How do you feel about going to a lunchtime concert? The concert I am thinking about was given by the Dunedin Consort where they played on period instruments some music composed by J S Bach. So I guess there are a few things there.

Do you like listening to Bach?

Do you like period instruments?

Do you like going to concerts at lunchtime?

Personally, I prefer to play Bach then to listen to it. All those quick lines are a challenge to play but often get lost in my autistic brain when I listen. I understand the authenticity of period instruments but the balance of the sound is tricky which I find distracting. And whilst I like concerts at lunchtime, I do find it tricky to do something before hand and make it to the concert hassle-free. I could avoid doing anything in the morning but that doesn’t feel good either.

So of course, I went to the concert. After taking my daughter out for two hours of driving practice.

Was I being authentic to my own needs? Well no, not on the surface at least, but on a deeper level I was because I had organised my Late Diagnosis Group (LDG) to go as our first outing. I am not sure how we got to the decision to go on an outing in general, but I think it was my suggestion that we could do something more than meet at our autism centre each week. Certainly I was aware that one person had had to return home after having a breakdown whilst studying music performance at university. In the long term I hope he is able to be able to live independently again but in the short term I thought it was important to acknowledge that the LDG was the only reason he left his house by himself. I thought the group could help him do more, and by helping him and each other we would all gain something positive.

It turns out that my friend’s favourite music was Bach. Further it turned out that all the members of the group like Bach. A new season of music concerts started recently, and I happen to spot a concert where Bach was being played. I checked out whether the group would be willing to go. The concert I had originally seen seemed to disappear, but I found this lunchtime concert instead. The date and time worked for everyone so we wrote it in our diaries.

When you have four people that are autistic, going to a concert isn’t as simple as turning up on the day and buying tickets. There are different levels of needs to be taken into account. I certainly like to know I have a seat and ticket before the day. These lunchtime concerts don’t have reserved seating though and from experience I know that they would be plenty of availability on the date. However, the others wanted to have tickets beforehand and so I duly went to buy them a week before the concert. There was some anxiety about getting the money to me. I had to make it clear that money wasn’t an issue for me at the moment so it was okay for the others to give me money on the day.

We arranged to meet up for lunch beforehand. The concert was at 1pm and so we met at noon. We had to discuss where to eat though. It turned out that two of us don’t like eating in front of other people which had never occurred to me as an anxiety before. Although officially closed, it turned out that it was okay to eat at our centre. The two felt it might be possible to eat with the group but we left it open. Meeting beforehand also allowed a buffer for unexpected events (like dogs escaping in fact). I have a tendency to arrive late for things (travel time seems to be one are where my estimation skills seem to be severely inadequate), the others prefer to arrive early. We left our centre earlier than I expected but again it was a response to the needs of the others and the important thing is that people were able to express their anxieties and as a group we could support them. The concert hall was five minutes walk away (in my head) but again, I seem to be a fast walker so I had to check my pace. This was fine because we already had had a discussion over how long our legs were relative to our heights. We came to the road. I checked with the others whether we had to wait for the green man. We didn’t.

The concert was good. I appreciated the leader telling us something about the history and how the compositions were shaped. I am afraid I dozed off a bit in the first half. The weekend had been very demanding and I knew I was overdrawing on my reserves so the sleeping wasn’t unexpected. One of the group had to leave during the last piece in order to relieve the anxiety of catching a bus and getting home in time for the kids.

As usual, the convention was for lots of clapping at the end and I wondered how this would affect the group. Outside I could tell one of my friends was rather spaced out. She commented on how loud a man had been clapping behind her and that she had no idea where her car was parked. To me, she had been overwhelmed by the clapping but rather than a meltdown, her mind was coping by disassociating from her environment. I stayed with her and walked her back to her car. We talked on the way about the concert and music. She seemed to be back to the person I recognised by the time we had reached her car (I knew roughly where it was). I was a bit concerned when I left her but I think that was the echoes of anxiety rather than logic talking.

Everyone told me how much they enjoyed the concert. I have made a suggestion for a follow-up but the date doesn’t suit everybody so I need to come up with something else. I feel like we did something good together and have started something important. I also think I might bring some ear defenders along next time and check to see if everybody has the right level of support after the concert too. Good lessons to learn.