Why We Don’t Celebrate Halloween


We Don't Do Halloween

I love cinnamon-scented pinecones, mums, changing leaves, hayrides, and little fun-size chocolates. My middle child sings the best rendition of “Five Little Pumpkins” ever. My family loves fall. But behind the crisp morning air, football, and pumpkin spice lattes, my family hides a dark secret…

We HATE Halloween.

There, I said it.

Ten years ago, I became a mother and envisioned my adorable children dressing up, turning our red wagon into the Batmobile, and joining a neighborhood trick-or-treating posse, just like I did as a kid. Every Halloween since then, without fail, my kids turn into a sobbing mess. Expecting my three boys to wear costumes and interact with strangers was simply asking too much, and it took me years to wrap my head around these aversions.

What kid doesn’t love dressing like a superhero and collecting free candy?

Welcome to our world with autism, where many kids prefer to be naked and left alone. There are a few things we’ve done over the years to try to make Halloween work. We practiced saying “trick or treat” with a neighbor. I bought a costume for my son’s latest and greatest obsession. I followed tips from Autism Speaks, including:

  • Try on costumes before Halloween, and if your child does not like his costume, don’t make him wear it.
  • Consider a costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes like butterfly wings or capes.
  • Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell, and receiving candy before the big day.
  • Know your child’s limits. Only do what he or she can handle.
  • Take your child to an activity in the community such as a school festival or a neighborhood party where the child is comfortable and knows people.

In our case, though, no amount of practice, bribery, behavior analysis, or patience changed my kids’ hearts.

In the grand scheme of life, costumes and trick-or-treating are not skills my kids need to survive anyway. I complain when other people force my square pegs into round holes, so why should I treat them that way every October? Not anymore. We officially ditched Halloween two years ago and never looked back.

My family still enjoys all the usual October fun.

We hit the pumpkin patch with the Autism Society of Central Virginia, and youngest rocked his preschool’s fall festival. We watch Hocus Pocus and Charlie Brown and decorate our porch with mums and pumpkins. But instead of trick-or-treating on October 31st, we plan a family outing…maybe a football game, movie, or dinner at the kids’ favorite diner.

If you’re in the same tribe, the Easter Seals provide more ideas for sensory-friendly Halloween alternatives.

And if you’re passing out candy and meet a costumeless, quiet kid, show him patience and kindness—and give his parents a high five.

The faces of boys who do not wear costumes or trick-or-treat.
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Kate Fletcher was born and raised in Virginia and has been an RVA resident since 2002. Married since 2004, Kate and her husband, Gary, have three boys: Matthew (age 9), Wesley (age 6), and Henry (age 2). All three boys have autism, so the Fletcher family is very active in autism advocacy, awareness, acceptance, and research. They are members of the Autism Society of Central Virginia, and Kate periodically writes as a guest blogger for Autism Speaks. She also works full-time as a middle school history teacher in Chesterfield County and is pursuing National Board Certification. When not at school or shuttling her boys around town, Kate enjoys spending time outside, especially at Virginia State Parks and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, shopping, eating, and lots of coffee. Follow her personal blog at www.farbeyondzebra.com.