As with many of the cons I've been to, neurodiversity was very much in evidence. The theme of generosity I've mentioned in my previous posts also extended to a great deal of compassion and inclusiveness. This was the first con which featured the ASAN color communication badges. You have three badges you can attach to your lanyard. Green means "feel free to approach me," and red means "I'd rather not be engaged in conversation, although it's still fine to talk to me if I initiate it." Surprise! Yellow falls right in between, meaning that you would prefer to only interact with those people you already know.
My first response at seeing these was to think that they might introduce a level of complication to the interactions. You need to learn to scan someone's badge and check their status before talking to them. What if you forget? Awkward! Also, I wondered if I would have the bravery to go to red if I was starting to feel overwhelmed or experiencing social anxiety, or if I would try to "tough it out" rather than put up the unfriendly sign. Doesn't this add an awkward, unnatural layer to normal human interactions?
The answer turns out to be no. In practice, a lot of potential awkwardness is avoided. The benefits even turn out to be bidirectional. Those suffering from social anxieties don't need to miss out because things are in danger of getting too intense. They can flip into spectator mode and continue to enjoy the festivities with a certain level of protection. For the would-be conversation initiators there is now an obvious cue to someone's receptivity. In ordinary interactions, you have limited ways of knowing if a person particularly wants to be talked to, and those of us on the spectrum have even less to go by. A green tag is a clear indicator that someone is actually in the mood to talk, and you're at least safe from an immediate rebuff if you approach them.
My only complaint with this particular implementation was that when they were attached to the badges in the most obvious way, they covered your name. Fortunately there were "a few" pins available that could provide an easy fix. It took me far too long to think of it, but I'll keep it in my mental tool chest for next time.
On the whole, I found the badges to be a great success and wouldn't mind seeing them in a broader settings. How many Monday mornings have you wished you could broadcast "I'll need at least another triple shot ristretto before I'll be ready to hear about your amazing weekend?"