Halloween: Scary or not scary?
Updated: Oct 1
Halloween can be a unique time of year for people with autism. Maybe the person is fixated on the holiday, has extreme sensitivities to associated noises, can’t remember good manners, or maybe they feel isolated because so many friends trick-r-treat together. My Halloween adventures were quite interesting. How did my autism symptoms interfere during this holiday?
A specific route
Autistic people do like routines. According to TotalSpectrum, people on the spectrum like routines because they ensure a safe, secure environment where life is predictable. Routines can also provide stress relief.
I recall Halloween 2001, which was my last Halloween at my first house. My costume was a Jurassic Park dinosaur. I made some strict routine to only visit houses on my block. That’s odd when you consider that many third graders want to visit their friends or go extra far during the night. Me, my mom and my brother actually follow this route no problem. However, near the end, we went to a couple of houses across the street, which broke the routine. I felt quite distressed by it. My mother told me I was stuck and need to be open to more things. Over time, I’ve learned to overcome this “being rigid” obstacle.
According to Autism Speaks, autistic people often can be picky eaters. One thing people are often surprised to learn about me is that I don’t eat chips. No Lays, Doritos, Ruffles, you
name it. When I attended birthday parties as a kid, I would get upset whenever adults placed chips and Cheetos on my plate without asking me. It’s the textures, smells and excessive salt that make me not like these foods. The strange part is, I love French fries.
Of course, at trick-r-treating time, since most families do hand out chips and Cheetos for Halloween treats, I inevitably got some in my bag. I don’t remember exactly how I would react to this as a young child, but when I was older, my father would give them to my brother.
A lot of people know that I spent my years growing up afraid of dogs, specifically hyper ones. I was not afraid of my dog, Nicki, who I had the first 10 years of my life. She was
n’t an active dog. I was and still am, scared of hyper dogs, especially big ones. I can’t stand them jumping on me or running into me, let alone bite me. According to NCBI, approximately 30 per cent of autistic people have a comorbid diagnosis of a phobia, which can include dogs.
Many families have dogs. Most of them, of course, don’t put them in a cage or a room on Halloween night. I was around seven or eight when I became intensely terrified of dogs jumping on me. Therefore, the first several years of trick-r-treating were easy for me.
However, the last several years were rough (My last trick-r-treating night, I was 12 in 2005). I would often have my dad stand by the front doors of houses to make sure a dog wouldn’t jump on me when trick-r-treating. In extreme cases, I would skip the house and wait for my
dad and brother to finish. With families we knew had dogs, we often skipped them, other than a couple of friends nearby who made their houses extra exciting. As you likely guessed, some of the owners who didn’t know me were perplexed about my fear.
BOO! Didn’t scare me!
Through my own personal experiences, it’s no secret that kids can be scared of noises and costumes related to the holiday. My mother, a home daycare provider, had daycare kids who were afraid of “The Winkster” on Barney & Friends, as well as certain Halloween videos and songs back when we still lived in our first house.
Even later, in my current house, our family has had children who were afraid of the stuff we put out front for Halloween. In particular, we have a head in a globe where one can speak in a microphone so the head can say something to trick-r-treaters. Example: I would speak “Hello ‘Person A and B’ and they would see and hear the head talk. I didn’t use it when there were kids who didn’t like it.
What was I like? Other than being afraid of “Monsters finding me in the middle of the night” as a young child, Halloween noises didn’t scare me. I enjoyed the holiday so much. I would just have so much fun listening to the noises. According to The Hanen Centre, while autistic people can be hypersensitive to sensations, they can also be undersensitive to things other people may find uncomfortable to deal with.