Comic Con San Diego

So I recently went to Comic Con San Diego with my son.  The first couple of days I went without him and he came with me on Saturday.  The event was great but there was not as much information as I would have preferred on disabled services before the event.

If you do choose to take your autistic child to comic con there are several things you should know.

#1 Kids under a certain age require their own badge that you must get at the convention.  That means before you can get in line for disabled services you have to get in line for the badge.  Lines are the nature of the beast.  In the case of my son he usually curls up in a ball and tries to zone out to his games when he is over stimulated.  That was difficult in a crowded space where people push through at any time.  Depending on the nature of your child’s sensory issues having a wheel chair might make the experience easier.

#2 Disabled services have people who can run to wait in lines for you in key areas like autograph lines.  Not knowing this in advance I didn’t even try to get premium autographs because I thought the lines would be too hard for my son.

#3 They do have areas for moms who are breast feeding to take their children to eat.  Parents with autistic children can use these areas if their child is feeling overwhelmed by the crowds.  However, these areas are just curtained off areas in the main hall so they are still very noisy.

#4 I may not know everything, the convention was very bad about providing exactly what services they did do for those with disabilities.  It is very likely they do a lot more than I have listed and I just do not know it because their communication about those resources were lacking.

#5 Get a room!  If you can’t get a room at Comic Con and you have to commute then don’t do it alone.  Comic Con is a sensory overload for normal people so it is important to have a close place to escape.

#6 Talk to the staff.  I was at the BBC counter and wanted to look at what they had.  When we stopped it was in a bad location so I told the booth attendant that my son had autism, that he was having sensory issues so he was curling on the floor like a ball and I was trying to find a way to see what they sold.  They directed me to a location that I could sit and not be in the way and still look at their products.

#7 The Spaghetti Factory! This place was amazing!  It is located outside the convention center.  By the time we got there my son was trying to climb under furniture and the wait was 30-45 minutes.  I straight up told them he was having some autism issues and asked if there was a tucked away place I could wait (I had little hope though).  They directed us to a quiet closet/stairwell that was completely unoccupied.  No one questioned my presence there everyone was amazingly understanding.  When it came time to order they were willing to take the time to help me figure out options that would work for us.  After I ate and I was thanking the staff I was informed in the future when they open at 11 there is no wait and they would be able to make the experience even better.  Seriously, I have never felt so “normal” in that type of situation in my son’s life because they acted like it was normal!  EAT HERE!

#8 Prompt.  My son got his picture taken with “Zombies” screaming at us acting like they were going to eat us.  He rolled in a ball and took the picture and was okay because I explained to him multiple times it was fake, it was a picture exhibit, and I showed him other people doing the picture.  Even before the event, I warned him about the crowds and the dangers of running away.

I do not recommend this event to most parents with autistic children.  It is a challenge but if you can make it work then it is also a very rewarding experience that can show you just how much you can deal with and come out fine at the end.  After the event my son expressed a lot of his frustrations but also said often “at least we got to go to comic con!” He was very proud of being able to do something so overwhelming and being able to make it through to the other side.

There are a lot of people coming and going but there is a huge level of understanding and compassion.  I had to leave a line and when we came back my son was determined to go to the display.  When I told him that we would get back in line the man who was in front of me overheard and offered me my place back in line.  The kindness shown was amazing!

 

Disney and Autism

I have had the privilege of going to both Disney World and Disneyland.  No, I do not have a lot of money I just happen to have family in both locations.  Disney used to allow people to go straight into the fast track lines if they had a disability.  Unfortunately, this was abused a lot with people doing things like renting a disabled person to tag along with.  The new system has you go to an info booth (unless you have mobility issues then you can do this at the rides) and let them know what ride you want to go on.  Cast members give you a return time based on the length of the line and you return at that time to wait in a short line.  This system can be used paired with fast track tickets, and if you are using the return time you can wait in line for another ride.  It also allows you to sign up from any info booth in any of the parks so a lot of the wait time is cut down in the walk from where you are to were the ride is.  The process requires going to City Hall and registering every 2 months.  Disney never asks what disability your child has or ask for proof, but they do scan the tickets of your child and those that use the return time with you to watch for abuse.

Staff at the info centers are extremely helpful, and can be used for learning opportunities.  My son is verbal, so I went up to a cast member and showed my son the name tag and explained how he could go up to any person with a tag like that if he got lost and tell them “I lost my mom”, and they would take him to City Hall for me to find him.  It took him a while to understand, first he thought he was suppose to go straight to city hall, then he thought he was suppose to go to the specific person I pointed a name badge on.  Since tickets had to be scanned at every ride we used return time for I pointed out the name tag and explained again with every person until he generalized going to find someone to cast members and not a specific person.  Everyone I used as a display person was very understanding and helpful in being used as a prop.

During our Disney World trip our son was 4 and had a lot more problems than he does now.  We purchased a backpack carrier from kindercarry.com to assist us when he was having issues and boy did we ever need it.  He got to walk on his own but if he started to throw a fit or we needed to move him quickly because of problems putting him in the backpack made it easier.  This was a two person job, one person to put on the backpack and the other to put our son in it.  For him the compression alone was a great help!  The down side was staff often did not know how to handle having a child in a backpack carrier and many rides have height requirements.  For one ride we have to take him out 3 times, once at the entrance, half way through the line, and right before boarding.  This doesn’t seem bad until you consider that it was a long walk, but a short line so it was only a couple minutes between taking him in and out again. On the whole though the carrier was a huge help, especially at the end of the day when normal children get overloaded and we still had to travel from the park back to our rooms.

The Disneyland trip just happened recently and he is now 7.  Fortunately, disney encourages bringing and using portable entertainment systems like the DS in order to help children with sensory problems handle the lines.  Jared brought his 3DS and was so enthralled with getting more people on his street pass (you collect things as you pass other people in real life with a 3DS) that he was able to tune our the rest of the world.  He does better when we are moving so the only time it felt like he wasn’t a normal child were those times when the line was to short to give him the DS and to long for him to handle.  There were a lot of issues with holding hands making his hand sweat, which made him try to avoid holding hands.  The large crowds make it easy to loose someone, so vigilance is still important.

What tricks do you use to get through theme parks?  Do you have experiences in other theme parks?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe!