The value of discussion groups lies in the quality of the conversations taking place within it. Every one of us has an important role to play by keeping the quality of our discussions as high as possible.
High quality groups attract participants who contribute more high quality conversations, whereas low quality groups attract participants who contribute even more low quality conversations. The future of our groups really does lie in your hands.
For an easy to understand acronym, remember to keep your sharing RANT: Relevant, Appropriate, Necessary, Tasteful
Stay Relevant: Keep to the topic and autism. Yes, everything is connected to everything else, but please sharing something that is useful for the people who joined the group based on its topic description.
No repetition: Do not persist in complaining or discussing a topic, especially if people do not respond to the topic. Once is enough. If people are keen, they will discuss further. We autistics have our pet topics and we should monitor ourselves to avoid going into repetitive sharing mode.
No dumping: Do not dump a pile of information into the group just because it might be useful to someone. Share only when people are interested and keep the sharing short. If you must share lengthy information, use justpaste.it or scribd.com and share the link.
Set an example: If you believe that autism is not a disorder and that autistics should be treated with respect, do not label autistics as ASDs (Autism Spectrum Disorder). If you believe that autistics should all be treated equally despite their abilities and needs, do not use the term Aspies to describe yourself and exclude the non-speaking autistics.
No personal attacks: Do not attack any person or group, not even Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. A discussion group is for discussing issues and solutions, not for bashing people. We understand if you have a barrage of emotions to unload – please just do that in the social support group instead.
No discrimination: Do not make generalisations and blanket statements of groups, especially about personal values (e.g. All Asians are bad parents, all NeuroTypicals treat autistics badly). Not only will that make people upset with you, it also distracts from the actual issues that need to be discussed. The negative behaviour of some (or even most) of the group does not necessarily apply to everyone in that group.
Stay supportive: If you have nothing good or useful to say, don’t post/share/say it. It is fine to remain silent most of the time. Try to keep your sharing positive: focused on goodness, beauty, meaning and authenticity. We wish to create a supportive, safe space for the autism community.
Assume competency and good intent: When someone shares something that may be a result of ignorance or discrimination (e.g. denial that autism really exists, supporting Autism Speaks, advocating anti-vaccination), do not automatically assume the worst of them.
Treat them with respect just as you treat other competent adults. Gently explain to them (or just share articles with them) why you disagree with their viewpoints. If they have any issues, it will become obvious to everyone later on as they continue sharing
No fake news: Do not draw conclusions that have no proof (e.g. people who bully autistics are mentally ill, autistic men who try to start romantic relationships end up in jail). If you are sharing something controversial or hard to believe, please do some research and share your sources too. Making sensational and unproven statements annoys people and makes them question your intelligence. If you see fake news, we also appreciate if you can expose them gently.
Avoid jokes and memes: As with salt and pepper, humour is best served in moderation. The memes and social support groups are more suitable places to share jokes.
Give others a chance to talk: If you have been holding the floor for a few minutes, pause for a while. Let people catch up and digest what you have said, and give others a chance to contribute to the conversations.
Keep it short: Say what you need to say with as few words as possible. Discussion groups are not platforms for publishing essays and thesis; save these for your blog. If you must share something lengthy, use justpaste.it or scribd.com and share the link.