I just received an e-letter from the dedicated folks of the Autism Society, a wonderful group of people who are dedicated to improving the lives of all affected by autism. Featured were, “Tips to Make Halloween Enjoyable for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”. There were 8 tips in all and, to be fair, if followed would probably be very helpful for some.
However, after reading the 8 tips and all the well thought out and detailed suggestions for preparing an autistic child for Halloween, I had to ask myself, “Why?” Call me a pumpkin smashing, party pooping Grandma but we are not talking about preparing them for Thanksgiving, Hanukah or Christmas, each having their own unique blend of nearly unavoidable stress-stuffing and melt-downs. We are talking about choosing to prepare unique children for activities with little or no redeeming qualities that, with just a little alternative thinking, can easily be avoided. Let’s see, there is:
Candy: Oh, yeah, let’s have lots of that! And make sure it’s laced with food colorings that trigger a list of food sensitivities. Better still, let’s collect it and then try and take it away…
Costumes: Are we talking about putting a costume on the same child who only tolerates the softest of light fabrics that do not touch their neck, and, as in my granddaughter’s case are only red? Really?…
Trick-or-Treat Bags: You have to be kidding!! My neuro-typical grandkids have enough trouble remembering to recite the charming chant of threat (“trick-or-treat”), open and hold out their bags to collect the pay-off and then end the exercise expressing mild-extortion with a polite “thank you.”
Even with their other, non-autistic children who are experienced solicitors of sweets, my daughter and her husband spend most Halloweens like two Broadway play prompters whispering cues from the shadows. “Say: ‘trick-or-treat’, Sweetie…”
Passing Out Treats: This is a really bad idea. First, lock up the pets and listen to them bark as the doorbell (your child on a typical day covers his ears from) loudly chimes over and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Then, each time the door is opened, watch as a stranger or group of strangers with no idea of your child’s special needs appears – some in very scary costumes – to take away the delicious candy your autistic child’s restricted diet prohibits him from enjoying. Seriously, how long do you think that will be a pleasant encounter?
You may have grown up looking forward to Halloween with giddy expectation and celebrated the day with memories, traditions and photos you will always treasure. Not being able share moments like those with your child is, as it is for my daughter, a huge disappointment and my heart aches for you. But you have to ask yourself, is Halloween really worth it? Do you and your autistic child really need the added stress, dangers and expense Halloween adds? Why not use your creativity by providing an alternative for the day and save your precious energy reserves for the holidays which are just around the corner?
As a final thought, you might want to consider joining people who abstain from Halloween for religious reasons who feel the day overly emphasizes Satan and promotes evil. They choose not to participate professing as the Bible says , “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” and instead of participating focus on whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…anything excellent or praiseworthy. (Joshua 24:14 and Philippians 4: 7-9)
Whatever you choose to do this Halloween, I pray you and your and child with autism spectrum disorder will be blessed and enjoy the day.