Halloween is not my favourite time of year, I am not really sure it ever has been. As a small child I confess, I used to love dressing up as a witch and flying around on my broomstick! And nothing could beat carving up a big orange pumpkin into something that, might, kind of resembable a face, then plopping a candle in it so it glowed. But I never went trick or treating and the only people I used to “scare” were my parents and maybe the dog! I now view this delightful “holiday” as anything but a holiday. As I sit here writing, not only am I feeling somewhat nervous about the witches and other terrifying creatures that will be lurking around outside but I am also planning our escape!
One might wonder quite how scary halloween can really be. But if you have a child with ASD you might well already know the answer. If you have a child that hates dressing up and really hates other people dressing up, and most certainly is no fan of people turning up unannounced, ringer the doorbell and then worse still taking things away with them. It really does all adds up to be, one very scary nightmare for the whole family!
As a parent of a child with autism I want to protect C from things that I know he will hate. But also I want him to try and learn to like things. Its so hard to try and get that all important, yet impossible balance. I want to feel I am helping him develop, providing the tools he needs to thrive and most importantly I want him to be happy and enjoy being a child. Not hate it and want to hide away from things.
Take the good old birthday party for example. I don’t want never to take C to one just because he finds them really hard; I really do believe one day he will like them. Slowly he will begin to understand what happens when he goes to a party and therefore he will become more relaxed and actually enjoy the whole experinece. But if I never take him to any, he will never learn that actually he can manage to go even if only for an hour. However, with Halloween I feel it might just be one of those rare occasions that we just quite literately buckle down the hatches and wait for it to go away.
Last year was the first year that we lived somewhere where there were lots of lovely families who would all be celerbrating Halloween. We new that we would have plenty of people knocking at the door, running around the streets all dressed up, shouting, laughing and having fun. This delightful image of young people enjoying themselves just brings fear and dread into our household. We locked the door, unplugged the doorbell, drew the curtains and pretended we weren’t in; not that easy but we managed it.
This year we could spent the weeks talking to C, explaining about Halloween. Trying to get him to understand that lots of people will be dressing up, wearing wigs, painting their faces. People will be coming to our house, ringing the doorbell, and asking for sweets. There will be a lot of noise, fun and laughter, and not to worry because it only happens once a year. He will be safe and nothing bad will happen! But I don’t think my 5 year old boy, with ASD and who is highly anxious will accept this insane explaination and be alright about it all. I am fairly sure that as he gets pretty upset when the postman rings the bell or Tesco brings our weekly food shop that having monsters ringing the bell for 3 hours might just send him over the edge. It’s pushing me pretty close just thinking about it.
So although my little man loves being at home and finds spending even one night away very hard I think we might run to the hills and hide away for the night. Have our own little adventure away from busy streets and other families having fun. My time will be much better spent planning our night away, telling C where we are going and what we will be doing, than trying to get him to OK about the craziness of Halloween!