Everyday challenges: the folk music festival

There are times when I can almost forget that I am different.

There are times when my differences come into sharp relief.

At the moment, it’s the second one. Because I’m at a music festival (the Warwick Folk Festival, if anyone’s interested), and becoming acutely aware of what I have to do just in order to cope, let alone enjoy myself.

I’m lucky that the types of music I tend to like tend to be a bit less popular, so things naturally don’t get so big or so busy. (Plus acoustic sets are generally welcomed!)

Even so, I’m struggling a bit with the environment. I can’t completely avoid queues and crowds. It’s by no means certain that I can get a seat in a place that feels safe enough for me to stay and listen to the music. And there is nowhere on the festival site where I can go and get some quiet time if and when it all becomes too overwhelming.

I’ve managed to get around the latter to a certain extent by booking a hotel rather than camping, so at least I have somewhere quiet available to me. Unfortunately, what was a 10-minute walk is now an hour’s walk with my current mobility issues, so it’s not working as well as I’d hoped. But it’s still better than the alternative.

But it has made me think a lot.

I keep seeing news stories about people setting up autism-friendly screenings, events, areas… for children and young adults.

(I was even reading about an autism-friendly music festival that someone’s set up. It’s not one that I would go to; it’s not really my type of music and I suspect I’m well outside the target age group. But for people who would like to go to the larger festivals but can’t manage, it’s great that there is something that would help them to have that type of experience.)

I don’t see much, if anything, about autism-specific adjustments for adults.

I also don’t see much about autism-specific adjustments to help people with autism participate in ‘normal’ events, rather than setting up events mainly / purely for people with autism. Don’t get me wrong: autism-specific events are great for some people. But others, like me, would prefer to participate in more mainstream events.

And I think it would be relatively easy to make adjustments that would really help.

Depending on the location, there could be a room or tent that could potentially be used as a quiet area.

There are arrangements for the mobility-impaired; special areas sometimes. So it must be possible to come up with similar arrangements for those of us who can’t bear to be crowded.

There are normally lots of volunteers. So some of them could be given autism-specific training, so they know how they can help if needed.

There would need to be some way of identifying people who need to use the arrangements. But most events seem to have wristbands and / or lanyards, so I don’t think that would be too difficult.

It takes thought, though. And adults with autism seem to be an invisible minority. We don’t come to anyone’s mind unless there’s a reason. But there will be more and more of us as time goes on; as diagnosis becomes more common; as children with autism grow up.

For now, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing. Knowing that sometimes it will be a struggle. Knowing that sometimes the difficulties of just being in a particular environment will turn out not to be worth the enjoyment that I get from the event.

But the good news is that this time, the music outweighs the difficulties. This time, I’m glad I came.

And I have increased my musical instrument collection…

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