How early did your son or daughter start talking about Halloween costumes this year? How many times did she change characters or ideas?
Some autistic kids are fine with this holiday, but my kids…
Well, they HATE Halloween.
My kiddos will happily support the pumpkin patch, corn mazes, orange lights, falling leaves, free candy, and spooky decorations, but they despise October 31st. Wear costumes? No, thanks. Trick-or-treating is out of the question. These are aversions that I had to pause to wrap my head around—because what kid doesn’t love dressing like a superhero and collecting free candy? I had visions of my adorable children dressing up, turning our Radio Flyer into the Batmobile, and joining a neighborhood trick-or-treating posse. Every October, I start concocting costumes for the whole family. And every Halloween, without fail, my kids have meltdowns. If Gwyneth can coin the phrase, “conscious uncoupling,” then my family is hereby consciously uncoupling with Halloween. It’s conscious un-Halloweening.
There are a few things we’ve done over the years to soften the blow of costumes and candy. Autism Speaks provides good Halloween prep and tips for kids on the spectrum, including:
- Create a visual story of what Halloween may be like for your child.
- Try on costumes before Halloween; and if your child does not like his costume, don’t make him wear it.
- Speaking of costumes, consider a Halloween costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or capes.
- Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell or knocking on the door and receiving candy before the big day.
- Know your child’s limits and do only what he or she can handle.
- Take your child to an activity in the community, such as a school festival or a neighborhood party where the child is already comfortable and knows people. Also partner with family and friends that your child likes.
- If you are giving out candy at your home, give your child the option to give a piece of candy. During the day, practice greeting people and giving out candy.
The Easter Seals also provide ideas for sensory-friendly Halloween alternatives here.
We usually trick-or-treat at one house (Thing 2’s godparents who live around the corner), and head home. Several years ago, we were delusional overachievers and attempted to trick-or-treat down our entire cul-de-sac. My nonverbal oldest son carried a business card like this that year:
He was in tears after ringing the second doorbell and had to be carried home. Our neighbors were all nice and patient, but Thing 1 wanted to be home, on the couch, and naked. Wearing layers, let alone a costume, is not his idea of fun. Our kids’ costumes over the years have been basic one-pieces or Melissa & Doug dress-up items, and I still feel like I am torturing the boys.
This year, we are liberating ourselves and not stressing out our kids. Instead, the boys and I decorated our front porch with a straw bale, mums, pumpkins, and a light-up ghost. Thing 2 picked out the ghost and declared it, “REALLY SPOOKY!” Thing 1 felt strongly about buying yellow mums. Thing 3 chose decorative metal stakes for the yard, including a dancing spider. We had fun, the porch looks amazing, and no costumes, children, or parents were injured in the process. At only 18-months old, Thing 3 doesn’t care or feel left out (yet), so this Saturday we are taking the big boys to a football game and not worrying about ghosts, goblins, and Yoda’s that come knocking. In the grand scheme of things, costumes and trick-or-treating are not life skills my kids need to survive or thrive. I complain when other people try to force my square pegs into round holes, so why should I treat them that way every Halloween? Nope, not anymore.
Only took me a few years to get there.