There has been a blog on this site before which talked about how hard Halloween can be for autistic people, and gave some tips for how to cope with this. But what I want to talk about today is the weeks following Halloween. It`s easy to think that because the event itself is over that’s the end of it, but the truth is that with autism overloads and meltdowns often don’t kick in until much later. It might be a week or two after Halloween that all the change and sensory input finally catches up to someone. By this time the people around them, and perhaps the autistic person themselves, is no longer thinking about Halloween, and does not make the connection. But it is worth keeping in mind that any overload or meltdowns can be due to the impact of something that happened weeks before.
It’s not so easy for someone with autism to just change their routine overnight, and that’s what Halloween requires a lot of the time. Everything changes for a few days as you eat different food, and people’s houses take on a different look (if they decorate them). And along with this there is all the sensory input from children knocking at the door or running around outside doing trick or treat. You can’t just wake up the next day and be over that.
It might be that you take a few days to ease back in to the normal routine of things. But this is where it becomes a bit tricky because things don’t quite go back to normal at all. November is a strange month anyway; there is Halloween leading in to it then Bonfire Night, and after that people start the count-down to Christmas. Fireworks go off all the time, and there are a lot more people out and about on the streets. It’s a month where you are meant to just get on with your normal life, and yet the world around you is changed. Everyone starts to talk about Christmas, and it feels as if things are changing all the time. Or at least everyone is getting ready for them to change. As I say fireworks start going off sometime in October, and don’t stop until January. It might be that some people with autism enjoy fireworks, and like going out to see them, but for a lot of autistic people having them going off most nights, and even in the daytime is too much. It`s added sensory input that comes at random times, and can be extremely stressful for autistic people.
It is important to remember that while November is meant to be a normal month, it is far from it. Part of it is spent getting over the impact of Halloween, and all the change/sensory overload that can come with this, and part of it is spent anticipating the change, and stress that can come with Christmas. Even if you do work around these two things it might be worth taking the time to talk about the month of November itself with your autistic loved one, or give it some thought if you are autistic yourself. How do you get around the fact that it is basically a month spent dealing with the events of the month before, and the anticipation of events to come in the month after?
Writing about this and planning might be the key; write down what will be different about November, for example fireworks, and Christmas decorations in shops. Write about what the positives of this change might be, and also the negatives. And try to see the last three months of the year as one big time of change, and sensory stimuli. Don’t look at it as one big time of change, then a break, and then a second change.
Even if you just take one part of November – the fireworks – and think about the impact they can have on autistic people, you can see why it can be such a hard time of year. Loud noises can be enough to send some autistic people in to melt down, and even if this is not the case the build-up of noise/lights plus the unpredictable nature of them can take its toll. It might be worth investing in some head phones either to play music, or just to block out sound. You might not want to, or be able to keep these on all the time, but if you know fireworks get worse after it goes dark then you could have them to put on at this time.
November is a hard month. Perhaps harder than October or December due to the fact that everyone around you wants you to get on with it as if it were just a normal month. But keep doing whatever works for you on Halloween, or start doing whatever helps you get through Christmas early on. Talking, writing things down, planning, talking about what change will happen, and what it means as well as just being aware that things might be hard can all help. I know myself that even though the last three months of the year can be a lot of fun, they can also be a lot of hard work. Of course everything changes again in January but that is a blog for another time!
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