Enjoying DragonCon as an autistic personEdit
Welcome to Dragoncon! I know that this particular convention may seem daunting, especially to someone on the Spectrum. There are just SO many people and the crowds along with the heat can be intimidating. If it is any reassurance, the things that you or your child will see definitely provide a huge incentive. And, rest assured, we have had many families (along with my own!) on the spectrum who attend the convention every year.
The biggest thing that we will be able to offer is the use of the DS seating areas around the larger venue areas. These areas are less crowded than the normal queue for events and programs and have a large area of demarcation as they also serve as the exits for the ballrooms and adjoining rooms and, therefore, must be kept clear and open per the fire marshall. Consider this area to be similar to the disability entrance at most major amusement parks. And I don't know about you but I have found myself tucked in a chair in areas like this when my kid needs down time.
Are there quiet rooms that you can go to for a break? No. But are there more welcoming places for a respite? Absolutely! One of my favorite places to escape with the kids was the gaming hall. Not only is it quieter in the area, there is also the additional benefit of having a preferred activity within easy reach. The Westin and the Sheraton are also host hotels. Because they are not directly attached to the main three, their lobbies tend to be emptier if you find you need a longer break. I would almost suggest bringing a meal with you and plan on eating in one of these areas as a little break.
The Hilton has really lovely seating areas spaced out throughout the elevator journey. I forget what floors they are located on specifically but my son prefers the 19th floor. Please note that this would mean dealing with the elevators at a host hotel.... which can be sub optimal.
There are, of course, places that you will probably like to avoid. The food court along with many of the adjacent restaurants will be nightmares. I suggest bringing snacks and bottled water (you can refill your bottles at MANY provided water coolers throughout the facilities). I say this because hunger is actually the biggest trigger for my family at these events. And while you sometimes think you are going to eat at a golden moment, you will soon find that there aren't really any times where lines for food are NOT long.
I also have no idea how the America's Mart situation will work out this year. The dealer rooms tend to be a nightmare regardless and that is an area we have no control over, so if you plan to visit, pick a time when you know you can be most successful. Many people also opt to go during the parade (but the word is getting out on that hack so there is no guarantee if that would be a good time to go this year).
If you prepaid for a membership, the line moves quickly through registration. You can, however, always opt to come directly to us and we will do all the footwork for you if that will help. All you need to bring for our services is your ability to answer a few quick questions, a pre-reg card voucher/currency for a membership and a valid photo id.
Quiet Areas Edit
We don't have dedicated quiet rooms, but there are areas around the Con that are quieter. We have small alcoves in the biggest ballrooms (Marriott Atrium, Hyatt Centennial, Hilton Grand, Westin Peachtree) where my volunteers have set up chairs and can act as a quiet area. It is within a ballroom, and a panel will probably be going on, but it is quieter than the outside lobby. The Sheraton is a fairly quiet hotel overall, with lots of places that are quieter.
If you know of any other areas you would recommend to others as a respite from the noise of the crowd, let us know and we will include it here.
Color Communication Badges Edit
Color Communication Badges are a system which were first developed in Autistic spaces and conferences. They help people tell everyone who can see their badge about their communication preferences.
You can get the cards to print in the PDF linked below. You will need a plastic name tag holder, you can get them at Staples, Office Depot, and other office supply stores. Print out the cards on white, heavy duty paper or cardstock, cut them out and place them in the name tag holder. They have cut outs to be used with a standard badge clip as well, just refold and reattach to change color.
A color communication badge is a name tag holder that can pin or clip onto clothing. In the name tag holder there are three cards: one green card that says “GREEN”, one yellow card that says “YELLOW”, and one red card that says “RED.” The card that is currently visible is the active card; the other two are hidden behind the first one, accessible to the person if they should need them. Showing a green badge means that the person is actively seeking communication; they have trouble initiating conversations, but want to be approached by people who are interested in talking. Showing a yellow badge means that the person only wants to talk to people they recognize, not by strangers or people they only know from the Internet. The badge-wearer might approach strangers to talk, and that is okay; the approached people are welcome to talk back to them in that case. But unless you have already met the person face-to-face, you should not approach them to talk. Showing a red badge means that the person probably does not want to talk to anyone, or only wants to talk to a few people. The person might approach others to talk, and that is okay; the approached people are welcome to talk back to them in that case. But unless you have been told already by the badge-wearer that you are on their “red list”, you should not approach them to talk.
Color communication badges are a good aid because they allow people to express their current communication preference quickly, nonverbally, and simply - people can change what card is showing if their preference changes. They are a good way to prevent situations where someone is caught in a social situation they do not want to be in, or situations where someone wants to talk but can’t initiate. This means that communication badges can help make conferences, conventions, meetings, college campuses, and other spaces more accessible. People with communication impairments, people who have trouble expressing their communication preferences, and people who have trouble reading social cues about communication preference, may find color communication badges useful. Color communication badges also help all people, abled or disabled, to more easily and effectively let people know whether they want to be approached for conversations or not. This can creates a positive impact on the social atmosphere where communication badges are being used. If you have any questions about the color communication badge system, please contact ASAN by email at email@example.com.
This Resource Guide was developed for ASAN’s Pacific Alliance on Disability Self-Advocacy project. Pacific Alliance is an effort funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to support self advocacy groups with technical assistance. For more about the ASAN or the Pacific Alliance, visit us at www.autisticadvocacy.org.