How Autistic Adults Are Building Community in NYC

Nicole Russell, 24, had just moved to New York when she was diagnosed with autism. Feeling alone in an overwhelming city, she wanted to find adults who could relate to her experiences.

What began as a picnic Russell hosted for autistic adults in Central Park two years ago has become Autistic Adults NYC, a nonprofit that offers resources and events throughout the city.

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“I really wasn’t expecting anything to come of it,” Russell said. “We had like, 20-30 people there for our first event, and most of the people who showed up were like, ‘I’ve been looking for something like this, I’ve been wanting to meet other autistic people in the city.’”

Today, members gather virtually and in person several times a month and have formed friendships and connections. From taking quiet plant walks to playing games at a Manhattan cafe, the group is creating their own space away from the noise and chaos of the city. 

“Groups like this, really offer that place of connection, the place to feel accepted,” said Dr. Paige Siper, chief psychologist at Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai. “And these are things that we all as people really need. The other benefit to groups like this is really the skill-building component.”

Watch the video above to learn more about Autistic Adults NYC.