Bridging Hearts was formed to organize age-appropriate social events for people who feel they might not fit in with social groups meant to attract neurotypical members. Bridging Hearts is not a dating service but an organization that provides social opportunities for a wide range of adults with developmental differences, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Our goal is to help foster members’ life skills, social skills, and communications skills—with the aim of increasing independence and improving self-confidence.
2. My adult child needs a way to experience social events. How can Bridging Hearts help?
Bridging Hearts has three ways for members to experience social activities. Members can participate in online activities, member-sponsored in-person activities, and Bridging Hearts in-person group activities. Our online activities may be events such as watching a movie as a group using remote technology or attending a remote discussion. Virtual opportunities may feel safer and more comfortable for some new members who are hesitant to join a group. Other new members may feel ready to jump right in and join a group event such as a dinner or an outdoor activity. Our organized events are meant to appeal to a wide range of neurodiverse individuals with the goals of developing friendships and learning life skills.
3. Are autism and Asperger’s the same? Can I join if I have Asperger’s?
Although the term Asperger’s Syndrome is not used formally anymore, many people identify as having Asperger’s and are welcome to join us if they fit our other membership requirements. All members must be able to participate in events independently without assistance and must be able to manage their emotions and behavior online and in public without support. Members arrange for their own transportation to events and must be able to do things such as pay their bill in a restaurant. Although our monthly events have a Bridging Hearts staff person in attendance, that individual is not there to supervise members’ behavior. Member-sponsored events may not have additional adult supervision.
4. What if my adult child never received a formal diagnosis?
Bridging Hearts members do not need a specific diagnosis. Our members include a wide range of persons with many diagnoses such as autism, traumatic brain injury, learning disability, and mild intellectual disability. Many members have no diagnosis. Our members are united by their need to meet new friends. Because of their individual differences, members may not fit into social groups targeting neurotypical individuals.
5. What if I am shy but want to join?
Bridging Hearts is a great option for those who are shy. We organize events that allow you to attend virtually. You can pick and choose events that interest you, with no obligation to attend anything in person. Our private online member website allows you to view member profiles, post pictures, and send messages either privately to a specific member or to the group. As you get to know our members, you have the option of joining in-person events, if you wish.
6. What are the ages of the people involved?
Bridging Hearts accepts members between the ages of 19 and 45. Very few members are over the age of 40. We have many members between the ages of 20-35.
7. I have special dietary needs when I go out. Do you look for places with options?
Our group-sponsored events are typically held in public venues such as restaurants, theaters, and bowling alleys. We do have members with special dietary needs who choose to bring their own food to certain events, such as picnics.
8. Is this a dating group or something?
Bridging Hearts is not a dating site, but we do have a wide variety of members so you never know!
9. I worry about the safety of my adult child with special needs. Is this group the right one for him/her?
We expect our members to be able to function independently at our sponsored events. This means people who join must be able to handle themselves in public, understand their own vulnerabilities, and ask for help if needed. Bridging Hearts-sponsored events do have an adult on hand to assist, but that person is not there to manage behavior or arrange for transportation. As a parent or guardian, please understand what each event entails so you can help the potential member decide if the event is an appropriate choice. Member-sponsored events DO NOT have Bridging Hearts staff in attendance and should be evaluated for their appropriateness for your particular child.
10. How independent does my adult child need to be for this group? Can people who don’t drive, for example, still join?
Members must be able to independently manage their behavior, emotions, and actions. Many of our members need help in some areas—for example, they may not drive but are able to use public transportation, Uber, or Metro Mobility. They may live at home or independently with support. Many of our members have legal guardians to help them with medical and financial decisions. Often, our members receive some type of social service support or Social Security. Most of our members had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) during school.
11. Do you work with group homes?
We do not specifically work with group homes. However, if a potential group member meets all of the other criteria for membership, they would be welcome.