Our Biggest Sale of the Year is Here!🎄 ➔

Every year around this time, I am asked the same question: “Do you have any good tips on how to help my autistic child have a successful Halloween?

And my answer is always the same: Build awareness.

To me, that’s a huge factor to your child being successful at any time, not just Halloween. Build it with those around you and practice with your child to make them as comfortable as possible.

Last year was our most successful Halloween to-date. Successful to me means two things: Safe and happy.

How do you build awareness?

Let’s start with the people closest to you.

How many people in your neighborhood know you have an autistic child?

I hope, after all the work I have put into it, all of mine do.

RELATED: To the Mother I Was Before Autism

Last year before Halloween, I made sure everyone knew about our son. They knew what he looked like, the costume he was going to wear, the type of bucket he would be carrying, that he was preverbal and he may not respond “appropriately” to receiving treats.

I also gave them these details because Halloween is filled with crowded streets, a lot of noise and darkness . . . a perfect mix for sensory overload or worse, losing him in the mix.

See, my son, Finn, a.k.a. “Houdini,” is a great escape artist. He is what most of us in the autism world call an “eloper.”

He doesn’t sense danger. He would run into the street, woods, or maybe jump in a nearby pond. He bolts from us incredibly fast, without warning, so we must have a hand on him and 1:1 supervision at all times.

Because of this reason alone, I am all for awareness . . . any kind.

ALL of my neighbors have had the opportunity to see a picture of my son, know the details and I even post them on our Facebook community page.

They know his disability is invisible. And when they learn about our son, they gain knowledge about autism in general, which can benefit other families.

They can see my son doesn’t “look autistic”—that you can’t just tell that by seeing a person. They know he probably won’t respond to his name when called, that if you chase he may run faster. They understand he is drawn to water, playground equipment, and dogs. They have even been given permission to grab him and put him in their car if they need to, should he ever wander off. In fact, our neighbors were wonderful and jumped into action when we needed them most last April when my son got away from my husband and we had to dial 9-1-1 for the first time.

Your child’s disability shouldn’t be a secret. In fact making others aware could save their life, or another child’s.

RELATED: Dear Autism, You Have Changed More Than Just My Child’s Life

Building awareness reminds them that all kids that have challenges and struggles aren’t always obvious, like someone in a wheelchair. People need to know that our kids look just like theirs. They are living on the same streets, getting educated in the same classrooms. They go to school with their children. They are in the grocery store and at the park.

We can work towards inclusion every day . . . but without the education and awareness it will never be at the level we hope for. So I use occasions like this to build more awareness for everyone.

Autism shouldn’t be a “secret world” filled with only tiny online groups who “get it.”

I suggest you add different types of people to your circle if you can, ones who don’t have children with Autism . . . ones that will teach their children about what autism could look like in others, educate them about disabilities and friends that might behave differently. Then perhaps those children will pass that kindness and knowledge onto others and future generations.

I also realize how you choose to build awareness is a very personal, family decision.

You may want them to stand out, to carry something that symbolizes those differences.

Or you may worry they will be a target, more vulnerable to ridicule and harm.

I get the need to want so desperately for your child to just fit in, to blend.

But my son has severe autism—he can’t ever be left alone. He has sensory seeking, self-regulatory stims that stand out. He scripts entire TV shows or YouTube clips instead of answering questions.

He’s not always going to just “fit in.”

He couldn’t even do that in kindergarten.

I pulled him from his public school last year because his own teacher and aides were treating him differently, excluding him from his peers.

His ABA center has denied him access due to his “behaviors” and COVID-19 restrictions.

He is being singled out anyway because of his “typical autistic behaviors.”

So I choose to fight to educate anyone who will listen, who is willing to learn.

This leads to the awareness we can all build for those we don’t know.

Because there’s a whole world out there just like them, who don’t understand. And I feel like it’s my job to make the world a better place for my kids.

RELATED: My Son’s Name is Not Autism

For others to understand they are “socially unique” and beautiful.

That different isn’t scary.

I just want more understanding of what autism really is.

More support for families who desperately need it.

People can say, “Well they should just be kind anyway.”

I want that for all of my kids, for all people with disabilities, believe me.

I wish it were that simple and that everyone sprinkled it around like confetti, but some don’t.

I’ve caught the stares when my child is melting down. I’ve received far too many nasty glares as I chase my child through Target. I am more often being judged for my parenting than offered a helping hand when both my son and I are having a hard moment in public.

RELATED: To the Friend Who Stayed

I purposely wear an “Ask Me About Autism” pin when I’m out so that when they see my child displaying behaviors or melting down, it makes them think about the next child they encounter like that. If they see a parent having a difficult time, they might think twice.

It’s also a great conversation starter. I have had many strangers ask about my son instead of running away because of a simple $5 pin from Amazon.

Everyone is a lifelong learner. All types of people vote for change in this country. Imagine how many would fight along with us for our kids if they knew more about them?

And maybe some of the changes start with me. Maybe they start on Halloween. Maybe they start with you, too.

Perhaps they start with preparing your child the best you can so he or she knows what to expect. Maybe it’s getting a kind neighbor to let them come early when it’s light out or even a few days ahead. Maybe it’s giving that neighbor a special item your child would be excited about other than candy to give to them. Maybe it’s preparing them for interaction with your child as much as it is about preparing the child himself.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

 

 

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Sheryl St. Aubin

I’m Sheryl. My husband and I were blessed with three beautiful, bright, brave, and bold children . . . Finn (5), Landon(8), and Lilliana (12). Finn, a.k.a. Baby Bird, was diagnosed with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was two and a half years old. Our son, Landon was also diagnosed recently. Our life has been an adventure. Last April, I decided to start sharing our life and created a Facebook Page and blog. I wanted to create a safe place for knowledge, encouragement, support, and comfort from people who understand . . . who walk in the same shoes.

Sometimes Growth Is Tangible, and When It Is You Hold On Tight

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom putting bike helmet on child

I never expected my sign to come in the form of a plastic bag. As a parent, you’re told over and over how fast it all goes, to cherish these times because they’re gone in a blink. You see the gradual changes in your kids as they move through milestones. One day, they can hold their own spoon. They begin stringing words into sentences. Their ages are counted in years and no longer months. You watch these things happen every day, but I didn’t realize some transitions would come in tangible ways, like a grocery bag filled with wet swim...

Keep Reading

Some Nights They Need You a Little More

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy sleeping, color photo

Some nights they need you a little more, mama. Because of the bad dreams or the bogeyman they are adamant is under the bed. Because firefighter daddy’s schedule leaves him missing goodnight tuck-ins and bedtime stories several times a week, sometimes leaving them a little needier and more emotional. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. RELATED: I’ll Lay With You As Long As You Need, My Child Because they are sick. Because they feel safe in your presence. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. It’s not always easy. It’s not always (okay, hardly ever)...

Keep Reading

Sweet Babies, I’ll Be There

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two children lying in bed, color photo

When your world is calm and peaceful, I’ll be there. When your world is chaotic like an ice cream shop on the hottest day of summer, I’ll be there. When you need a Band-Aid applied and a boo-boo kissed, I’ll be there. When you want to perform in your Frozen microphone like you’re performing for a crowd of 20,000 people, I’ll be there. When you feel lost and alone, I’ll be there. When you feel you have nowhere to go, I’ll be there. RELATED: I Will Always Be There When You Need Me, My Son When you need a pep...

Keep Reading

I’m in the Big Little Years

In: Kids, Motherhood
black and white photo of little boy and little girl standing in a window together

I’m in the big little years. It’s when you’re no longer in the tender season of babies and toddlers—those sweet, smothering, exhausting years of being constantly touched and needed . . . . . . but you’re not yet in the big kid years—navigating boyfriends and driver’s licenses and bracing your heart for the impending ache of an empty nest. I’m somewhere in between. I’m in the years of having littles that aren’t so little anymore, but still need you for so much. They have big feelings. Big ideas. Big dreams. But they have mostly little problems (even though they...

Keep Reading

1-Year-Olds Are Wonderful

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
1 year old baby smiling

Newborns—who doesn’t love them?  The captivating scent of a brand new baby, their fragile little bodies laying so delicately on your chest. Everything that comes with a newborn baby is just absolute magic. But have you ever had a 1-year-old? I used to think the newborn phase was my favorite, nothing could ever be better than having such a tiny helpless little human rely on you for absolutely everything. I could hold my newborn for hours, soaking in every tiny little detail before it became nothing but a beautifully distant memory. But I’ve realized it’s 1-year-olds who have a special...

Keep Reading

My Kids Are All in School Now and It’s a Little Lonely

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman looking out window alone

I had just dropped my children off at school. All of them. My youngest has just started full-time. It was my first full day on my own since she began, and I had really been looking forward to it, so I took myself into town to do a bit of shopping and grab a coffee. Just me. The kind of days dreams are made of, right? I could suddenly breathe again.  I only had myself to answer to.  I got my latte and something to eat. And then I cried.  My eyes filled with tears as I sat in the...

Keep Reading

I Love You Even When I Say I Don’t

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter touch foreheads

“I love you even when I say I don’t.” These words came out of nowhere from my 5-year-old. I was standing in the bathroom with her (we still don’t like to go potty without mommy standing right there), and she wouldn’t look at me while talking to me. You see, my 5-year-old and I have been in more spouts than ever before. She’s found this new attitude in her first couple months of kindergarten, coming home with new phrases including, “No, I don’t want to–you do it.” It hurts my heart, makes me frustrated, and leaves me asking myself where...

Keep Reading

Big Questions at Bedtime Don’t Require Perfect Answers

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and child at bedtime

Last night at bedtime, my son asked why everyone has to die one day. The thought of my sweet 7-year-old grappling with the weight of such a question hurt my heart. He looked so small tucked under a fleece blanket, clutching his favorite stuffed panda. How could the same little boy who just started second grade wearing a space backpack stuffed with bright, wide-ruled notebooks ask such a thing?  Perhaps my children are more aware of the inevitability of death than other kids their age due to the passing of various family pets over the past few years, or perhaps...

Keep Reading

If Someone Needs a Friend, Be a Friend

In: Friendship, Kids, Motherhood
Three kids with backpacks, color photo

“If someone needs a friend, be a friend” it’s the running joke in our family. My husband will say the phrase to our four kids when discussing certain life situations in a lovingly mocking type way. They’ll all look at me and chuckle. I giggle a little myself at the corniness of it. But I always add, “It’s true.” It’s a phrase I’ve used more times than I can count. To teach them all to be includers—the kind of kids who look for the kid having a bad day and seek to brighten it, the kind of kids who stand...

Keep Reading

I Hope My Daughter Always Hears My Voice

In: Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Toddler girl putting on sock, color photo

“Dots on bottom. Stretch over toes,” she mutters to herself while independently putting on her tiny toddler socks. I must have said those words to her about a thousand times and responded to “Mama, help” even more . . . modeling how to correctly put them on until the moment she finally pushed me away and insists on executing this task herself. When I believe I sound like a broken record, what I’m actually doing, as it turns out, is imparting wisdom . . . “Uh oh, try again,” she declares when her tower topples. “Chew first, then talk,” she...

Keep Reading