Monday, October 28, 2013

Remembering that Halloween is not for Everyone

This is a repost of a repost from 2009. It is very helpful that we remember that every holiday is not a fun experience for every child and that those on the autism spectrum have different needs when holiday season comes around.


I have been hinting for several weeks about discussing our issues with Halloween. I know I have been sidetracked because of the many adventures of Collegeman and Highschoolboy and I apologize. Anyway here goes the wonderful reminiscences of my years of trick-or-treating. I have to tell you that my favorite picture in the whole world is the one I referenced in the earlier post Changing Your Dreams: Life With an Autistic Child. It's the one where collegeman and highschoolboy are still really little. Highschoolboy was even still in diapers. He was dressed as his favorite character in the whole world, Winnie-the-Pooh and Collegeman was superman. I love this picture for the total parental reason that they look so cute and adorable. But if you look really close, what you can also see is a look of unsureness on highschoolboy's face. He seems to be saying to himself "I am not to sure about this costume thing." Now highschoolboy had not been diagnosed yet, so as much as we were aware, unfortunately it wasn't until much later that we picked up all the signals.

Highschoolboy had always been terrified of clowns. Not just the child afraid of the scary looking man with the balloons, but a down right terrifying Nightmare on Elm Street kind of fear. If a clown showed up at a party highschoolboy had to leave. If a clown showed up at pre-school he could not go to the assembly. I had been assured by the pediatrician that alot of children are afraid of clowns. So I thought nothing of it. It wasn't until recently that a person I follow on twitter who has aspergers explained to me that it was a very common fear among autistic children. The distortion of the facial features is very confusing. Who knew, another misheggas (nonsense) that our children get to deal with.

But what I had not figured out at the time of that Halloween picture is that absolute fear that this holiday engendered in my son. It was not the ghosts and goblins. He knew like any child that they were not really real. He knows that Dorothy doesn't travel to OZ and that the Wizard is not a real person. (However, we do know that the Wicked Witch of the West exists, we just can't melt her with water.) But he really believed that when people put on masks and costumes they transformed, shape-shifted like a changeling, into those ghouls for the day. He thought that there was some magical power that the "Halloween Aura" had over the masks so that people's personalities were transformed  into those monsters or characters. So every year when he went trick-or-treating and put on a costume, he would make sure to only wear part of the costume, or no costume at all. We have pictures from several years worth of Halloweens and in each one he is very hesitant and looked frightened. Again we thought nothing of it-made excuses, like he had an ear infection or was coming down with a cold. He never ever said anything. Just thought it was a kid thing, you know a little more intense than the average child, but that is highschoolboy.

Read the rest HERE.


Just as an update. Now that highschoolboy is CM2 and a junior in college his disdain for Halloween has not changed. He loathes costumes and even left the gamers guild club at school because everyone dressed up as their favorite game character.

While we do hand out candy on Halloween, CM2 will have none of it and doesn't even recognize that the holiday exists in real time. He stays away from the door and has nothing to do with the neighborhood children. Now at his college there are kids that dress up and we always have to remind the para to be extra vigilant on that day.

At times you do have to come to the conclusion that nope, you can't fix everything and that sometimes they really just need to learn how to live with their phobias. As long as it isn't effecting his day to day and his future, this one issue is going to be put on a back burner for a someday, maybe.