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!