I have always thought that the Halloween is the most magical time of the year. What could be better? One dresses up as a favorite character, the scarier the better, and then ransacks the neighborhood for candy. At age 47 I have yet to outgrow my excitement about this holiday. As soon as pumpkins appear in the store in early October I get positively giddy with excitement. It is only in the last few years that Boo Bear has shared my excitement. Halloween never made much sense to him. He is a rule follower and knows darn well he is not supposed to be out after dark knocking on the doors of strangers. On the other hand, if the strangers were to give him treats…that rule might get broken one night a year. So, at the ripe old age of 13, Boo Bear became a Halloween convert. By age 16, he is a pro. This year, his PCA, A, decided that he, she and I should be zombies. I agreed to this, after having shot down the idea of being dressed up as either a pixie or a Starbucks mom. I came home from work on the 31st to find A and Boo already in full zombie attire. They were wearing regular clothes but she had liberally painted their faces with stage makeup so it looked like they had oozing, pustulating sores. In short, they looked horrific. They were very proud. “You look like you have the plague”, I commented. A’s eyes grew wide,” I have a better idea” she said, “Let’s not be zombies, let’s be anti-vaxxers!” “Yes!” I crowed, “Anti-vaxxers that just caught a super bug that antibiotics can’t cure!” We high fived and I let her liberally smear makeup all over my face. She then made up two signs which we held. One read, “Anti-Vaxxers of MN” and the other read, “Down with big pharma!” After all, no one ever said you can’t use Halloween to make a political statement.
So, dressed up as anti-vaxxers, holding signs and bags, we went off into the night. Boo Bear was a little shy about going up to doors at first but soon got into the spirit of the night. I don’t think most people knew what we were dressed up as (a few did and gave us extra candy and high fives) but most of them recognized him from his walks around the neighborhood and seemed happy to see him. Thank you to all the neighbors who were so kind and patient as Boo Bear picked out the exact right piece of candy from your bowl. It means a lot to him.
We only lasted outside for about an hour. It was a chilly evening and Boo Bear had had a long day. He was happy to go inside and rummage through his loot, looking for choice bits. Eventually, he and I washed off the makeup and went to bed.
The development of a child or teen with autism follows its own unique trajectory. Milestones are met, but perhaps not in the time line that one might expect. Boo Bear did not begin to enjoy the delights of Halloween until he was 13. His sister, on the other hand, has been happily trick or treating for years. Both were able to participate in this rite of childhood, but along a different timeline. I know some people think that older kids should not go trick or treating. I disc agree. Childhood and the teenage years are fleeting. Adult responsibilities come quickly. If a gangly, non verbal teen shows up on your doorstep on October 31, hand him a candy bar or two. He may have just reached this stage in his development, or he may just be hanging on to the last vestiges of childhood. In either case, give him a Snickers Bar and wish him a Happy Halloween.