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Piece By Piece: Halloween Holds Social Challenges

Halloween is one of the ways I measure Peter’s progress from year to year. When he was little it was one of those days that totally overwhelmed him. It was filled with sights, sounds and people that did not make sense to him. For so many on the autistic spectrum, life is very literal. Halloween is anything but.

Halloween also includes a great deal of social and physical navigation. In the past, Peter had to work very hard to climb each staircase as we Trick or Treated. The seemingly simple process of saying” Trick or Treat” and “thank you” while collecting a treat in his pumpkin was often too much to coordinate in the few seconds he had. He also had to learn to wait his turn, accept treats politely even if he did not like them, and take only one if he loved them.

Each year, we start on our block at neighbors that Peter knows to help ease him into the Trick or Treating. He feels less worried visiting people he knows by name. When they call him by his costume name, Peter says, “I am not Mickey, I am Peter.” We try to explain that he is pretending, but he still explains that he is Peter and just looks like Mickey.

Peter’s memory is often a detriment when it comes to social interaction. He can actually tell us who gave which treats last October. Sometimes he does not want to visit a house that gives a treat he doesn’t like to eat. Other times he asks where the Hershey bars are this year.

On Halloween this year I will be watching to see how Peter does with all these little things. Each year he becomes more social and a little less nervous about the unknown. He actually likes the idea that he is going to be Superman. He is planning on treats that he can trade. Halloween has become a marker to see how much we have pieced together in a year.

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