I love Halloween. I’m autistic and I love Halloween. My youngest son is autistic (he’s 8) and hates Halloween. It’s given me an insight on some of the good and the bad of the season for some people on the spectrum. It’s very important to highlight that as with neurotypicals, we are all individuals and influenced by our autism in different ways.
For my son, there’s a lot to take in. He likes rules and things to be in their place so can’t understand why we are doing Halloweeny things on the run up to Halloween. For him, it should be on the day not before or after. We took him trick or treating once. Although he is verbal, he didn’t “get” trick or treating”. It didn’t help that he is very limited on what he eats so people were offering things he didn’t like. He was very polite but it went “Trick or Treat” and then he would look at the offering and say “No, thank you” and walk off, very confusing for the houses we went to. He also hates costumes and masks. So on the one night he decided to try trick or treating, we agreed on a costume. He wanted to be a pokeball. I made a giant pokemon in the style of a sandwich board, so it hung around his neck and he could wear normal clothes underneath. This was acceptable (I was so proud of the pokeball idea!). He was also in control of the costume and could remove it at any time. He doesn’t understand why people would want to be scared on purpose. He hates the touch of messy things so we can’t do baking or pumpkin carving together. But there are things we like doing together, handing out the candy for example. He likes the Halloween celebrations in computer games. We have a little tea party, with a couple of cousins around. It’s all about compromise and finding ways to celebrate it together. We make sure he is able to escape to a quiet area when we have visitors so he can de-stress if things become too much. We went to Flamingo Land one year and that was fun. He enjoyed most of it but the Halloween show was too loud and bright for him but he particularly loved the singing, dancing pumpkins projected onto a wall in one of the areas for the little ones.
I like lots of the sensory things about this time of year…the scent of candles burning in a pumpkin, the taste and smell of pumpkin spice, flicker of candles, spooky music, collecting things for my special interest collection, sticking my hands in pumpkin guts…..there are lots of things I find stimmy, which helps me find some calm. I have Halloween themed stress balls, balls that light up, snow globes…
We both struggle with the loud sound effects and music.
Horror movies, Halloween and the supernatural are some of my special interests so I have free reign to throw myself into these things for a month without seeming a little strange….
I enjoy being able to hide my face behind a mask….
We have heard of the blue bucket…the blue bucket was something another mum did for her son in her neighbourhood to explain that he may react differently, look older etc than the other trick or treaters. While it’s a nice idea to make the season more accessible to children with disabilities…there are some issues with this being taken up as a movement. Many autistic people feel it should be accessible to all anyway not needing a special way of highlighting children’s additional needs. The colour blue is often associated with Autism Speaks, which in autism circles is bad news…wanting to cure us, fix us….not celebrate us. Also it can get confused with the teal bucket/pumpkin for children with food allergies.
I think the most important thing is to go with the flow (which rankles against my need for order and routine) but we just enjoy the things we can…movies at home, popcorn, trick or treaters, some decorations and letting him lead on what he can manage so we can still enjoy the season but not force anybody into anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or distressed.
Wonderful post! I have two autistic nephews and both enjoy Halloween although there were some rough patches years ago when my younger nephew was just starting to learn about trick or treating. But, they both love the holiday!
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