Parties and social gatherings are definitely big challenges for those who are on the spectrum. Meeting new people and going to events to be able to socialize are difficult as there are a whole bunch of worries, anxieties, and challenges that we have to overcome, even though sometimes, these gatherings include people that we do know. And as much as we sometimes would rather not go to these things, we do know that these events cannot be avoided, and are great opportunities for us to be able to socialize with others. Due to this, I decided to make a list of ten tips that can be used to survive social events.
1. Research- Before actually going to the event, do your homework. Research where it will be, and based on the title of the event, you would be able to get a little bit of a sense whether it will be a formal event or not, and the possible kinds of people you will meet there. If you could find something about the venue itself, you’ll be able to anticipate other things such as food, or climate.
2. Prepare to do some Small Talk/Prepare some Conversation Starters- Meeting new people isn’t easy for us at all. When I meet new people at an event, I usually get very nervous and anxious, and hope that I will not say anything that will drive them away or hope that I don’t miss any social cues. In order to break the ice, it’s good to have some small talk topics or conversation starters ready. You can also practice this with a friend before the event, so that you’ll be able to practice and see how a potential conversation based on these things you prepared might flow.
3.Pick Events that You Are Interested In (Or At Least, there’s a common factor)- If you want to go to an event, pick ones that you are truly interested in. It’ll make it easier for you to talk to new people then, as you will all have something in common from the get go. If it’s a reunion or a party, especially if it is happening during the holiday season or a birthday, make sure that there’s at least more than one person you know or are comfortable with.
4. Bring A Friend- When in doubt, always bring a friend along. When it comes to family reunions, you will have your family to support you; if you are at a friend’s party, bring a friend along if you can, or, if you have another friend in common, why not go together. For other events that you aren’t sure of, and you think that a friend of yours will enjoy it as well, why not bring your friend along. Friends and family are a great support system when you are unsure of yourself, and anyway, sometimes, events are more fun when you have someone with you to share the experience with.
5. Know Your Limitations- Know what you can and cannot handle when it comes to sensory stimuli, and alcohol. If, at a certain point, you are starting to feel really tired, or can’t handle the noise, you can first try to step out to get some fresh air and to “recharge” a bit. If you cannot really handle it, and there’s no other option for you, then make sure to take proper leave of your host before leaving, and make sure that you’ve already been there for a while. After all, you don’t want to overload or overwhelm yourself and have a meltdown during a party or event.
6. Have A Script- Aside from preparing small talk and conversation starters, it is good to have a script for potential situations that you think might happen during the event or party. You can also practice these first with a relative or a trusted friend before the event. This will definitely take a lot of the stress and worry away when you are talking to someone during your event, whether it be a relative or someone you just met. You can even tailor fit it to the person, especially if you know them well, if you are going to a reunion.
7.Have Your Coping Mechanisms in Place- Just in case, make sure that you bring along things that will help you cope, depending on the situation. Having them with you will definitely help you out when you have to “recharge” and you cannot leave yet.
8.Observe Proper Manners- This a rule that anyone has to follow, regardless of whether you are on the spectrum or not. However, sometimes, we need to be able to check ourselves, and if we are with a very trusted friend or relative, arrange a discreet signal that you can use with each other so that they can remind you of this when you aren’t following this rule.
9. Modify Your Stimming- Stimming relaxes us and helps us cope with the external stimuli we face, especially during events. However, when it comes to being in public, it isn’t a good idea to do stimming behavior that will draw a lot of attention. So, just modify it a bit. For me, having a beaded bracelet on my wrist helps, as I can finger the beads to calm myself down.
10. Physical & Mental Health- Make sure that before the event, you are well rested, healthy, and you put yourself in a positive mindset. These will definitely go a long way in helping to make sure that you will be more emotionally stable during the event.
I’m pretty sure that there are other tips out there, but for me, these are the ten biggest tips I have learned based on experience. I do hope that these tips will help you cope and survive your next party or social event, especially now, as the holidays are full of those kinds of things.
How do you survive parties and social events? How often do you attend social events? Do you have any other extra tips to add to this list? Sound off in the comments below!