Halloween Is Hard for My Son With Autism, but We Still Celebrate It

Our son loves the idea of Halloween. He loves the decorations and all the gross Halloween bugs on the store shelves. He likes the idea of trick-or-treating and the idea of dressing up.

But it’s hard for him. Due to his autism and sensory issues, we realized early on that costumes made him unhappy and uncomfortable. From a lion to the Hulk, nothing ever seemed to work for him. I started choosing costumes that only needed a hat and lightweight outfits that felt just like clothes. And overall, that has gone well. Except now he wants to choose his costumes, and crocodiles and dinosaurs are usually fuzzy, heavy and have cumbersome headpieces. So we try to make adjustments (like cutting off the chin straps and the feet). But I’m still not quite sure how it’s going to go this year.

I’m assuming trick-or-treating will appear less than successful, too. In the past, he’s made it to one or two houses and then gets upset that we’re not going into the houses. It doesn’t make sense to him that we would walk up to a house and then walk away without going in. This year, we’re prepping with social stories and practice runs and hoping for the best.

I know some will say, “Why do you celebrate Halloween at all if it’s too much for him?” And I get it. It may appear as though we’re trying to force a societal norm and we should just accept that Halloween will always be different for him.

But he still wants to join in on the celebration. He still wants to wear a costume. He still wants to trick-or-treat with his siblings. Just because something is challenging for someone with autism doesn’t mean they don’t want to participate. It may just take a little more planning and consideration to make it happen. So we accept his boundaries and try our best to accommodate.

And until he no longer wants to try these things, we’ll keep doing them even if it looks like a complete fail to everyone else. Maybe this year he’ll walk up to three or four houses before he starts getting upset and needs to go home. That’s one more house than last year, and we’ll be proud that he gave it another try.

We’ve learned to be grateful for the small steps forward because we know those small steps take colossal effort.

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