Con Season is Great for Autistics!

With Memorial Day behind us and summer officially in full swing, convention season is upon us!  Comic or sci-fi conventions, Renaissance faires, and the like will be happening all over the country for the next several months.  For many of us on the autism spectrum, con season is a major social outlet.  It’s at cons and faires that we find people like us, our tribe.  We get to indulge our particular passions in an environment where social skills are either less important or framed by a character we’re playing.  I love it, and I know lots of you do, too.   

As awesome as cons and faires are, and as much as we autistics feel at home there, they can still be overwhelming.  I mean, with all those people, costumes, activity, sights and sounds, etc., how could they not be?  But, as with all things, a little planning can go a long way to make sure you get to fully enjoy your event. 

Know your rules

Most cons and faires have rules about costuming and what you can bring in.  Look over these and make sure you understand them so you won’t have any surprises at the gate. 

Don’t try to do everything at once

Prioritize the things that are most important to you.  Autographs and pictures tend to have the longest lines, so those are good to do early.  Check the schedule for any panels you want to see and set alarms on your phone to give you time to get to the right room.  Do the same for any demonstrations or performances you don’t want to miss. 

Take breaks

You’ll probably want to get away from the press of people at some point.  If you feel yourself getting tired or frazzled, find a quiet(er) spot out of the flow of traffic where you can sit and collect yourself.  If you’re outdoors, find a shady spot; if you’re indoors, maybe go get some fresh air.  Taking a few minutes here and there to compose yourself can keep you going through a long day of fun. 

Stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat

You probably won’t be able to bring any food or drink into the con or faire with you, so make sure you get enough water and real food (not just con junk or funnel cakes).  When your body is properly nourished and hydrated, your brain will function at its best and you’ll have a better day.  If you can, try to arrange a lunch break around the middle of your day (if you can get back in) or eat a good meal shortly before you go into the event.  Remember that soda and alcohol are not hydration – you need water, too! 

Bring cash – but not more than you can afford

ATMs are few and far between at cons and faires, and you do not want to spend your time in those lines!  Bring enough cash to get the autographs, pictures, food, souvenirs, or anything else your heart is set on, but don’t bring anything more than you can afford to spend.  When your cash is gone, you’re done spending.  That way, you don’t empty your bank account by mistake! 

Remember your etiquette

Don’t monopolize anyone’s time, don’t touch people you don’t know, and always ask before taking pictures of or with anyone in costume.  Remember that everyone is there for the same reason you are – they love it – and try to cut everyone a little slack.  When in doubt, refer to Wheaton’s Law

Have fun!

Cons and faires are always better with friends!  Some people meet online friends in person at cons, others attend in groups.  Enjoy the wonder, play “Count the Deadpools” or “Count the Harleys”, walk around speaking in character if you’re so inclined!  You paid good money to be at your event, so enjoy every bit of it! 

For some autistic people, con season is the best socializing we get.  Unlike our everyday work or school environment, cons and faires are full of people who share our special interests and don’t think we’re weird for loving things that much.  We feel much more at home, much more ourselves, in that environment, and it makes socializing easier for us.   

Do you attend conventions or Renaissance faires regularly?  What’s your favorite part – costumes, autographs, demonstrations, food?  What’s your best advice for avoiding overwhelm at a con or faire?  Feel free to plug your local con or favorite faire in the comments!   

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