By Cheryl Conway
It is not always easy to connect with people socially after one graduates from college but by getting involved with a nearby social group, adults with Asperger Syndrome can make new friends and socialize.
In its fifth year, The Asperger’s Adult Social Group of N.J., has grown to about 25 members who meet once monthly to participate in a planned activity. Members are seeking even more adults to get involved and join in on the fun.
“Our current members have asked that we continue to grow, so I am spreading the word,” says Debra Burke of Budd Lake, founder of the The Asperger’s Adult Social Group of N.J. “It’s a good core group; hoping to get more members.”
Established in October 2013, Burke and her 34 year old daughter, Jaclyn, had discussed how great it would be to have a social support group for adults with Aspergers “since we hadn’t heard of anything like that in our part of N.J.,” says Burke. “Since then connections have grown, new friendships have been made, and it’s truly a wonderful thing.”
While “there’s a lot of support for children with Asperger’s, once they get out of college there’s not enough outlets,” she says. Jaclyn, who graduated from Mt. Olive High School and attended County College of Morris in Randolph, was 31 when they began the group.
“I just felt there was a need for adults with Asperger’s to have a social outlet,” says Burke. Other adults were asking for such a group as well, she says.
The Burkes went to a meeting in Morristown but it turned out to be more of a support group. She and a couple of parents agreed they wanted more of a social group for their kids.
Intimidated at first, she admits, to begin such a program, Burke attended a workshop held at Saint Claire’s Hospital in Denville to learn how she could start such a group.
“I knew I could do that; I can throw a party,” she says. So she decided to organize an event once a month, varying days of the week held.
Members meet once a month at different types of social get togethers such as dinner at an Italian restaurant, Hibachi, bowling nights, summer barbecue, swimming party, pizza and dessert party. Future events include impov nights, pottery classes, wine and painting and movie nights.
“They are good to come alone,” says Burke, “it just works.” Current members consist of men and women, 18 years old though the late 40’s from Morris, Warren, Somerset and Sussex counties as well as New Hope, Pa.
Asperger Syndrome is considered a very high functioning autism. Affected children and adults can have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors.
Of the members, Burke says, “it’s an amazing, positive group of people. It’s grown into a community of people; the friendships,” not only for the members but for their families, as well, “having a sense of community to share the friendships. It’s evolved so much.”
The next function on the group’s calendar is to attend a Paint and Wine event on March 11. Events usually last for two hours, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weeknights; 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
For more information, email Burke at email@example.com or call her at 201-230-4725 to join.