed up to do a sponsored 5 km run in Poole Park on 8th April – the Neon Run. Elaine is raising money for Diverse Abilities and has a Just Giving page on Facebook for anyone who would like to sponsor her. (Before or after the event)
AutscapeTrish Jubb reminded us about Autscape, an autistic conference created by autistic people for autistic people and encouraged people thinking of attending to make a decision fairly soon as places are becoming booked up quickly. As a reminder, this year Autscape will take place in Northampton at Kings Park Conference Centre from 8th – 11th August 2017. Details can be found on line at
Social EventsMen’s evening – Steve has tried to establish this but has met with some difficulties with only 3 people signing up and between them suggesting 5 different activities ! Steve will continue to investigate alternative provision and will publicise any which might be worth trying out.
Social Calendar – Amy Pickford has produced an outline social calendar and is currently organising monthly events using a special Facebook page. You can contact Amy via the closed DAAS Facebook page or at meetings.
Pre-meetingFinally Steve explained that he would be holding pre-meetings at 6.30 pm before the main Tuesday evening meetings. He would welcome say 4 or 5 people from the group to suggest ideas or give feedback. There will be limited time for a brief discussion and the pre-meetings will be open to anyone who wants to come, for as little time or as often as they like. He also hopes some people will be able to give a hand with setting up the room ready for the 7.00pm start of the main meeting. People were invited to give their names to Steve if they are interested, or just to turn up next time.
Main Event
Expanding Friendships & Dating EtiquetteWe welcomed back Sandy Teal, a DAAS non-executive Voluntary Director and an educational consultant, to continue looking at the popular topic of Friendships and Social Communication – this time from the added perspective of a dating or potential dating relationship. Sandy works with adults and children with Asperger’s/HFA all day and every day and said that many of the adults ask her for help in finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. This is a really difficult task as Sandy can’t “magic up” someone to suit. Often the person may not even be sure what they are looking for in a potential partner. Sometimes they may be confused about their own sexuality and there is now more literature available relating to that confusion. Sandy explained she wasn’t able to give any magic answers in 45 minutes but she did hope to highlight and raise awareness of some positive aspects and some potential pitfalls. She had brought an article by Tony Attwood and several books for people to browse after the talk and a few power point slides with summary notes are also available for anyone who would like copies. Sandy confirmed what had been said earlier that Rossmore library has a good selection of AS books which can be borrowed.

Addressing the topic of dating it’s helpful to look at what is important and what isn’t important to each person in this situation. Several people had already given thought to this and made some initial observations: how difficult it is to know if it’s appropriate to ask someone to spend time with you; how the fact of being autistic, or particular behaviours, may seem “weird” to some other people and greater understanding and a non-judgemental approach would help. We then did several different continuum tasks, which those who have heard Sandy before are familiar with. Much of the session involved practical work and discussions around particular aspects, so these notes will only reflect those parts of the presentation which were part of the general consensus or summary. We started by considering 5 statements and Sandy asked those who were willing to participate to stand in a line (a continuum) representing how important or unimportant they thought each particular statement was to them. We then discussed why people held those views and how this might be perceived by others. There was a range of different positions. Participation in each of the 5 exercises was completely voluntary.

The 5 statements were:
1. It’s important that the person you’d like to spend time with has similar interests (Important, not important or somewhere in the middle) There was a spread of views with points being made about having a balance, not having anything to talk about, and the dangers of monopolising conversation.
2. The other person has good personal hygiene. Again there was a range of views. Points included: this being taken too far to OCD levels, and the struggle that many people with AS have with sensory issues, especially with water, with organising themselves to get out of the house, with self discipline and motivation. There are different levels of toleration. Poor hygiene standards in others generally met with disapproval.
3. The other person takes an interest in me. Most of the people taking part found this very important. Sandy spoke about people who looked for someone with similar interests who can tolerate them rather than necessarily liking them in an emotional or physical way.
4. The other person is tolerant. (This is not quite the same as just tolerating someone) Tolerance may become more important as a relationship progresses and it works both ways – you have to tolerate their issues as much as they do yours.
5. The other person is attractive to you/you like the way they look. Points included the fact that attraction can grow as you get to know someone. They may not initially seem your type or be conventionally attractive but other aspects and character can change your mind. In some cases physical appearance is less important than personality and occasionally someone who is drop-dead gorgeous may be ugly inside.

As a further exercise Sandy changed the two end definitions of the continuum line to read Relaxed and Anxious & Worried. There were 5 new statements for people to respond to. The statements were:
1. Chatting to someone I fancy. It’s quite common for most people to feel some anxiety about this
2. Talking about my interests. Points included the dangers of monologuing, or difficulty in identifying your interests in ways to suit a conversation
3. Listening to the other person’s interests. There was quite a spread of responses to this statement with some concerns about aspects of taking turns in conversations
4. Showing physical affection. Again there was a range. Sandy said that men particularly can feel frightened about identifying when it’s OK to make a move – is it the right time, would the person welcome affection and to what extent? If you can’t read the non-verbal signals this can be really distressing. It can also be difficult for women to become relaxed enough to receive physical affection or let someone touch them and this creates anxiety.
5. Talking on the phone to someone you like. Some people are uncomfortable with phone calls but others can find communication easier because it is not against a background of noise and other people talking.

Following these exercises Sandy turned to look at positive aspects of Asperger’s/HFA, working through some of her powerpoint slides. Copies of relevant slides are attached to these notes. Sandy believes it is very important we should acknowledge what our strengths are. The list of examples was put together from talking with Aspies and their partners, both AS and NT.(Neuro-typical) In some cases the positive aspects were really important in attracting the partner, especially honesty and loyalty. Aspects such as self-containment can be an advantage but in couples relationships may also cause problems. Sandy recommended a book “Asperger Syndrome for Neuro-typical Partners” in the Girl with the Curly Hair series. This is for men as much as women and explains there are 3 things needed in such a relationship – Rules, Reasons and Routines. if a rule is broken anxiety increases and it may derail things.
Sandy also recommends a You Tube video about positive aspects and friendships

We then considered a list of Challenges for the person with Asperger’s (Managing Anxiety; Unpredictability of people; Social Communication – struggling with “What If” situations;) and a list of Challenges for the NT Partner (Anxiety and Expectations) – copies attached. Sensory Processing issues can also really have an effect on relationships. “The Asperger Couples Workbook” is also recommended and considers ways of communicating how people are feeling in ways other than using words. There was general discussion about a variety of aspects, including the fact that everyone has the right not to be touched if they don’t want that. Also, trust is something which builds up with consistency and each step taken helps to build a relationship. When trust increases anxiety reduces. Finally, in small groups, we addressed a series of agony aunt questions and the advice we would offer to the person concerned.

Summarising, we looked briefly at Building Positive Relationship Strategies and Pitfalls to Resolution and Sandy provided a list of You Tube videos and other resources for future reference.

This was a very interesting and helpful workshop session and we were very grateful to Sandy for sharing her insights and wise words.
Next DAAS Meetings Tuesday 18th April 2017
Venue: Bournemouth University Room K103
Topic: Welfare Reform & Benefits – An Update
Speaker: Richard Bristow – Manager Poole CAB
Thank YouA big Thank You to those of you who volunteer to help out at our meetings. We couldn’t operate without you. Please consider if You too could offer to help – especially to join one of the rotas (Welcome Desk, Refreshments) to set up the room, and to put it back to rights, or to act as occasional hosts. Full support will be given. Please see Diane or Steve.