Halloween & Autism
While my family does not take part in this holiday, many others do. So this is to share what others experience within their families and how others can make a difference.
Holidays can be hard with special needs children as the energy, excitement, environment, and normal routine amps up and gets turned on its head. Autism parents prepare as best they can and try to just go with the flow.
As with any parent, Autism parents want their kids to be able to not only take part in the festivities; but to have fun. Many have fond memories from their childhood with picking what costume they would wear and of course all the candy they would collect. For a child with Autism what others view as fun, can feel like torture.
- Costumes – for a child with ASD, clothing can be uncomfortable. Add unfamiliar items, tags, and a mask on their face and meltdowns are more likely than a jump of excitement. Even with my son, we dress up for events and his costume cannot feel like a costume. For the renaissance festival, I made a pirate costume by cutting a pair of scrub pants and a plain black tee-shirt so Lil Man felt like he was just dressed to go out and not extra stuff.
- Speech – “Trick or Treat” and “Thank you” are polite manners and expected by householders. But to an ASD child, these words may not be so easy. Some are non-verbal and can’t say it. Others may have a limited vocabulary. And others still require a long time to process the command.
- Strangers – kids are literally knocking on strangers doors. Even for a ‘normal’ child, this can be a cause of anxiety. For an ASD child who thrives on routine and the known; it is not an easy task.
So for those who pass out candy to those little ghosts and goblins on your doorstep, Autism parents everywhere ask for your patience and for you to not be so quick to judge.
Don’t forget about the Teal Pumpkin project too. They’re signals for children with food allergies, so they know where they can find safe treats. Participation is simple: You just put a teal-colored pumpkin or sign outside your door and offer trick-or-treaters glow sticks, spider rings, Halloween stickers or other non-food goodies, along with or instead of the traditional candies.
Every child should feel safe and have fun!