Tips for autistics on going to pride parades
I was in Jerusalem’s pride parade 2 days ago, and had a very interesting experience. This is the 3rd pride parade and my 6th queer protest activity I have participated in. I don’t have much experience, and some of my tips may be useful only for some people, but some I hope you will find them to be useful. The tips can be used by non-autistics, of course. Most of them are common sense, but I may be wrong.
- Bring with you water and snacks. Water is extremely important, especially if you are going to shout things. Remember to stay hydrated. Snacks can be useful to keep your energy level. This is EXTREMELY important. Even if you don’t live in a hot place like Israel, you can still be over heated. Your safety always comes first.
- Bring stim toys. Some accessories (especially in pride-related protests) can be used as stim toys as well, but it is always good to have your trusty putty or chewing pedant. Also, don’t be afraid to use vocal stims, it is so noisy no one will bother. I actually used my recording app to narrate some things that I thought, because it helped me to deal with the stress. Use whatever suits you!
- Noise blocking is always a good idea. Even NT’s use earplugs in protests, and noise protection earmuffs or noise cancelling headphones can be great as well.
- Know the plan, but remember that protests don’t always go as planned. It is always good to have idea of what is going on, where everyone are going and what to do next. If in doubt, go with the flow. You can also print yourself the plan or use your phone to check what’s going on.
- Have several friends to march with you. This can be a good idea since you can remind each other to drink, help each other to navigate and just feel less lonely. If you go alone, you can still make “protest buddies” on the spot, if it is something you can do.
- Stay away from cops…unless you need help. They can help you if you need them, especially if they were called to keep your protest safe because it was registered beforehand, but it is better not to interact with them unless need them. Cops can react in weird ways, so be careful. Show them your bag if the security requires so in the beginning of the parade, and use thank you if needed. Some police man are nice, and will help you if you ask them for directions. I got a lot of help from policemen and policewomen when I needed it. But if the protest is not registered or has a strong anti-police undertone, it is a good practice keep your distance.
- Know how to arrive at the protest and how to go back. Getting lost after a stressful event is scary.
- Have a backup plan. I couldn’t leave Jerusalem after the parade was over because I was too tired — but I had a place to stay overnight. The public transportation was wacky because of the parade — so I used a taxi to get around. These are small details, but they are very important.
- Don’t waste your phone’s battery, You will definitely need it — for navigation, calling people or ordering a taxi. Don’t use it to go on a Pokemon hunt, and keep the location and Internet off while you are not using it. A phone is a great tool for finding solutions for acute problems like calling for help, locating people or just figuring out where is the bus stop.
- After the march/protest is over, take some time to rest before going home. You will need the energy for navigating the change in the mood, or just to readjust to the change of pace. Eat, drink, and talk to friends.
- It is OK to leave early, or even to cancel plans on the last minute. There is no shame in feeling like you can’t handle things anymore.
- Safety always comes first! The revolution is much better with you. Remember to keep yourself as safe as possible. If you feel like it is better to take off the rainbow accessories after the parade, do it. If you are afraid of other people, ask others for help.
- Have alternative means of communication. Regardless of being able to talk or not, it is better to have more then one way to express words. Have a pen or pencil and a notebook, have a Text-to-Speech app on your phone, have a pre-printed paper with some things written on it. Just one additional communication method is enough. Choose whatever works best for you. If you lose speech you will have other methods. If your app stops working you still can use pen\pencil or the pre-printed papers.
- Be careful with your spoons. Don’t overtire yourself. Make arrangements to sleep at a friends home if the parade is in other city. Rest in the middle of the march. Take some anti anxiety medication if needed.
- Have some people know where you are. Message friends or chosen family members that you are in the pride parade. Message them if something is happening, and when the parade is ended, so if you will need help — they will know where you are.
- Know in advance where you can exit the parade and where you can get medical help. Some parades are open, and you can join in and opt out in any point. Others are very heavily guarded and have only one exit point, or even none. It is very important to know where you can leave the parade if you want/have to. The same goes with knowing where are the medical help troupes are parked — so if you need them, you can go there before things get messy. (suggested by Genia)
- Have a card/paper/bracelet that explains your condition. If you find yourself in a situation in which you might need help from strangers or the paramedics — it might be a good idea to let them know about any relevant condition — even if you can’t talk right now. You can print a paper with several crustal phrases, for example: “I am autistic. I can’t talk and I flap my arms when I am stressed. Please don’t touch me without telling me.”
If you have epilepsy and\or diabetes and\or other medical condition that prevents you to communicate at all while seizure\hypoglycemia\etc it might be a good idea to have a bracelet which states it. (suggested by Genia)
Pride, love, life and acceptance for all,
(A selfie of me and my friends)