Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Through Special Eyes...

It is that time of year again. I find myself standing in the Halloween isle in the store, shaking my head, mentally eliminating each of the costumes as unsuitable from my daughter, one by one. Her autism and sensory issues make costumes seem like torture devices to her. I try to push from my mind the thought of how cute some of these costumes would look on my beautiful daughter, if only...

If only...

I try not to let the sense of loss, or thoughts of what might of been take root. I push those thoughts away, and swallow hard trying to clear the lump in my throat. I turn to leave the isle.

I try hard not to look at the little girl standing in the isle with me, but I can't help myself. She is about my daughter's age. She holds up a Disney Princess dress, and looks up at her Mom with a hopeful expression. Her Mother nods in agreement, and the little girl beams with excitement as the dress is laid in their cart.

I swallow hard again, but the stubborn lump in my throat remains. I push my cart past the happy pair, and out of the Halloween section. My mind flashes through a series of mental images of what their Halloween will probably look like; her Mother helping her put on her dress, then fixing her hair, and the happy little princess posing for adorable pictures. Many other homes will feature very similar scenes this year. Lots of mothers and daughters will share these experiences, but some of us will not.

For most of us, Halloween was a big deal when we were kids. It was something we excitedly looked forward to. It was FUN. We have fond memories of dressing up in costumes and collecting tons of candy, then going home and eating more sugar than anyone should consume in a month. Most of us have cute pictures from those days, and remember them with great fondness.

When viewed through my daughter's eyes, Halloween isn't quite the same as it was for us. She doesn't understand the disruption in her routine. A costume is just a torture device as far as she is concerned. She has no idea why anyone would want to inflict that discomfort on her. Going out "Trick or Treating" is a baffling blur of confusing sights and sounds. She doesn't understand the whole concept of knocking on doors to ask for candy. She can't eat the candy anyway. The flashing decorations, and well meaning but scarily dressed people are an assault on her sensory system. The whole exercise is pointless, and uncomfortable for her.

Every year I have put her in a costume, and taken a few quick pictures before taking it right back off. Last year I tried to put a Cleopatra dress on her. I put a comfy pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt under it to try and make it more tolerable. I knew better than to attempt to put the head dress, or wrist cuff on her, so we didn't even take those out of the bag.

As you can see in the picture below, she did not care to wear it for more than a minute. We snapped a few pictures then took it off. I spent $20.00, and all I really managed to do was irritate her, and take a few pictures.

This year, I have finally realized I need to stop trying to push my idea of Halloween on my daughter. She is an amazing child, who deserves more from me than that. I have to accept her for who she is. I have to let go of who I wish she could be. It is a process. I am sure many special needs parents probably make this adjustment faster and better than I have, but alas I am human and clearly subject to flaws.

I read a post today in which a parent was saying we should set a mandatory age limit for "Trick or Treating", and refuse to give candy to kids who "can't even bother to put on a costume." It occurred to me the author doesn't understand the first thing about how Halloween might be a challenge for special needs kids. He has never looked at Halloween through my daughter's eyes.

Some special needs are invisible, and we need to keep that in mind. Should a 16 year old boy who functions on the level of a 5 year old be told that he can't go "Trick or Treating"? Or can we allow him that little piece of joy without passing judgement? Should we insist a child wear a costume to participate, even if doing so makes the whole event miserable for the child? Or can we just chose to skip the looks of disapproval, smile, and say "Happy Halloween"? Those questions are ones I hope you will consider.

The pictures posted in this blog post are meant to be shared. I do hope you will chose to share them, so others can get a glimpse of Halloween though special eyes.

Let's help make Halloween happy for every one.

To the special needs parents who read this, I would like to invite you to join my facebook support group for special needs parents:

"Loving a Miracle - Special Parents Supporting Each Other."
This is the original support group, and all content is open to the general public.!/groups/lovingamiracleismoving/

There is a closed group, for those of you who would like to post things outside of the view of the general public:
"Loving a Miracle - The Special Parent's Safe Zone."!/groups/lovingamiraclethesafezone/

There is also a public PAGE. This is where I post information and links that I think are helpful to special needs parents.

Permission to repost/reprint: If you would like to obtain permission to repost or reprint this post, please send me an email to Thank you.


  1. Absolutely beautiful and wonderfully spoken! My daughter (diagnosed PDD-NOS) LOVES to Trick or Treat, but cannot eat ANY of the candy and so we agonize every year over trying to find at least SOMETHING in her bucket she can have! While she loves to dress up, it has to be on her terms, so for us the picture perfect costume doesnt happen. Thank you for putting into words what many people feel!

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