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April Fool's Day with a High-Needs Kid

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April Fool’s Day Jokes seem like harmless fun. A little blue milk here…a little funny-colored water there…what can it hurt? Even if you get a little more complicated with your jokes, it’s a day of good-natured teasing—and hey, it’s Fred and George Weasley’s favorite day of the year! What’s the harm in enjoying the fun?

There are pros and cons to both types of behavior. If you have normal kids, then more than likely, you can enjoy a few April Fool’s jokes with a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart. On the other hand, if you have a high-needs kid, you may discover that it’s better to set the holiday aside all together, with clear expectations that your children will not be engaging in any of those harmless pranks.

Why?

Your child may not understand where to draw the line. What you consider to be a harmless joke is, of course, something that does not permanently damage either anyone or anything. On the other hand, what your high-needs child considers to be “harmless” could have lasting repercussions for your family members or your belongings. Sometimes, high-needs kids just don’t know where to draw the line, and it’s easier to draw a hard one ahead of time—absolutely no jokes, whatsoever, no matter what—than it is to explain what kinds of jokes might or might not be acceptable later.

Your child might not understand. Some things are funny: the colored milk mentioned above; fingernail polish on a bar of soap, rendering it unusable; gluing something to a table. On the other hand, many parents choose to play elaborate “jokes” involving, essentially, lying to their children. For example, you might tell your kids that you’re going to a theme park or a movie later in the day, only to shout out, “April Fool’s!” when they ask about it. A normal child might be slightly disappointed, but will quickly get over it. A high-needs child may dwell on that disappointment for hours or even days—and it can have a negative impact on behavior for at least that long.

Do you really want to deal with the behavioral implications? High-needs kids thrive on routine. Your entire day is built around the fact that they need predictable behaviors—and the entire point of April Fool’s jokes is that they can’t be predicted. If you expose your child to these jokes, they’re as likely to cause an explosion as they are to create some good-natured fun.

Ultimately, the decision is yours. It’s your child, and you know them better than anyone else does—but be sure that you carefully consider the implications before you go through with it. Remember: it’s only funny if everyone is laughing.

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