With Halloween coming this week, I thought it would be a spooktacular time to discuss, well, Halloween…and autism of course! As I’m sure you can imagine, holidays in an autism household are quite different from those celebrated in regular homes. No matter how hard we try, it just wont be, it can’t be the same. There is an entire checklist, specific to the individual child, that an autism parent must consider when participating in every facet of Halloween festivities. For some of us and our kids, Halloween can be a complete horror.
For parents of typical kids, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is probably choosing and finding the desired costume; the only one that will make little Johnny or Susie happy. I don’t disagree – that can truly be nightmare, having been a kid in search of the same perfect costume myself. It’s a little more involved, however, for the autism parent. First of all, will my kid even tolerate a costume? Autistic kids can have definite aversions to certain fabrics, accessories, and make-up that construct most costumes. And forget about masks, I’ve yet to meet an autistic kid who will wear one. Neither of my sons will wear anything on their heads, so that rules out all costumes with hats or wigs or anything that ties around their neck/head. My boys will also not tolerate anything on their faces, so no glasses, rubber noses, fangs or make-up. In my quest to pretend to be normal, I have tried to force these items onto my sons (many, many fruitless years ago). The make-up was like a sensory sensation for them, and by the time they were finished, I ended up telling people they were dressed as “tie-dye” and “spin art”. I have finally given up on my forced attempts at Halloween costumes altogether. Although I’m pretty sure I’m not the only autism parent who had a glasses-less Harry Potter wearing only his Hogwart’s robe for Halloween…year, after year, after year.
Candy!! Yay!! My favorite part of Halloween!! Who doesn’t love the candy??!! My kids, that’s who. The big one will only eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Only. The little one can’t eat candy at all (he’s the one who doesn’t chew, and only eats one brand of yogurt), so unless someone happens to be handing out La Yogurt Smooth & Creamy Tropical Blends, it’s a trick not a treat for this particular child.
Safety is a huge Halloween consideration for every parent. We all carry our flashlights, hold the little one’s hands, and direct them safely across streets. But with my sons, we have a different safety concern. My boys will approach the door…and walk right the hell in. It turns out people don’t like that very much. At all. My son’s don’t understand that you are supposed to knock and wait, so unless the homeowner happens to have a picture of a stop sign taped to their front door, they may find my kid in their living room. Eeek…what a terrifying thought!!
In an effort to still feel the ghoulish spirit, we have also tried taking our goblins to a Halloween carnival. Yeah, no. Can you say sensory overload? With the flashing strobe lights, spooky sounds, cacophony of smells and masses of people dressed in unusual attire, I’d have been far better off booking a family suite at Arkham Asylum. Straitjackets for five please!
So ultimately we have given up on the entire trick or treat thing. The boys really don’t miss it, in fact I think they get more excited seeing who comes to our door as we hand out candy to the neighborhood kids. The little one enjoys guessing the names of our visitor’s costumes, and we always make sure the coveted peanut butter cups are in the trick or treat bowl, so the big one can treat himself to his favorite candy for Halloween!