Orange and Black

Halloween has never been our favorite holiday.

Let me count the ways. Clay has little tolerance for costumes, especially masks and hats. Due to his dietary issues, he can’t eat most of the candy that he is offered. Decorations have a short shelf life with Mr. Busy Hands in the house. And, because of the peculiar positioning of our neighborhood between two busy roads with no sidewalks, no trick or treaters ever darken our door.

We had a few good years early on with Clay dressed as either the Cat in the Hat or a chef, but were not unhappy when he grew out of a holiday that mostly brought agitation combined with a sugar high.

This year, a local autism organization organized a Halloween party at a Knights of Columbus hall. It promised to be Clay friendly, so we asked the little fellow if he wanted to go.

“sure,” he typed on his keyboard.

“Who do you want to dress up as?”

“cash   johnny”

Makes sense. The Man in Black is one of his favorite singers. So, Friday night, we dressed Clay in a black cowboy hat, black velour shirt, black “Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around” t-shirt, black jeans and black sneakers.

Then we loaded the boy in black into the car and were off to the party.

The joint was jumping by the time we got there. We could hear the music from the parking lot. The dance floor was packed.  Two quick observations about parties with kids with autism: 1) It is hard to take pictures because nobody stands still for more than a few seconds. 2) Some of these guys seem born to dance. There are kids on the spectrum that exhibit a visceral connection to music that is a joy to watch. No lessons. No partners. Just music and movements.

Clay’s initial interest, of course, was the food. He had a soft pretzel in his hand quicker than you can say, “I wonder where the food is?” Thankfully, there was a “gluten free/casein free section.”

The Rice Krispy treats were a hit. So were the pizza crusts when we let him cheat a little later on.

A nearby hanging skeleton provided entertainment.

After a quick snack, we moved over to the official photographer area. The crooning cowboy kept his hat on for a few photos.

Then it was time for an iPad break, which quickly drew a crowd, including a toy soldier.

We checked out the costumes for a bit.

“so fun” Clay typed.

“Do  you want to dance?” my wife asked.

“sure” came the response, so it was off to the dance floor.

By then, we were dead tired. Although not as much as this guy.

Time to head home. The next day, my wife cornered the little guy with his keyboard for any final thoughts on the monster mash.

“a fun time” he typed. “we so enjoyed it”

“What was your favorite part?”

“Costumes were fun.”

Our first “fun” Halloween in a long time. A heartfelt thanks to the Autism Cares Foundation for bringing Halloween back to a family that had lost it.


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  1. #1 by Kathy P on October 31, 2011 - 8:34 am

    So cool! I am happy to hear that Clay had a wonderful time! He makes a great Cash, Johnny!!!

  2. #2 by Miss Mommy on October 31, 2011 - 9:20 am

    What a great party.

    My one son is one of those kids on the Spectrum that seems to be born to dance. I often joke that he seems to live his life with a soundtrack that only he can hear. The idea of “dance as if no one is watching” fits him perfectly; there might not even be any music playing or anyone else dancing – he’s got the music in him and when he has to dance, he has to dance. 🙂

    On the other hand, Trick or Treating is really tough for him, though he goes along with his twin brother and younger sister because he does love candy. However the decorations scare the @#$% out of him, causing him to freeze up with his hands over his ears. Luckily, if he’s too scared, his siblings will get his candy for him while he stays on the sidewalk.

  3. #3 by autismmommytherapist on October 31, 2011 - 11:27 am

    What a WONDEFUL photo of Clay and your wife dancing! So glad your son enjoyed the festivities! My kids are younger, Halloween is a month-long extravaganza around here…

  4. #4 by Larry Blumenthal on October 31, 2011 - 12:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience. We never lasted more than about 10 houses with Clay trick or treating. Too much noise, too much commotion, too many people in his face. Frankly, I was ready to go home before him. A couple of neighbors got candy especially for him, which was truly generous, but we finally gave it up. One thing we’ve learned since Clay has been typing is that he wants to do this stuff, as hard as it is for him. So, we’ll keep getting out there.

  5. #5 by Coleen McDonnell on October 31, 2011 - 6:29 pm

    Beautiful thank you for sharing .

  6. #6 by Loretta on November 4, 2011 - 4:29 pm

    so glad to see that Clay was able to have a bit of fun on Halloween.

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