10 Pieces of Advice for an Autism Friendly Larp

10 Pieces of Advice for an Autism Friendly Larp

There are many things you can do to make sure that your larp is more inclusive of autistic people. You can choose to use the advice in this document as a checklist or as inspiration. Some of the advice in this document might not be relevant to your particular larp, so it is up to you to judge what is important for your game.

This document is written by Bifrost’s secretariat in collaboration with Queer Autister København (Queer Autistics Copenhagen), an independent support group for and by autistic people. The document was originally written in Danish and has been translated into English by Lea Knakkergaard with the help of Elina Gouliou.

1.      Offer detailed information before, during, and after the event. Many autistic people are challenged by situations that differ from their routine [2]. Some of that difficulty can be alleviated by knowing exactly what is going to take place. Let players know as fast as possible if changes occur.

2.      Avoid harsh and/or flashing lights. Harsh lighting can be overwhelming to many autistic people, especially if the light is from an unnatural source. Also try to avoid flashing lights/strobe lights. If you can’t avoid one or more of these types of light, you should inform your players in advance. This advice can be applied to sensory inputs of all kinds, such as sound.

3.      Offer an option to visit the location before the larp starts. It can be very helpful for people on the autism spectrum to get an opportunity to explore and familiarize themselves with the location before the larp begins and the venue becomes filled with noise and activity.

4.      Offer a room with few stimuli. This could for example be an off-game room, where earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones are offered, the light muted, and the temperature around 20° C. This is especially important for a larp with lots of sensory input during the game. If you are not able to offer an off-game room, you should inform your players in advance.

5.      Allow support persons to attend for free. It can be helpful for autistic people to bring a person who knows their specific challenges. This could be the autistic person’s legal guardian, their helper, or another trusted adult.

6.      Accommodate dietary needs. Many autistics can be overwhelmed by sensory stimuli and might therefore be challenged by certain tastes, textures, smells etc. Make it clear where to go to meet their special wishes for food and be as accommodating as possible.

7.      Be welcoming towards stimming. Stimming are repetitive behaviors that stimulate one or more senses. Stimming is a common way for autistic people to handle stress and potentially overwhelming sensory input [2]. Many autistic larpers have experienced people commenting on or making fun of their stimming and some have even experienced being told to put away their stimtoy [3], for example by being told that it didn’t look in-game enough. This can ultimately cause some autistic people to not be able to take part in your larp.

8.      Avoid irony and metaphors. This point is especially important when you communicate important information about the game. Many people on the spectrum have trouble recognizing if a statement is ironic or not, and that can create confusion and insecurity. If you still choose to use irony, you can make the irony more obvious by using “air quotes” during off-game discussions and workshops.

9.      Offer alternative ways of communication. Some autistic people are partially or fully nonverbal, and can therefore need to communicate in something other than spoken language. For example, you could offer them the possibility to write and have someone else read their writing out loud. If only spoken communication is possible at your larp, you should inform your players in advance.

10.  Be open to feedback. Even if you do your very best, it is still likely you will make mistakes. Make it clear how to contact the organizer(s), listen openly to feedback, and avoid getting defensive.

[1]  This text uses identity-first language. We acknowledge that some autistic people prefer person-first language. Read more about identity-first language here: http://autisticadvocacy.org/about-asan/identity-first-language/

[2]  Read more about stimming here: http://autism.wikia.com/wiki/Stimming

[3] For example, a fidget spinner or tangle toy.

Cover photo: Fidget spinner stimtoys.

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Lea Elias Isen is a Danish larper, musician and autism acceptance advocate. They have taught languages using edularp, worked for the Danish association of larpers, Bifrost, and are currently working on their degree in linguistics.