Coming Home Again

I have a Sensory Processing Disorder of the hypersensitive type. I am
easily overwhelmed by loud sounds, flashing lights, rough textures,
etc. Many years ago, at the last BayCon in the San Jose DoubleTree
hotel, I realized that we had so overgrown the space we were in that
all the quiet corners were occupied. There was no longer any safer,
calm space where I could decompress when I was overwhelmed. That year
was very, very difficult for me.

Then BayCon moved to a bigger space. Unfortunately, that bigger space
was also much, much louder, and I was totally overwhelmed within half
an hour of arrival. I could no longer be staff for the con, and
indeed, couldn’t functionally attend for more than a couple hours in a
day. It was, for me, like being exiled from home. I had been attending
BayCon  since I was 11 years old, and it was as much a staple in my
calendar as family Thanksgiving or the winter holiday season. But it
had, through no real fault of their own, become a place I could not be
healthy.

I pointed this out to my friends on the convention committee. I
predicted that with the increase in sensory input, and given how many
people in the fan community are on the Autism Spectrum, we would
likely see increases in people acting out, losing their equilibrium,
and otherwise demonstrating overwhelm. I suggested that it might help
to have a designated quiet space, where people could take a break from
the input, calm down, maybe read a bit. They liked the idea, but I
didn’t have the wherewithal to take the project on myself. If they
ever found someone to run it, I said, let me know, I’d love to help.

Years later, Paul had a compatible idea, totally independently, and
was in a much better place to make it happen! When he brought his
proposal to BayCon, several people remembered my previous suggestions
and immediately recommended me to him. Sure enough, Paul got me in on
the project as quickly as possible, and we compared notes on our
ideas. I was able to bring to the table many of the thoughts I’d had
before, under the auspices of Paul’s Oasis Project.

As a team, the Oasis Project is able to create a safer space for self
care and decompression. Attendees can come, relax for a bit, do
something calming or meditative, talk to one of us if they needed some
counseling, and even, space allowing, take a brief nap. We provide
them with the tools they need to take care of themselves, including
comfortable places rest, a full bathroom, outlets to plug in their
assistance devices, books, solitary games, meditative toys, snacks, a
first aid kit, and over-the-counter medicines to self-administer.

Thanks to our Oasis project, not only have I been able to come “home”
to BayCon, I have been able to contribute meaningfully to the fan
community again! I hope we can expand the Oasis to benefit more
community events over time.

Ember Cooke

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Author: logonpaulos

Husband and Father formerly of Oakland, CA. Christian, denominationally American Baptist, and seminary student at the American Baptist Seminary of the West.

One thought on “Coming Home Again”

  1. Reblogged this on EmberVoices: Listening for the Vanir and commented:

    The last year or so I’ve been working with Paul Schneider on the Oasis Project, which is a plug-and-play service for conventions to provide safer space for people who are overwhelmed, in need of some down time, self-care, or a bit of help. I’ve wanted to do something like this for years now. It’s been wonderfully successful so far! -E-

    Like

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