17 Kids With Autism Turn 'Obsessions' Into Brilliant Halloween Costumes

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In September we shared the story of Granderson, a boy with autism whose obsession with microwaves resulted in one of the most amazing Halloween costumes ever last year. That inspired us to ask our Facebook community if they or a loved one with autism had ever incorporated an “obsession” or unique interest into a costume. Turns out, Granderson isn’t the only one who takes pride in what others may consider an unusual interest. Below you’ll see 17 kids with autism whose out-of-the-box Halloween costumes are proof that different is cool.

1. A deck with stairs

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“I thought maybe this year for Halloween he would come up with something I could actually buy at a store. Well I was very wrong! I asked what he wanted to be… and guess what he told me? He said he wanted to be a deck! A deck with stairs and a railing! Seriously? I have no clue where he gets these ideas from, but I am all for embracing his creativeness. So I grabbed my trusty cardboard box and set off to work. Grandy is actually standing up and the legs are ‘fake legs.’” — Brittany Van Arman-Miller

2. Pizza

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“My son dressed as a piece of pizza for Halloween one year because he was obsessed with opening and closing the doors in the freezer section of our local grocery store. We go to our local Hy-Vee store several times per week because he loves the store and the shopping experience.” —Tyann Sheldon Rouw

3. A scuba diver

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“A trip to an aquarium where we saw a man wearing scuba gear in a giant fish tank giving a presentation prompted my son’s obsession with scuba divers. So I created this, complete with air tank, mouthpiece, swim fins, goggles and dive weights. He was a hit!” — Stacy Enloe Kucera

4. Oscar the Grouch

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“Ryan, now 7, used to have an obsession with trash cans. So at age 2, Oscar the Grouch seemed to be the logical choice.” —Kelly Lendman Stoeber

5. Lightning McQueen from Disney’s ‘Cars’

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“Disney ‘Cars’ obsession translated with all of his favorite logos (another fascination).” — Amy Kenny

6. Buzz Lightyear + Tinkerbell wand + magician’s hat

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“He loves all things magical and purple, so this is Buzz Lightyear with a Tinkerbell wand and purple magician’s hat… love his ‘no rules apply’ motto.” — Cari Mckinley

7. Pirates

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“My boys both have autism and lots of sensory issues that prevent them from wearing a traditional costume. I made their double stroller into a pirate ship with the help of some cardboard boxes and old curtains. I put a striped shirt over the sweater to give their clothing a pirate look without resorting to polyester costumes (because they have trouble with anything other than cotton). We were new in our neighborhood and both my boys can’t have candy, so I made them a treasure chest out of an old box and filled it full of little gold chocolates that we handed out to the houses we went to, meeting our neighbors.” — Jennifer Andresen

8. Skittles

Rhiannon Dean

“Favorite candy!” — Rhiannon Dean

9. Beauty and the Beast

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“My daughter has an on going obsession with “Beauty and the Beast.” Last year for Halloween we decided as a family to embrace her love of the movie and dress up together.” — Jill Kingery Hodge

10. A cat

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“My son is obsessed with cats. So naturally, this will be his costume this year.” — Amanda Harter

11. The million-dollar wedge from “Wheel of Fortune”

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“My son was obsessed with “Wheel of Fortune” when he was 7 years old. He watched the show every night after we ate dinner. His costume was the Million Dollar Wedge, which was new on Wheel of Fortune that year.” —Tyann Sheldon Rouw

12. Super martian robot girl

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“Any [‘Yo Gabba Gabba’] loving parent should recognize this one.” — Angie Wiencek-Ashe

13. A vintage car

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“My son loves cars. He was in love with a Chevy 57 so for Halloween two years ago, this is what happened. Kuddos to my hubby who worked on the box and duct tape to make it happen.” — Lisbeth Carolina

14. An elephant

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“This was supposed to be my daughter’s costume last year but her social anxiety prevented us from going out with her brother. She has severe sensory processing disorder with her autism spectrum disorder so we kept it homemade with clothes she was comfortable in already. She’s always been obsessed with elephants.” — Alameda Dianna Plenger McElraft

15. A Lego 

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16. Santa Claus

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“My 6-year-old old daughter has always had an obsession with this Santa costume that’s size “12 months.” She would wear it year round 24/7. This is her last December still squeezing into it.” — Jill Kingery Hodge

17. Spy vs. Spy

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A special thank you to the Autism Society of Southern Wisconsin for contributing to this piece.

Have you or a loved one with autism turned an “obsession” or unique interest into an awesome costume? Send us a photo of it to [email protected]

Related: How I Learned to Embrace My Son’s Quirky Obsession

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What I'm Asking the Divided Autism Community to Consider

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Autism has been a part of my life ever since my son was diagnosed six years ago. It was a word I knew nothing about, and I had no idea how much that word would change my life. Three years later, my second son was diagnosed too, both of them at only 18 months of age.

As a parent, you go through a whole range of emotions immediately after a diagnosis. Anger, sadness, jealousy, grief, confusion and fear, to name but a few, as you desperately search for information to try and make sense of what your life and your child’s life will become.

I tried to learn as much as I could about autism. I read books, attended courses, tried different therapies, diets, anything to find the best way to help them.

I spent hundreds of hours online, reading blogs of other parents, blogs of those on the spectrum, differing expert advice and participated in various online communities. You look for answers, you look for support, you look for people who understand what you’re going through. When you find the courage to reach out, you can find and meet others who are in your situation and just get what’s going on in your life.

In general, I’ve found the online community to be full of support, advice and real compassion for each other. What I’ve learned, and the people I’ve met, has even inspired me to make my own contribution to the quest for greater awareness and understanding as I now write my own blog, sharing stories about our lives.

During the last few months, I’ve also come to realize what a minefield the autism community can be. It’s full of different opinions, which is great, and one of the reasons it can be so interesting. A good, well-argued debate never hurt anyone.

But I never expected to find so much anger, judgment and vitriol these differing opinions can inspire. There seem to be so many people firmly rooted in certain camps, unable to accept anyone’s right to an opinion different to their own, full of anger, hate and abuse.

I know we live in a time of the “internet troll,” with keyboard warriors determined to upset others. I just never realised this would apply within a community discussing a disability that they all have a common link to.

The recent publication of Steve Silberman’s book “NeuroTribes” is one such event that has divided opinion and led to people clamoring to support or denounce his work. Again, by itself this is fine, but watching how these debates escalate into personal attacks is sad.

There are many topics just like this that provoke the same reaction:

  • Whether you should say someone is autistic or “has autism”
  • The pros and cons of different therapies: ABA, gluten-free diets, biomeds, supplements, medication, etc.
  • What causes autism: vaccines, mercury and lead poisoning, problems with the gut, etc.
  • The spectrum itself – the labelling of someone as high-functioning or severely autistic
  • Parents who wish their child didn’t have autism, and those offended by them saying it
  • Parents of those who have severe autism fighting with those who are on the less severe end of the spectrum

I could go on and on. These are just a few I see that regularly lead to in-fighting, anger and abuse.

I’m not here to pretend I don’t read things online and disagree with them, or even get angry about them. I’m not here to take sides and say who’s right or wrong. I’m not here to suggest that some of these arguments aren’t hugely important and that they shouldn’t take place at all.

I’m here to ask everyone to take a step back for a second, pause and really think about what you’re arguing about.

What if we invested all of that time, passion and energy into something worthwhile? What if we focused it all into what brought us into the online autism community in the first place? What if we could accept everyone’s right to their own opinions and beliefs?

We’re all on this online space because we’re on the spectrum or have a loved one who is.

We’re all active in this online space because we want to educate ourselves and others about autism.

We’re all here because we want to make the world a better place for our loved ones, and help create a more aware and accepting world that the autism community can flourish in.

Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

If we want the world to be more aware and accepting toward autism, surely we need to start by looking at ourselves, and be more aware and accepting of each other?

Follow this journey on Stories About Autism.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When You Feel Like an Outsider and an Insider as a Special Needs Mom

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I’m a mom to two little girls. My oldest, Anna, is 4. She’s just as funny and loud and precocious as any 4-year-old can be. My other daughter, Zoey, is 3 years old. She was diagnosed at 21 months old with autism, sensory processing disorder and global developmental delay. She was considered severely nonverbal with no guarantee of speech, but if you’ve followed our journey on Facebook, you can see by her videos that she’s proving them wrong.

We have some pretty significant challenges in our family, and we have to take extra precautions to ensure safety for both of our girls. With a 4-year-old and a 3-year-old, you have be quick and ready for anything. Zoey’s still in diapers, and I don’t know when she will be out of them. She can’t stand the way clothes feel on her, so she often strips down to nothing. Going places is almost impossible because anything could set her off. Bringing her into stores, birthday parties, county fairs and even family gatherings can trigger a meltdown. We’ve learned through trial and error what works and what doesn’t work.

My daughter is impulsive and doesn’t understand the dangers of streets, strangers, bodies of water, fire pits and big, barking dogs who may or may not be good with small children. She can’t tell me or anyone else if something’s wrong or if she’s hurt.

I see families apple picking, hiking, biking, taking trips to the circus, going to soccer games and birthday parties, and going to the movies as a family. I would love for the four of us to go out to a movie, but that’s not our life right now.

I watch all this from the inside of my own home. I’m inside, but I’m the outsider. I’m the mom watching these beautiful and fun family moments from my computer screen. I’m an outsider looking at your moments from inside my home, hoping and wishing that someday I won’t be the insider — I want to be the outsider having these moments with my family. It’s hard to explain that to friends and family who ask us to get a babysitter or come along to the circus, the fair or a birthday party.

So what’s it like to be on the inside? 

I am a stay-at-home mom and I’ve had the honor of watching my girls go from being babies to funny little toddlers with their own individual personalities. 

I’ve been here through 14 months of intensive in home therapy for Zoey, sitting on the floor, watching her learn and grow, and I learned and grew from the experience as well. She let me into her world, and let me tell you — her world is full of music and smiles. I look at her and I know she’s happy. I got to witness her “go away” and then come back in an amazing way. She has taught me what hope, faith and love — unconditional love — truly mean.

I’ve watched my beautiful and quick-witted Anna become stronger and wiser. She’s an old soul in a 4-year-old’s body. She’s shown me just how much she loves her sister, and I have witnessed their relationship turn from nonexistent to one of the strongest bonds I’ve ever seen. To watch your 4-year-old light up after hearing her younger sister say her name for the first time… well, nothing on the outside can even compare to that. 

I watch them run and play and laugh all through the house. We may not get to go to the movies, but we have movie nights at our house, and I watch my two girls sit together and share a snack. I’ve watched Anna help Zoey, and I’ve watched Zoey learn to interact and have a relationship with her sister. They love each other, and that makes being on the inside not so bad. 

Being on the inside, I have a front row seat to the biggest and best event I’ve ever seen: My children, my husband and I have become a closer family. We all love each other unconditionally. That makes being on the inside not so bad.

So for now I will be that mom watching your moments from the inside, wishing I was on the outside. But I will also be that mom who is grateful for being inside watching my family and our love for one another grow.

Follow this journey on Life of Zoey.

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Fridays Waiter Gives Boy Unique Discount After Hospital Visit

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Kindness doesn’t have to be complicated. A TGI Fridays waiter proved that.

On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Jen Goodhand-Wyatt took her son Oscar to Fridays in Warwickshire, England, on the way home from a hospital visit. According to her Facebook post, Wyatt went inside the restaurant first to make sure no Halloween decorations were up. Oscar has autism, and frightening decorations particularly bother him. After explaining the situation, the host let Oscar pick their table — he chose a “Star Wars”-themed one. Wyatt mentioned her son was a “‘Star Wars’ loving superhero.”

When the waitress came over, she turned to Oscar and said, “I understand you’re a superhero. Here’s your menu.” The comment bummed Oscar out though, because his cardiologist had just told him he couldn’t do karate anymore because of his heart condition. He therefore didn’t feel much like a superhero.

A new waiter later came by to check on the table, along with two balloon models he’d made for Oscar. He then asked Wyatt if he could treat Oscar to dessert. When she asked why he replied, “Because he’s a superhero.”

When Wyatt received the bill, she noted the pudding cost had been instead marked as the “Superhero” discount. She posted a picture of it to Facebook:

 

Talk about service.

h/t redbook

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What I Tell My Son on the Spectrum When He Feels Left Out at School

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Just be yourself. Every parent has said those words to their child. Just be you, and everyone will love you. For many years of childhood, those words can ring true. Then come the preteen years and our children must wonder what the heck we were talking about. It’s hard to tell a child who stands out that being themselves will work out just fine when they’re living the opposite. My son, Jack, is one of the most unique, insightful, hilarious and creative individuals I have ever met. Those qualities aren’t always appreciated by other 12-year-olds. Throw in the fact he also happens to have some social and learning difficulties, and the tween decks are even more stacked against him.

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Jack was born a comedian. When he was an infant, his angelic face drew many an admirer on our errand travels. During one such encounter, an elderly woman gazed into his face, cooing with adoration. He responded by blowing a huge raspberry in her face, scaring her half to death. He then broke out his mischievous grin. To this day, his wit is quick and infectious.

When Jack was a toddler, his inner artist began to blossom. I would find Jackie treasures all over the house and in our yard. My candles would be stacked in an artistic tower. There would be mosaics of sticks and pebbles in the garden. The front doorknob would have a smiley face drawn on it. He would yell in protest as I threw out a piece of trash, and moments later, it would be turned into colorful caterpillar.

And then there are the Jackisms. Many of his simple thoughts on life have grown to become cherished family philosophies.

“People are always moving so fast, and they’re missing all the good stuff.”

“When someone is sad or angry, they just need to be hugged. It’s hard to stay mad when someone is squeezing the yucky stuff out of you.”

“Kind people feel warm like sunshine, don’t they?”

Out in the world, he is not afraid to share his love and wisdom with others. He told a grouchy lady ringing up our groceries, “Are you having a bad day?” She smiled and responded, “I’m sorry, does it look like it?” Jack kindly answered, “A little bit. But that’s OK. Everybody has them. Tomorrow will be better.”

How lucky am I to be this boy’s mother? To share my days with him? It’s hard to stay in a bad mood with your very own ray of sunshine living in your home. It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re joined by someone who finds beauty and inspiration everywhere. I often think about the lucky people who will share their lives with him in the years to come. I also think about the unfortunate people who will miss out on knowing him. He doesn’t always fit in so easily, and so many discount those who are different.

Jack is currently in middle school — right in the thick of conformity. Not long ago, Jack came home in tears after someone on the bus told him, “No one wants to talk to you because you’re weird.” I tried to comfort him as best I could. At the end of our conversation, I kissed his button nose and whispered to him, “He doesn’t know the magic he’s missing.”

To Jack and all the magically different children who are trying to fit in, we need you. You color our world. You will write the songs and stories that will inspire us. You will create beautiful art for us to enjoy. Thank goodness we will have your comedic genius to make us laugh when there is so much to cry about in the world. You will create the things we never knew we needed, but then can’t live without.

Right now, you’re in a time in your life when children are afraid to be different. It seems that fitting in is the most important thing. This time will be hard for you. You are too bright and sparkly to hide. But stay strong and be brave because your time is coming. Don’t let the insecurities of others cause you to hide away your gifts. They are afraid. Afraid to be themselves, and therefore afraid to let others be themselves, too.

Before you know it, the tide will turn. The same kids who were trying to be like everyone else will soon be trying to stand out. That will be your time. Your talents and what makes you unique will be right there, perfectly ripe for the picking. That will be the moment to start manifesting your magnificence.

Earlier tonight as I worked on my laptop in bed, a quiet boy snuck up alongside me and placed a folded paper on my keyboard. He knew I had been through a difficult and emotional day. He kissed my hand and said, “Ta-ta for now!” then somersaulted out of my room. I opened the paper. It was a hand-drawn comic strip featuring a maniacal-looking character who first slips on a banana peel, falls off a cliff, gets pinned under a giant boulder and finally ends up in a hospital bed wearing a giant body cast. Underneath were the words, “Things could always be worse. I love you. Jack.” I chuckled to myself. Aaahh, the magic they’re missing.

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