Frequently Asked Questions
This page will be updated on an ongoing basis.
What’s it like being in a Dialogue?
Key aspects of dialogue are respect, compassion and care. Dialogue is not a debate where opinions are espoused and attacked, nor is Dialogue suitable for everyone. We sit in a circle on chairs and the facilitators will introduce the session and explain the simple guidelines and sometimes suggest an introductory topic. We then begin our conversation, one person might decide to speak while everyone else listens, building on each other’s words and topics, thinking carefully about what you hear and say.
Sometimes it might go quiet, which is natural and needs to be allowed if it happens. You don’t have to talk at all if you don’t want to. Also, please be aware of allowing others’ time and space for finding their voice, who may require more in between what is being said. We talk and think supportively together this way, until the break or the end.
We agree to respect each other’s confidentiality, that nothing said in the group is repeated outside the group and no identities are revealed.
Previously in dialogues, people have reported a heightened sense of mental alertness and a natural sense of belonging.
What are the aims?
Simply put, we explore the healing and co-creative potential of dialogue together! Wider aims are community cohesion, deeper awareness, stronger participation, better respect and a greater openness and sense of potential. Autistic people can feel a sense of kinship and more understood by each other and yet they rarely get an opportunity to come together, especially with people who know a mixture of different things about autism. Non-autistic people and autistic people can sit and explore each others’ thinking together in an entirely non-judgemental setting. We believe this is an entirely unique project.
Autistic identities and emerging autistic sub-cultural groupings can benefit from direct interactions within a safe space whose agenda is compassion and care. Barriers to group settings and normative social communication can be explored as part of the overall process. Feedback from our previous sessions in Sheffield has highlighted that people have come away from the sessions feeling reduced anxiety, invigorated, challenged, and with a deeper understanding of the perspectives held by other people. You can read some testimonials on this website here.
“What a wonderful group of people. I can’t really adequately describe the combination of compassion, respect, affinity and engagement with others that I’ve had – it seems somewhat unique.” – a recent autistic attendee.
Who will be there?
In 2017, our aim was to bring together a broad range of people, both autistic and non-autistic. We invited people whose life, work or research is connected to autism. In the first three dialogues of 2018 there were both autistic and non-autistic people and in the second three sessions there were only autistic people, then we all came together again for a final session and our conference. This year there will be up to 20 people, both autistic and non-autistic throughout the eight sessions (March to November).
What’s the room like?
I’m autistic and get restless, can I move around?
You are free to come and go as you feel and there are chairs and toilets just outside our room. We aim to be inclusive but if you want to walk around a lot, for example, it might detract from the group aims so you could consider your activity outside the room. We would like to encourage you to try to stay engaged within the circle. Seated stimming is fine and in fact encouraged.
What if I am non-speaking?
It’s fine for you to come and listen and communicate in your own way as long as you think everyone will be able to understand what you want to say.
Is there a minimum age requirement to enter the event?
Do I need to book a place?
AD19 is now full.
Join ADRN the mailing list to join our reserve list and receive more information about forthcoming dialogues and more.
By booking on to this course, you agree with our aims, you understand that Autism Dialogue is a special technique of group discussion and you agree to try to learn and adhere to some very simple guidelines.
Do I need to bring anything?
Just yourself and some openness. You might like to bring a notepad, a drink and ‘stim tools’. This is your time.
What if I can’t make one or more of the events?
We would very much like it if you came to all sessions and in fact we prefer it, in order for the dialogue group to best succeed, with your voice the whole way through. Six or seven is ok.
Can I bring a family member or carer for support?
Unfortunately, this is not possible as due to confidentiality, we would need to obtain the permission of everyone in the group, which would be very difficult.
Must I have an official autism diagnosis?
If you are coming as an autistic person, as long as you identify (see yourself) as autistic that’s fine. Anyone who has a concern and wants to genuinely learn about autism is welcome (academics, teachers, clinicians, family members, support workers etc), just be aware that we are not a show and everyone’s intentions will become quickly apparent anyway.
Is it like a support group?
No, dialogue is not a typical support or self-help group, although you can experience deep levels of support from individuals and the group and simply by being present and attentive to the group aims and discussions. Autism Dialogue is not for debating, is not a place for airing grievances of any sort and not somewhere for seeking practical advice. Please see Sheffield Autistic Society website for a large resource of other forums.
What if I have other diagnoses or other issues?
If you have complex mental health problems as well as autism, you might struggle in a prolonged, sensitive and personal sitting. Dialogue is not exactly therapy and is not the right environment to be distressed in. Some levels of anxiety might be expected, we are very aware of this possibility and will facilitate the group with your best interests in mind.
Is it confidential?
There are some written guidelines to dialogue we will go through nearer the dates and at the sessions, one of them is that we agree not to reveal the identity of anyone who attends, another is that we don’t reveal details of anything that is said in the dialogue, unless with permission from the person that said it. There is also an amount of trust required (in yourself, the process and each other) in dialogue in order for it to work.
What safeguarding will be in place?
As adults, it will be assumed you have a level of responsibility in order to attend Autism Dialogue. However, autistic people are classed as vulnerable adults. We take everyone’s safety very seriously and as well as applying our own knowledge and carrying out a risk assessment, we are overseen and advised by Sheffield Autistic Society. You can read the safeguarding policy here.
Can I ask a question?
All information in dialogues and in emails remains confidential.