by Brittany Van Arman-Miller
Halloween is a true nightmare (pun intended) for most parents that have a child on the autism spectrum. I used to think that way too until my son with autism opened up my eyes (and my creativity level) when he asked me to bring his “odd” object obsessions to life.
I know what you’re thinking. Halloween? Why would anyone choose Halloween (of all holidays) to celebrate autism? What GOOD could possibly come from the added sugar high, forced social interaction (with strangers no less), and added volume from shrieking and excited children that could possibly warrant an autism celebration? Well, when you think of it THAT way it doesn’t. Thankfully, my son with autism has taught me to look at Halloween through his eyes and I want to share with you what I now see.
Halloween is the ONE day a year where being as different as humanly possible is not only accepted, but it’s praised! It’s a day when it’s OK for my child to stand out in the crowd. He can be ANYBODY or ANYTHING that his heart desires and nobody looks down on him for doing so. It’s a day when “regular” children, who are dressed and look the same, don’t get as much positive recognition as a child that doesn’t. In a world filled with Elsa’s, Minions, SpongeBobs, and cartoon characters- my child’s idea of being a microwave or a fire alarm earns him extra praise (and candy too).
I celebrate autism on Halloween because my son has allowed me to bring his autism obsessions to life right before his very eyes! The look of happiness on his face when I present to him his homemade costume (because his obsessions have never been with “normal” objects) is something I cannot put into words. He’s been a microwave, a deck, and a fire alarm (all of which were HIS ideas) and this years costume is no different. It’s the equivalent of a child’s eyes lighting up on Christmas morning or seeing Mickey Mouse for the very first time! It’s in those rare moments,on Halloween, that I KNOW I am doing right by my child.
This year my son has chosen a costume (based on his newest obsession with the weather) that once again I couldn’t buy in a store. It took weeks for me to decide HOW to make it. It is literally filled with my own blood (because I suck at sewing), sweat, and tears, but the look on my son’s face when he saw his finished costume makes it all worth it. I know people will point at him, stare at him, and maybe even giggle at him, but on Halloween ALL of those reactions will be positive instead of negative.
My son will receive praise for his costume idea, he will get recognition for thinking outside of the box, and for ONE day he and I will feel the freedom that “regular” children and parents take for granted.