Autism and April Fools
April Fools can be confusing, to say the least, for children on the autism spectrum. My son used to think that April fools meant opposites day, where you say something is hot if it’s cold, or say something is great, when it’s awful. At least he sort of got that concept, except April Fools is not really opposites, is it? It’s pranks, trickery, and downright terrifying for someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Here are a few ideas to try depending on where your child is chronologically, developmentally, and cognitively.
Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants
Seriously, I never thought SpongeBob SquarePants would be a teaching tool for us. If he’s too out there and not your thing, skip to the next idea, but for us, the SpongeBob “Fools In April” episode 19, was a lifesaver (below I’ve embedded the episode with captions, Copyright Nickelodeon). Or you can download on Netflix, or purchase the DVDs on amazon.com (we have them all).
While it’s not a perfect teaching episode, it certainly helped my son grasp the concept of what April Fool’s Day is. He also talked to me about the pranks that are popular in the schools, such as a kid saying, “Your shoe is untied!” when it’s not. Since my son enjoys SpongeBob, this was a wonderful way to help ease his anxiety before April Fools.
Yes, Pinterest has loads of April Fools ideas. I’ve Pinned some for you on my Autism and Holiday’s board below. Show your child some of these ideas and maybe pick one to do together. Play a harmless trick on your spouse, neighbor, or a family friend. Perhaps someone who is secretly in on the lesson.
For example, there are many cooking April Fools tricks. You can cover an air- filled balloon and decorate it as a cake, so that when the unsuspecting person goes to cut the cake, the balloon pops. Too loud for your kiddo, maybe make potatoes into chocolate chip cookie shapes with raisins. Your child may laugh when the unsuspecting person takes a bite and spits it out.
By bringing your child in on the gag, it takes away the fear. This can help them understand the anticipation of playing the joke on someone. And you can explain that the idea is supposed to be fun and never mean.
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And then there is the wondrous YouTube. I look for April Fool’s pranks that coincide with my child’s age. Now we’re in jr. high, but we used to watch videos for second graders. When the kids see other kids explaining the pranks, they don’t seem to have their feelings hurt as much knowing everyone is fair game. Parents please view first as anyone can upload a video to YouTube. Never know what you’re going to get!
Why Discussing April Fool’s Day is Important
When kids use April Fool’s Day to be mean, tease, or bully, it can cause feelings of shame, embarrassment, and lower self-esteem, which can have lasting emotional damage. While doing research, it seems no one really knows where April Fools originated, but it’s celebrated in many countries worldwide, creating confusion everywhere. Talking to our kids helps them at least try to understand that the holiday is not meant to be taken personally.
I recently asked my son if his feelings would be hurt if someone at school played a trick on him. Yes! To this day, he’s fearful and has anxiety about being pranked. To him, April Fool’s Day at school is like walking into a landmine. He’s never been fond of the holiday, or any negative attention aimed at him…but definitely wants to play tricks on others (face palm).
Is your child often a bullying target? Perhaps you should talk to their teacher in advanced to insure your child isn’t harassed on April Fool’s Day, or send their teacher an email the night before asking for a little extra assistance.
As promised, SpongeBob Squarepants edpisode 19 below
SPOILER ALERT AND WARNING: I will write below what happens in the episode. Do not read if you do not want to know what is in the show. Also, note for parents, the show says the word, “Jerk” twice and yells, “You Stink.” Please take notice if that is not appropriate for your kids to view.
1. The episode starts with SpongBob playing a prank on his pet snail, Gary, then shouting, “April Fools!”
2. Squidward then notices on his calendar that it’s April 1st and SpongeBob’s favorite holiday. He’s nervous and doesn’t want to go to work because he knows he will be pranked.
3. Squidward was correct. The day at Krusty Krab is full of SpongeBob playing pranks on customers.
4. SpongeBob starts to go a bit crazy, and Squidward decided to teach him a lesson, playing a huge prank on SpongeBob that goes too far and has serious backlash. Everyone in the restaurant is mad at Squidward for pranking Spongebob.
5. Squidward tries to make it up to SpongeBob and apologizes. To which SpongeBob promises not to tell anyone that Squidward said he was sorry. SpongeBob then opens the door to reveal a crowd has witnessed the apology, so SpongeBob had played one final April Fools.
What do you do to prep your child with Autism for April Fools?
Any tips for us parents? Or do you avoid the holiday altogether? I certainly don’t blame you! We’d love to hear what your thoughts are. Share below.
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