It’s summer and that means festival season is here! We’re going to Camp Bestival and I’m very excited! Festivals can be difficult for people on the autistic spectrum because of the crowds, noise, visual overload and the lack of routine, amongst other things. However don’t let the more challenging aspects of going to a festival prevent you from going. As we know most aspects of life are extra challenging when you, or someone you care for, has autism but with some careful planning and forethought festivals can be really good fun.
- Do your research; Learn everything you can about the festival beforehand. Visit the festival’s website and make sure you’re familiar with things like what’s on, where to eat, location of facilities etc. I like to check out the lineup and make a list of the things I most want to see and do. I also look at the site map (the 2016 Camp Bestival sitemap will be on the website soon) and the disability access information. Find pictures from previous years to familiarise yourself what the festival will look like.
- Disability Campsite; If necessary apply for disability camping and a personal assistant pass. At Camp Bestival the disability camp site is much quieter and less crowded than the other camp sites, which reduces anxiety and sensory overload. It’s also much closer to the festival site which makes moving around the festival less stressful and makes it easier to return to your tent for breaks when needed.
- Plan your meals; Make a food plan. Eating away from home can be difficult for autistic people and their families. Stick to the usual timing for your eating schedule. We take breakfast food, something familiar for lunch and then plan to eat out for dinner. Camp Bestival has lots of options for food, and we always find something that everyone will eat even if that’s something pretty basic like pizza or pasta. Alternatively take a camping stove and keep all meals similar to what you would eat at home.
- Plan your schedule; Make a plan for each day. Schedule in anything on the stages that you want to see, and intersperse with activities, such as the craft area, or a ride on the carousel. Don’t try to pack too much in, leaving plenty of breaks and rest stops throughout the day. I find that when I have a plan for the day I feel much calmer and can relax and enjoy myself. It can help to keep a record of the plan, using visual aids, to look at regularly.
- Sensory needs; Address sensory needs. Take anything you usually use for your sensory diet, such as weighted blankets, fiddle toys, things to chew etc. I would recommend taking ear defenders or noise cancelling ear phones if you are noise sensitive, festivals are loud and wearing these helps to reduce sensory overload. Take regular sensory breaks, return to your tent and keep things quiet and calm.
- Disability platform; Access the disability platform. At Camp Bestival the disability platform is located in the castle field for the main stage. I can’t handle the crowds of the main stage, people are too close and getting jostled about causes me extreme anxiety, which would mean missing anyone performing on that stage. The disability platform means I can enjoy the performances and not become anxious or risk meltdown. You can access the disability platform at Camp Bestival if you are entitled to a personal assistant pass.
- Quiet time before and after; Keep the days before and after the festival quiet. I plan a rest day either side of the festival so that I have more energy to cope when I’m there.
These are my top tips for people on the autistic spectrum and their families who would like to go to a festival. For those of you who would like to go to Camp Bestival you can purchase tickets here. For more information about disability access at Camp Bestival click here.
*We are attending Camp Bestival this year as guest bloggers.