ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, and Conventions

Reader R writes:

Dear Wil,

I wonder if you could give me some advice. My daughter Ella is 10 years old and is really getting into Star Trek, particularly Voyager and DS9. She’s even started drawing her own fan fic comic about Odo and Quark. So we thought we’d take her to a con.

The problem is, she has ADHD and mood disorder, and me and my husband both have depression/anxiety. So places that are crowded and have lots of long lines are hard for us, collectively.

I’m wondering if you can recommend a con that’s particularly well-run so that we can help our daughter enjoy the experience. We understand that we’ll have to manage waits ourselves, we won’t get help like we do at Disney World, but I can imagine that some cons are completely packed with people and it would be hard to find a quiet space to give Ella a break from the crowds or a food vendor that can serve us in a reasonable amount of time.

Any advice you have would be appreciated. I imagine you’ve developed mad skills for surviving a con while anxious.

Oh, and we live on the east coast (came to your NY show with Paul and Storm–awesome!) so a show on this side of the country would be great. And if there are games there, so much the better.

I have both  anxiety and depression, and a combination of medication and therapy helps me deal with the lovely* things they do to me. When I’m at a convention, if I start to feel that overwhelming feeling of being trapped in the trash compactor, I can duck out into a quiet place until I’m able to get C-3P0 to shut down the power on that level, but if someone has spent time and money to get to a con, that’s probably not something they want to do.

I don’t really have a good answer for R, but I thought that maybe some of you who read my blog may have personal experience that you could share about dealing with mental health issues when you’re at a con.

 

*and by ‘lovely’, I mean ‘not lovely at all’.

144 thoughts on “ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, and Conventions”

  1. I find that my particular type of ADHD fits in well at a convention – lots of interesting things to run around to as soon as you get distracted, plenty of fun stuff, free stuff, and opportunities to have fun, without too many opportunities to get in trouble for ADHD habits.

    Anxiety, social or otherwise, can make it really difficult to attend cons. There will almost certainly be large crowds and small spaces to navigate. Any therapeutic breathing tricks, relaxation techniques, ducking away to a quiet space, etc. can be useful. Taking any anxiety medication you have ahead of time might be useful, unless it drains you of energy (you need lots of energy at a con, especially if you’re keeping up with an excited kid, but I’m sure you know all about that!).

    As for depression, hopefully it doesn’t strike right around the time of the convention, but if it does for one of you, it’s totally okay to bow out and say you really don’t feel up to it. Or go, trudge through, and see if you can enjoy yourself – if so, great! if not, at least the kid might get to have a good time. I can’t really give advice for coping with depression in public because my own coping strategies are not that great (beer and cigarettes followed by sleeping for 3 days when I get home).

    And to address another thing, Disney World might have more dedicated assistance to families who request it, but the cons I have been to have had a whole lot of wonderful people, often volunteers, there to answer questions and help anyone in the crowd. They will often know a good quiet space to go cool off, as an individual or as a family. Don’t hesitate to ask for help – even other people just there to enjoy the con have your back, and will help you find someone who knows the building and can help you find what you need.

    Also, make sure you have cell phones or something to keep in touch in case you all get separated. I would imagine one of the worst anxieties for a parent would be getting separated from their kid in a big crowd. So make sure she’s got something you can reach her on – and don’t panic if she doesn’t answer right away, because cons are really loud and she might not have heard. She’s probably having fun. And someone working the con can help you find her, too. Backup plans can reduce a lot of anxiety…

    If you find as parents that you really don’t enjoy the family con experience, but your kid absolutely loves it, you can always send her with an aunt, uncle, trusted family friend, geeky nanny, or other awesome person in your life to future conventions.

  2. I’ve been to several cons, large and small, unfortunately no sci-fi/Trek cons, but cons are pretty much all the same at their core. Larger cons can be overwhelming for a first timer, but smaller cons can potentially be worse if they’re hosted in a smaller space and you don’t have anywhere to go to escape.

    Larger cons will generally have somewhere quiet you can go if you need to, at worst you can ask if they have a medical space, which is usually away from the action and quiet so people can recuperate and wind down. Most should let you use it if you have any sort of condition and no alternative. Getting a room nearby is also a great idea because you can always take the trip back there to escape for a bit and not miss much.

    Finally, cosplay might help. Dress up in a costume, you’ll get to escape being yourself for a while, and people may want to take your picture so you might feel a little more welcome than going around as a generic person. This part is definitely up to you, though, because if you dislike costumes or having unknown people approach you it can make things worse.

  3. My tip would be to check the Accessibility/Disabilites section of the website of the cons you are interested in. They often have made provisions for people who have Accessibility issues, such as special badges that allow the holders to enter and leave room without queueing, and reserved seating at the edge of rows so you don’t feel smooshed in by people.

    And don’t worry, ADHD and Anxiety are totally considered Accessibility issues. Just email the Accessibility section if you have specific concerns, they’re usually staffed by really nice people who follow the “Don’t Be A Dick” rule.

    I hope you and your family enjoy many cons together!

  4. We have a 9 year old with sensory integration issues, and a 7 year old. They have been to Dragon Con every year of their lives. We check the schedule in advance, go first thing in the morning, and leave by early afternoon. We also don’t do more than two days of the Con. Last year we got a hotel room there for the first time, which is hard to do, and it was good to be able to hide out in the room. It also let us pack food instead of waiting in long lines. However, it gave us too much time overall at the Con. Even though we were in our room, our son knew what was going on downstairs and couldn’t calm down. We may not do that again.

    1. I want to support Dragon Con here as well. My wife has anxiety issues and of the growing number of conventions we attend, they were the most prepared and helpful. They give you the option of choosing from a variety of disability services that, at the least, allow you to sit in a section of the line and enter first. In our case, we always try to get a hotel room on site so she can rest, at a high level away from noise, and bring food just like Jennifer.

  5. I know one of the things that help me when I get anxious is noise canceling headphones and loud music. You may need to tag team while waiting in line. Be sure to have snacks and water so waiting isn’t hard on the tummy too. Make sure to take lots of breaks. I’ve been to 4 cons now and they all had a less busy area that you could “hide” in if you needed to get away for a few minutes.

    Our 12 year old son is ADHD and his iPod with movies, games and music helps him. He also has a nice set of headphones that help him shut out all that stuff out there. We went on vacation a couple years ago and knew we would be in a very large and loud airport. We normally do not medicate outside of school, but decided he would need the extra “help” while we traveled. It was a miracle. He stayed calmer than his father!!

    The biggest thing to remember is this: It’s ok to go home. If it get’s to be too much, go home. Yes, it can be expensive. Yes, it can be a wonderful adventure. But, if all you remember is the “hell” it’s not worth it for any of you.

  6. Reiterating what a few people have already said,
    Go early
    Take your lunch and snacks
    And – no one else has mentioned this yet –
    Take your devices, assuming you have some. Handheld games, smartphones, kindle, or even those paper books I forget about. Give yourself permission to find a space, quiet or not, and collectively take a break to the other worlds that social media, games and books take us to. You don’t have to do con stuff every minute. By sitting for a bit doing normal stuff (if these devices are apart of your usual routine), you may regain your equilibrium and be able to continue.

    Also, if it’s a long con and you can afford it, get passes for more than one day, so you can go home when you’re exhausted and know you haven’t missed out on everything.

  7. Shore Leave convention in Maryland, this will be year 36 so you know they have their act together. It is a much smaller convention. The lines are all manageable They have children’s programs as well as adult stuff. I’ve been going to this con for several years now and have never had a bad experience. .http://www.shore-leave.com/

    They have a sort of sister con called Farpoint that is in the same area, but even smaller. Less guests and attendees so it might be a great first con experience because it is very laid back. http://farpointcon.com/

    Both got their start as Star Trek cons and have moved to a wider geek experience. I have attended a few conventions of varying sizes over the years and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

    1. Thanks for the shout out for us at Farpoint, Linda! It really is important to have a place to recharge. All 3 of the Baltimore area conventions (Farpoint, ShoreLeave and Balticon) have hospitality suites with snacks and comfy chairs that are quiet. Our game room is also a quieter space and it is stocked with games for all levels and ages. We also set up a kids craft area there for younger fans who don’t want to play a game.

  8. I have Asperger’s Syndrome (which comes with it’s own anxiety issues and issues with patience once anxiety kicks in). I’ve only been to two conventions ever and that was a very small local one in Wilmington NC last year and another small one years ago in Columbia SC. That’s my advice: Stick to the small conventions. Do a Google search for small ones in your area. Stay away from the huge ones in Atlanta, NYC or California (or any of the other ones that have now turned into a big media circus). I’ve never been to the larger ones myself (to expensive) but when/if I ever do attend one I will likely do what I do when I go anywhere loud and crowded with bright lights (I even did some of these things at the small one in Wilmington). Those things are also advice I’d give to anyone with any kind of anxiety. Wear (or at least bring with you in case you need them) ear plugs and sunglasses. This is easy to get away with without getting odd looks (if thats something that would bother you) at a convention since you can even incorporate them into a costume. Bring your own snacks (if you can – I imagine some of the larger conventions may check bags but IF you happen to have a food allergy or don’t mind lying about one you may be able to get away with bringing in your own food even at those places – I’ve been allowed to bring food in places before because of my food allergies). Bring things to keep you distracted in long lines (camera, ipod, book). As far as Star Trek conventions go I can’t really recommend any. I do live on the East Coast but I’ve never been to a Star Trek convention. I’d suggest checking out message boards and looking for smaller ones to attend. Also, some conventions DO have disability services. Check with them. You may be able to get some help from them. If nothing else they could recommend the best days to attend (for the multi day ones) or the places to find the shortest lines. I hope some of this helped at least a little.

  9. Cons can be really tiresome and draining. When I’m feeling both mentally and physically tired (I have flat feet so lots of walking and standing in lines make my feet, legs, and back sore very fast). My group usually find places in the convention space that will allow us to sit down out of the way but still close to a major thoroughfare so we can watch all the cosplayers go by (so we are still entertained but taking a time out). Also eat lunch early or bring snacks and eat late. I also watch the panel schedule and go eat while lots of panels are going (there is always a rush after panels get out… just think of a passing period in a high school).
    Also if you are at a more general con check and see if there is a board game room. Usually these places are more low key and you can try out a new game or if you are in need of some comfort you can grab an old favorite.
    My group also always check out the schedule each night and identify things we really want to do. For example my cousin really want to get Sir Patrick Stewart’s autograph at Emerald City Comic Con so we planned to go to his earliest signing and planned to get there early. Also bring things to do in line whether it is a DS (street passing is a great thing to do in line) or a quick game like flux.

  10. If it is at a hotel, and you can afford it, a cheap room offers a nice private space to regain your equilibrium. Personally, I tend to enjoy conventions in small doses, so I’ll spend a couple of hours in the morning with the crowds, go somewhere else for lunch, and return for a couple of hours in the afternoon for round two before retiring from the field of battle for the day.

  11. There is a gaming convention in Morristown, Nj. It’s called dreamation and it takes place in a hotel. You can get yourself a hotel room for the weekend and if it’s too much you can duck into your room. It’s also a smaller con so you don’t have to worry about the crowds. http://Www.dexposure.com

  12. Hello, R! I find large crowds and crowded crowds to be very difficult to handle. That said, I’ve been going to NYCC since year one. If indeed you end up going, I highly recommend getting the second-tier VIP tickets. As part of that package, you have access to a big side-room with comfy chairs, tables and even CCTV for watching the major panels. They also have a private coat check. Everyone who worked that room was really friendly and it was a great place to go to recharge and chill for before tackling the Con at large. I also recommend brown bagging it for lunch/snacks as the food court is completely and utterly impenetrable (and dimly lit with low ceilings. yuck.) I second the recommendation to hit the dealers’ room as early as possible to avoid the mobs – and at NYCC, people have a tendency to block the aisles for photo-ops. Plus you get early access to the dealers’ room/floor as part of the VIP ticket package. And I found Artist Alley to be very spacious and accommodating (plus we’d always use the restrooms there cuz it wasn’t as crowded elsewhere). Hope that helps. I’ve met so many amazingly lovely people at cons. I hope you try it! :)

  13. Ok. Things I have learned.

    Some cons have quiet spaces. Get a map. Find out where they are.
    Get the con schedule. Mark up on the map where you’re spending time. Photocopy map. Draw escape routes to quiet places. If no quiet places, mark the routes to the exits. I’m a Brit we have weather in con season. You might be able to do something novel like sit under a tree.
    Take a book / comic/ kindle. Decompressing if no quiet spaces means needing your +5 to leave me the hell aloneness aka the Cloak of FO. Don’t feel bad for telling people ‘no I don’t want to discuss this cool comic I’m reading right now, but come back in 5 mins/10 mins.
    Occasionally people and stages and stalls will have PA ‘s for reasons unfathomable. Sound bleed death. I can’t suggest a solution just a heads up it exists.
    People are sheep. They tend to turn left. Convention/exhibition centres are designed with this in mind. Turn right. Don’t queue.
    Take a packed lunch if you don’t want to queue with thousands of others between 12 and 2 to eat limp lettuce, soggy bread and appalling coffee which can only have been brewed in the depths of Mordor.
    Cosplay gives you a mask to hide behind.
    People are mostly kind and understanding. If you need to queue jump or whatever, people can only say no. Be prepared for them to say no. Be nicely surprised when they say yes.
    Yours, the flight or fight for 4 years girl for whom cons are the only place she feels safe.

  14. It’s been a while since I attended, but I-Con on Long Island is smallish and I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s held on the campus of SUNY Stony Brook, which means rather than everything being packed into a single convention center, things are spread out over several buildings. I’m pretty sure it’s during their spring break, because the campus is usually pretty empty when it’s going on–or maybe that’s just because it’s a weekend. Either way, there are plenty of places to go and sit and be alone (or mostly alone) without crowds. The University is on an LIRR commuter railroad line, so it’s very easy to get to from NYC. It’s also very close to the Bridgeport CT/Port Jefferson NY ferry if you’re coming from New England. The ferry’s a lovely ride in the spring.

  15. ADHD for me, with increased anxiety in overstimulating environments. A few things help me. This most important for me is to go in without an agenda. I need to not feel locked into trying to “make things happen.” The next is to get a chance to simply acclimate to the activity level and slowly learn to tune it out. That means arriving early, so the crowd builds while I’m there. That also means that I spend time just “experiencing” the crowd, people watching, letting things wash over me, without trying to focus my attention on anything substantive. I’m not sure how much this will help, particularly given that you will all be coming from different places. But I hope there’s something useful for you.

  16. Plan ahead. Sheldon Cooper level planning. Color-coded printed schedule. I have a form of high functioning autism, ADHD, and mild anxiety. Crowds are made of not awesome for me. What has worked for my Mister and I is to go through the con schedule together, noting what we are each interested in attending. I get highlighted pink, he’s blue, and we highlight our mutual interests purple. At breakfast each day we discuss our morning itinerary, and at lunch we discuss the afternoon. Do this at a leisurely pace. Don’t rush anything. If kiddo is five steps from melting down, do his thing next. Make time to relax, schedule decompression periods if you think it will help. Sometimes you just have to say screw the schedule and go hang at the pool for an hour. This is where staying at the con hotel is good. A fridge full of sandwich fixings in the room can be a lifesaver when everyone is swamping the food vendors between sessions.

  17. This is a good call. I think that’s the best day to attend ECCC. Everyone is fresh, enthused, and not worn down yet. It’s still super packed, but you can definitely find some quiet places to chill if you need to. Have fun!

  18. Maybe if you take a packed lunch and drinks with you(if this is allowed) then you wont have to queue for food. When it becomes a bit overwhelming you could find a quiet area to sit down and eat your lunch while talking over what you have seen. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  19. I’ve found that cons held in hotels are better than ones held in convention centers, because the hotels almost always have someplace quiet blocked off, and a quick word to hotel staff will usually garner immediate understanding and they’ll show you to a quiet place where you can sit and recover for a little while.

  20. The one thing that helps me every time is taking the time beforehand to get my mind prepared. Going in with the right mindset really does make for a better experience for me. I was cosplaying once any did not mentally prep and the constant barrage of people really did me in. I had to find a quiet place and regroup and I was fine after that. I also find that just taking my time and not rushing my day helps tremendously. My daughter is 10 and I took her to her first con when she was 8. She doesn’t have ADHD, but I found it helpful showing her photos from previous years so she could see the crowds, the set up, and what she was in for. It really helped her put things into perspective and help her mentally prepare.

  21. Let me say that I suffer from all of these. Medication as well as therapy helps I would have to say that the love of something will override most of the problems if it is kept in the front of your mind. I suffer from bad anxiety, closed in spaces and crowds overwhelm me fast, but if I push through the first 10 minuets and let my love of comics/games/scifi/tech/whatever kick in and enough of it to distract me, it will push that anxiety to the back of my mind where it will stay until it gets the chance to move back front. Now the ADD tends to help here by moving to the next item before the realization of the crowd kicks in again. Problem can be, as soon as things slow down to where I can no longer be distracted the anxiety swings in full force and trying to rush to fill my head and that can cause the anxiety to get even worse as well as depression kicking in full swing. By that time I resort to medication like valium that is take incase of emergency. I hate how medication like that makes me feel dull and hard to enjoy things so that is a last resort for me personally.

    There are a lot of good recommendations posted here so try a few out with your family in smaller situations and find what ones work best and then take those to a larger con. It also helps to get an idea of what you need to see at that con and get those out first so you don’t feel as disappointed in yourself if you find things to much to handle later on.

    Remember, one small step at a time. I wish the best of luck to you and your family.

  22. Shore-Leave in Baltimore is a nice one. I’ve really enjoyed it the past 2 years. It’s a good size but not overwhelming.

  23. I’ll add another voice to the crowd saying to get a room at the convention (or at least near enough to be very easy walking distance). Being able to go someplace quiet and private has been a lifesaver for me so many times. I prefer to do it that way even when I live in the city where the convention is being held.

    A small, specific convention might also be a good place to start. I live in Atlanta, home to Dragon*Con (huge, sprawling, and very, very crowded), Anime Weekend Atlanta (biggish, but held in spaces that hold that many people better), TimeGate (small and dedicated to Doctor Who and Timegate), and a host of other little cons. Some of my favorite experiences have been at TimeGate because its very small size and laid-back feel make it so much harder to get overwhelmed.

    A smaller convention can give you a taste of what a big con is going to be like (on top of having awesome people and experiences on their own). So maybe there’s something Trek-specific in your area that can help everybody get a toe in the water before leaping into
    the chaos and crowds of a bigger con.

  24. Well I went to my first con this past year and I have ADHD and some issues with crowds, I also have a bad foot injury. Needless to say we went to a brand new con in the area so we thought it would be smaller as did the con organizers. We figured out planning is very important and panel rooms are wonderful retreats and surprisingly interesting sit in on. If you are going to meet certain stars go straight to their lines as soon as you get inside to find out when they are doing their autographs so you know when to be there. If they are very popular such as Mr. Wheaton here the lines will start at least a half hour to an hour or more before they will start signing. If it’s at the start of the con just get right in line. We found getting the autographs out of the way in the earlier morning let us relax and enjoy the rest of the day. Bring cash for autographs most cons will post prices ahead of time but each star sets their own prices so they vary. ATMs are around in most cons. Bring sometimes finding food is a pain so bringing snacks is encouraged also bring some water.

  25. I have issues with anxiety in crowds, too, sometimes, and I find that scheduling my time, and taking a lot of breaks is a good thing. I’m not sure what cons specifically there are on the east coast that will have Star Trek content, but there are a lot of them around that are smaller and likely won’t have the crowds. But definitely remember the breaks. Most cons will have a badge system, so you’ll be able to leave the premises for a while and come back later. That comes in handy for getting food as you can go somewhere else that won’t have as long a wait and will likely be less pricey. Plus, it’ll give you a break from the convention crowd to get out, get in the car, and just chill for a bit while you eat and relax. Lunch time away from the convention is the best thing for me and my issues. It gets rid of the sensory overload that some cons can induce just by the sheer number of things to do and see. Also, check with the convention staff (go to the Information Booth/Desk or ask when you purchase your admission) to see if there are special accommodations. Many conventions have some sort of help system, so it doesn’t hurt to at least ask. You might luck out, and, if not, you’ll just be where you were when you walked in the door without asking. It won’t be Disney’s help system, but it’s better than not asking at all. :)

    1. Louise, I was LITERALLY about to type out that EXACT same link!!! Jen from Epot (and Cake Wrecks!) has some AMAZING blog entries about coping with Anxiety in crowded geeky places!!! I don’t have anxiety to that extreme, but the articles are always concise and informative!

  26. I have pretty bad anxiety and I actually volunteer at the major convention in Toronto. I have medication I can take to keep it down to a reasonable level, which is usually what I do, but I also find it helps to kinda check out the venue beforehand, know where all the exits and washrooms are. Just knowing my way around and knowing how to duck out helps me a lot. But I can’t speak for what kind of anxiety you guys might have :)

  27. I personally distract myself. I’ve got ADD, anxiety (worse with crowds) and depression. The first con I ever did I went alone, it was ok but very overwhelming since I was barely 21 and still very introverted at the time. The last one I went to there were so many people we literally bumped into each other just to move. I took my mother (her bday present) and I was fairly relaxed. I also had a friend at the con that texted me thoroughout it and others at home that texted me. It kept my head focused on the positive even when I was being jabbed in the arms by Minecraft kids.

    There are plenty of places to duck out for a bit, best may even to step out through the front doors and take a deep breath of air and just tune out the surroundings. It helps in so many situations. Plus there’s usually tons of kids so that should be perfect for little Ella :) good luck too all!

  28. All the people suggesting epbot.com are of the same mind frame as me. That was my first thought. Ins suggestions have been a huge help in dealing with my own anxiety problems over the last couple if years.

  29. Being more of the aspergers and anxiety kind, I find the only way I can truly enjoy events of this magnitude is to either go by myself, or in the company of someone to whom I don’t have to explain myself when feeling the need to take a rest or just to find a quieter place. There simply will either be extacy or anxiety. In either case it needs to be on my own conditions for to be able to enjoy it. Never been to a proper convention, but I can imagine how I would react to the environment, based on other experiences. Awesomeness and panic. :)

    Very inspiring to see you bring this topic up for discussion like this. Good man!

  30. I don’t have anxiety issues, but as someone who is more on the introverted side I find being in crowds for long periods of time a bit stressful.

    However as a freelance writer and PR person I find myself attending cons and tradeshows often. I’ve found there is almost always a quiet place to step aside and take break even at the busiest of cons and shows.

    Specifically for Trek, I found that the Seattle show last year was not all that bad. I would suggest when going to a con to check out the schedule of guests. Usually there is a day that is less busy because the bigger stars like Shatner or Patrick Stewart are not there. That is always how it has been in Seattle at least.

  31. I have Aspergers, with some anxiety & sound sensitivity issues. I’ve gone to PAX East the last 2 years. The two biggest things that have helped me was staying somewhere close to the event, so I could leave, cool down, & come back, & finding a quiet place to chill out (the handheld lounge worked for me). The other thing is to plan ahead, but be flexible.

  32. I have bad people anxiety, especially with crowds and have always found conventions difficult. What won’t help letter writer R but maybe others: I like it better if I have a task and volunteering with security or reception will even reduce admittance fees with some cons; I prefer standing around watching people while guarding a door to doing a Barclay with a potted plant.

  33. I would recommend starting at a smaller con. My very first con was MegaCon in Orlando. I have anxiety issues and the amount of people at the Con was very manageable for me. I think they need to keep an open mind about the experience. If they go to any Con with the mindset their anxiety/depression/etc are going to get the best of them, then it will. There are always places away from crowds they can go for a few minutes to decompress. Once they have mastered a smaller Con, they can work their way to larger ones such as DragonCon, New York, etc. I hope this helps!

  34. I live in Westchester County New York and there are many small Anime Cons, typically in New Jersey that are good starter cons. These might help you get a feel for a con and maybe help you make plans for larger cons. I’m not an anime fans and i still find a lot to see and experience at these cons. I’m sorry I don’t have a link since I’m on my phone at kotoricon , which has been a lot of fun. I highly recommend it.

  35. I think most of the advice is good, but specifially for depressed/anxious parents with a kid, I would suggest taking shifts with her out in the con, with whoever is ‘off-duty’ taking that time to rest and recharge away from the crowds in whatever way works for them. You can wander away from the con into the city (be safe), or rest in a poolroom or hotel room, read or watch mindless media, nap or craft or even sit/stand in an out of the way place and watch the people go by.

    The important thing to remember is that there’s always something going on that you’re not going to get to. And that is OK. It is inevitable. It is expected. If you take the pressure to DO and SEE EVERYTHING, then you’ll be much less stressed, and in a better mental place to enjoy things in moderation.

  36. I’d suggest choosing a con that is either held IN or right next to a hotel that you can book a room in. If things get too intense you can duck into your own quiet room and take a break but still be close enough to get right back to the fun when you are ready.

    Kitty!

  37. I haven’t got any experience with adhd, anxieties, depressions or with big startrek conventions. The conditions i don’t suffer from and the conventions near or in Holland are either small or waaaaay to expensive. So i cannot speak of experience. I can speak out of confidence though that if there is one group of people, large or small, in which the willingness and readiness of the attendees to help and or advise anyone else, especially anyone in trouble, it has to be the startrek community. So i hope that if you have the opertunity to go to a convention i would advise you to take it.
    Like i said, there are hundreds of thousands of people, especially in Europe, that would sell bodyparts to be able to go to one.

  38. We have a 5 year old son who gets very overwhelmed in large crowds or with a lot of noise. We purchased a pair of noise canceling headphones (the kind used for shooting or using power tools). They go over his ears and the pressure on the sides of his head actually help center him. He can still hear us talking, but it drowns out all the background noise. We also make sure he has games to play if we have a long wait for something. We take snacks with us in case he gets low blood sugar because that makes him pretty impossible to deal with. He attended his first con this past fall and it went surprisingly well. It was a smaller con and was really crowded with basically no place to just chill. Our next con will be bigger with more space and more time to just take a break if needed. That’s the one thing We should have planned differently this last time. He was in melt down mode by the time we left because he had been “on” for way too long.

    1. I agree with everyone here. I live in Orlando, and I can’t handle large amount of crowds. However when I go to cons, that anxiety isn’t there. I recommend MegaCon (not on a Saturday) if you want to make a vacation out of it. I have done DragonCon for three years and counting and despite the crowds, I always have the time of my life. Scope out smaller panels, they tend to be laid back and less crowded. Take something with you to calm you and always always remember to eat. (which I tend to forget every single time I go to a Con.) As for Trek Cons, check our Creation Entertainment. Must smaller cons in various places. Other than that, remember your limits. And make friends. We all love the same things!

  39. Interesting and helpful post
    I create safety zones for anxiety, to lesson the discomfort. One of them, for some strange reason is ice, cold things. If I have an ice cube to touch or something cold, then it helps ease the anxiety, and panic if it gets that far.

  40. Hi there. I’m Shan. I have ADHD and Anxiety Disorder too. I also go to one of the largest conventions in the South East, Dragoncon, every year. (I’m an eternal member.) My first bit of advice would be advice I would give ANY PARENT taking a child younger than 13 or 14 to a con. Buy a day pass to one that is close to home so if you have to leave due to head foo, it won’t be so bad. Try to make sure you know everything you can about the con. Some cons are more centered around Anime, others Horror. See if the con has a web site. Look at the guests. Look for panels. If possible make yourself a schedule of events you want to attend and when and where they are. If and when you get ambitious for the weekend pass experience, either pick one that is very close to home so you can travel back and forth, or get a room either in the host hotel, or in a hotel close enough to walk to. I can’t stress how important this is. When you or the little one is feeling overwhelmed, it’s so nice and helpful to know that your shelter is *right there*, not 20 minutes away. Cons can be exciting, and make you lose track of time, especially if your sense of time is already skewed. Make sure you make time to sit, and eat and drink. If you have to set alarms to know when to do so, then set alarms. There is nothing worse than an ADHD kid who should have eaten an hour ago, who’s hopped up on adrenaline and soda, and getting tired. Take the time before going to sit down with your child and go over some rules. Tell them what to do in case you get separated. Security or front desk of the hotel is always a good idea. I call the front desk “The Save Point.” Let them know that you guys could hit a wall, or get cranky and may need to go outside for a bit, and it’s not their fault. You need to know your triggers and limits too, so if you feel yourself getting edgy, try to find a spot to take a break and breathe. If your level of anxiety disorder is high enough, talk with your partner about a signal you can use to say, “I’m done. I need a break.” One tip, if you are stuck at a big con with a big hotel, you can often ask the hotel staff where the quiet places tend to be. Sometimes there are little places tucked out of sight where they steal moments of quiet too.

    That’s about all I can think of. Hope that helps!

  41. At any con there is usually a quiet spot, at one end of the building or the other. Check out the floor plan ahead of time, on line.
    As a parent of two myself we also look into the children’s program at a con, and have a specific meeting spot. The meeting spot is usually at a particular pole under a sign or poster. We started that tradition before we had kids when we went with a bunch of friends. Mostly because “I’m in the main hall” was WAY to general.

  42. In my experience, the best solution is to have a hotel room nearby (within 4 blocks) to duck out to when the people get to be too much.

    The secondary solution that worked for me at ECCC 2011 & 2012 was to take time on the first day of con to scope out quieter spots within the convention center, places that aren’t really part of the con, and that have some corners to put my back to. Then really listening to myself, and having someone with me who I knew and trusted, and who understood what I was dealing with and could tell me to go to the safe place ASAP if I wasn’t listening to myself worked pretty well. I’d say that for myself, my recommendation would be to find a smallish con (hopefully people in your region can tell you about one) and plan to be at the con for the “slow” days of that con. (Most cons that I’ve been to are busiest on Saturday.) That way you aren’t dealing with the full crush that you might get on a Saturday.

    The fact that R knows enough to ask about a smaller con, with reasonable food lines, is good. Another option is to pack a small amount of food. In my experience you aren’t necessarily required to buy food from the vendors at a con. You can pack things like crackers and cheese snack packs, or crackers and veggies and jerky, enough to get you some fuel when you need it, and maybe get you to a bit further from the con to get food from a nearish restaurant.

    Cons can be worth it, especially if you pick one that has a good reputation for being full of people trying to live by Wheaton’s law. Good luck, R!

  43. Jessica, great plan! If you decide you want some tips from someone who has been the last 3 years and will be there this year, feel free to email me. mlibbyd at yahoo dot com is the best place.

    And yes Friday is typically less bad than either of the other days. They’re changing it up this year too, so there shouldn’t be badge exchange craziness for you. :)

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