Dress Up Days + Autism = A Disturbance in the Force
I am a long time Star Wars fan. Old enough to have seen ALL the original ones in the theater. Star Wars IV: A New Hope was my FIRST PG movie back in…well…it’s been a while. I had my mom call in a fake orthodontist appointment so I could leave school to see Episode VI: Return of the Jedi on the day it opened.
I am also a BIT of a purest. The first movie in the franchise is Episode IV A New Hope. Period. It is NOT Episode I: The Phantom Menace. If you don’t understand how that is mathematically possible, we can agree to disagree but I’m not sure we can be friends. (wink emoji) So when Disney bought the franchise rights a few years back, I heard the dark, ominous cords of the Darth Vader theme play.
Until that week.
That week was The Great Kindness Challenge at the school our son attends. Kindness! YES! Bring it on and serve it with cookies & milk.
But built into that week are dress up days. Dress up days are fantastic for students. They allow for creativity, build excitement, and break up the routine. Unless you have a child who holds tight to routine.
Dress up days are the bane of this autism mom’s existence.
Cue those ominous Darth Vader cords again.
Our son is mainstreamed in a regular 7th grade classroom with a one on one aide. We want him to participate in as many “typical” activities as possible. Dress up days have the appearance of an easy check mark in that box.
Appearances are deceptive.
He is a shorts in the winter, no tags or buttons on his shirts, clothes feel better worn on the second (or third) day kind of kid. His tactile sensitivities are pretty high. Flexing his routine and his sensitivities are a healthy activity. When he was younger I could get him to wear a vest with his tee shirt and tricorn hat for a colonial day (ok, the hat just stayed on for a picture), but last year in 6th grade, he would have nothing to do with those shenanigans.
Did I mention I’m a lover of all things theater and costume related? God really gives us the kids we need, not the ones we thought we wanted.
So when I pulled The Great Kindness Challenge note from of his back pack on Sunday night (you heard me, Sunday night. Not Friday afternoon like all the good moms) and saw the list of dress up days, there was a deep breath.
But wait! Monday was “Have Courage and Be Kind” - Dress in Disney Attire.
Exhale Mama because the Force is with us!
Disney owns STAR WARS!!! WE LOVE STAR WARS! WE HAVE STAR WARS TEE SHIRTS!! In some autism algebraic equation, we can participate in dress up day without fighting my 7th grade Wookie!!!!
That Monday morning when he bounced out of the car into the 47 degree January air ( California, BA-BEE!!!) in his shorts and BB8 tee shirt, he was happy. Was he happy to be participating? Maybe. Was he happy there was no fight? Perhaps. It’s hard to say because, well, he’s nonverbal but I’m just going to go with, he was happy. But Friday is “Peace, Love, and Kindness"-Dress like a Hippie. I’m hoping that does not become an ironically named dress up day for us.
Or maybe we’ll just wear routine Friday school spirit shirt.
Sometimes the routine is not a bad thing.
( Originally written January 2019 )