Dealing with a family member with Autism can be a difficult and stressful thing at the best of times. At its worse it can feel like a never ending battle and with no hope in sight. It can be very easy in caring for someone else to forget about yourself.
We have been very lucky in that we have access to a respite carer who can watch over my son for a time. The problem for us was finding something to do that was out of the house. My wife and I both happily admit to being homebodies and prefer a night in with the WiFi over a night out.
So being fans of geeky fandoms, my wife suggested we go to Comic Con.
Cosplay, for any of you who are unaware, is a more detailed and involved fancy dress to be fair. It is a way for a person of any age, gender or size to become a character from any medium, such as Movie, TV, Comic or Video game character.
I've always been impressed with the work that goes into the costumes, some of these characters haven't been designed for realistic reasons so when you see a comic or game character walk past you its pretty epic.
I really wanted to do a cosplay once, just to see how it felt, but didn't really have an idea on how to start. Luckily my wife had done cosplay when younger and we have a friend who has been doing it for the last few years, so I had lots of encouraging support.
So after a couple of months of getting various items off eBay I walked into MCM Midlands , a Con based in Telford, as David Tennant's 10th Doctor. I was extremely nervous doing this; 'do I look an idiot?' 'will I be laughed at?' 'was this a really bad idea?' were all going through my head.
I spent the first 25 minutes at the Con in the entrance hall, we couldn't get any further as my friend, my wife and I were being asked to pose for photos by attendees. Its a hell of a rush.
Originally we had planned to only do maybe 2 or 3 Cons during the year. In the end we attended 8 during 2014 (This weekend we attend our 6th in 2015). It's been a great way to meet people with similar interests and make friends who we see at later Cons.
However, for an activity we do to have a break from Autism, there is probably more people with attributes from the Spectrum at a Con than I've seen in any other activity.
Some of the stats given are that 1 in every 10 boys and 1 in every 100 girls are Autistic. I feel I would be under estimating if I said over 50% of Con attendees were on the Spectrum.
And this isn't a bad thing. Comic Cons and Cosplay both make the social aspect of Autism a lot easier to deal with. You can tell who likes the same things as you, they're wearing the t-shirt or dressed as a character. OCD? Not a problem, you can go to town with details on a costume or collecting those figurines.
You have your collectors, photographers, costume designers, weapons and armour makers (real and cosplay safe), make up artists, crafters, painters, sketch artists. The list of interests that can allow someone on the spectrum to delve into this world is wide and can suit so many.
One day I do hope my son will be in a position to come along and enjoy these with us, but for now its nice to have something to look forward to. Especially on those really difficult days.