Challenges

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Overload

Overload can easily happen in a strange environment with many people.

What we will do

  • We will do our best to keep things orderly and calm. There are a number of quiet spaces to get away to, both indoors and out.

What you can do

  • Bring earplugs, headphones, sunglasses, or whatever you require to reduce the impact of sensory issues.
  • Familiarise yourself with the location of various designated quiet spaces.
  • Take time out as needed.
  • Sit near the door if you are likely to need to leave during a presentation.
  • Choose a 'no interaction' room if you want your room to be a quiet escape.

Choices

There are many choices to be made before and throughout the conference, from what you'd like to eat, to which activities you'd like to participate in. Choices are difficult for many people, and autistic people often find it extra difficult.

What we will do

  • We will try to give as much information as possible in advance so you can consider your options.
  • We try to minimise the amount of concurrent workshops to limit the number of hard decisions.

What you can do

  • Consider your options well ahead of time. Menus should be posted near the dining room so you can consider your food choices in advance. Decide which workshops and leisure activities you would like to do. This can limit the stress of having many choices to make when you have a lot of other things to cope with. It has the additional benefit of helping us prepare for how many people will be at each activity.

Sharing a room

Many participants will be sharing a room with someone they don't know. We understand this can be very difficult, but it is the only way to allow as many people as possible to participate in Autscape.

What we will do

  • We will try to match you up with the most compatible roommate(s) we can find.

What you can do

  • If noises disturb you, earplugs may help you sleep more comfortably.
  • If you are up a lot in the night, please be quiet and respectful of your sleeping roommate.
  • You can choose to have a 'no interaction' room, and please respect it if your roommate would prefer not to interact in the room.
  • If you have a mobile phone with an alarm clock, agree with your roommate what songs/sounds are ok and at what level. You can use a BlueTooth earpiece to wake you up.

Busy days

Some people will find the amount of active time each day quite tiring.

What we will do

  • We have scheduled long (at least 30 minutes) breaks between each activity, and a leisure session each afternoon.
  • Late afternoons and evenings are more relaxed, with practical activities and discussion groups.

What you can do

  • Remember to take time out to relax in whatever way works best for you. Taking adequate rest and sleep will help you cope with as much activity as you would like.
  • You always have the choice not to do a particular activity, or to leave early if you're feeling stressed. Only you can decide what you would like to do with your time at Autscape. See also: Choices.

Unstructured time

Some autistic people don't know what to do with themselves if there is a large amount of unstructured time, especially in an unfamiliar place. Knowing what to expect and what to do all the time can help some people to cope better.

What we will do

  • We have tried to keep a balance between structured and unstructured time.
  • We have kept large blocks of totally unstructured time to a minimum, and even that has many options for activities you could do alone or with others to fill it.
  • Some of the options won't be determined until the event, but there will be opportunities to suggest or sign up for structured or semi-structured activities for most of the time there.

What you can do

  • If unstructured time is a problem for you, try to think ahead about how you would like to occupy yourself in the evenings.
  • Bring your own entertainment such as books, music, electronic devices, games to share, musical instruments, or other interests and hobbies.
  • Consider running a structured discussion one evening, and think of some topics you would like to discuss with others.

Self-care

Many autistic people have trouble taking care of themselves. You will have to be able to get yourself up, washed and dressed, and get to meals, without intervention from others.

What we will do

  • The structure of the days will help many people with routines of rising and going to bed and taking breaks.
  • Meals are cooked for you and served at specific times, so your nutrition should be adequately catered for as long as you partake.

What you can do

  • If you take any medication, you can get a box with compartments which you can fill ahead of time.
  • Come to meals on time and ready to eat. Be prepared to communicate your meal choices by word or gesture before you get to the front of the queue.
  • Take your meal away somewhere quieter if you find it hard to eat with distractions.
  • Bring an alarm clock if you have difficulty getting up in the morning. If you have a portable alarm (such as on a wristwatch), you can set it to go off at bedtime or other important times of day.
  • When planning how much time you will need in the morning, leave extra for dealing with an unfamiliar environment and having to share space with your roommate(s).
  • Sometimes it may be possible to come to an arrangement with your roommate(s) to help each other with small tasks, as long as you recognise that in the end, you are still responsible for yourselves.

Orientation

Knowing and remembering where to be and when to be there. Just ‘following the crowd’, as would be common in a mainstream conference, may be a problem for autistic people.

What we will do

We will provide you with a schedule, including where each event will take place, and a map of the venue. There will also be schedules posted in strategic places around the venue. After registration, you will have an opportunity to have a tour of the facilities. The name of the rooms and a schedule of what is happening there, will be posted on the door of each room. The first session of the first two days will be a plenary lecture, so everyone who wishes to attend will be going to the same place at the same time.

What you can do

Wander around the facilities to familiarise yourself with the location of everything. Head to activities with plenty of time for getting lost and found again. Locate essential facilities such as toilets, fire escapes, and the dining hall. Keep your schedule and map with you. Be prepared to ask for help or direction, with gestures if necessary. (For example, you could point to the name of the activity you're trying to find, and if the person you're asking knows where it is, they'll probably tell you how to get there.) Rehearse some essential scripts you may need if you have difficulty asking for help.