Why My Autistic Son Hates Valentine’s Day

No Valentines, Please

My six year old son has groused about Valentine’s Day since early last fall. He wants nothing to do with giving cards and heart shaped candy. His obsessiveness has been building to a frenzied climax.

I asked Miss D, our family caregiver, for advice. She has x-ray eyes when it comes to behavior. She also finds the perfect words to describe her observations. She rocks, in the most awesome way.

This excerpt from the email she sent me packs a powerful punch of wisdom. For anyone with a child who hates Valentine’s Day, this might explain why:

“Liev has explained to me that he does not like Valentine’s Day.  I can understand this since it is based on social exchanges involving emotions that Liev is not comfortable with outside his family.

 Most kids at his age are “into” the valentine thing because they receive valentines…kids love to get mail and treats.  They give valentines mostly because they have to if they want to get some for themselves 🙂

 Since Liev  has no interest in receiving valentines he has no motivation to give them.  Also, because Liev is so literal in his translations I can see how it would make him very uncomfortable to extend an invitation to classmates that show affection/love/or the term “Be My Valentine”.

 When you combine the abstract ideas (be mine, valentines, etc.), the fact that it is an emotion based holiday, and the requirement to socially interact on some level with everyone it does not surprise me at all that Liev would like to avoid the whole thing.

 In my opinion it is perfectly ok for you to allow Liev to opt out of V day.  Because he is required to appropriately interact socially every day, and for the most part he does…or tries to the best of his ability given the situation, I think it is enough for him at this age/stage of his development.  To ask more of him when he clearly is not interested simply because everyone else is doing it… isn’t really fair to him and in the long run may cause him to pull away more socially.

 When we talked about Valentines, Liev told me he was a serious boy, not a pink heart boy.  We talked about that being quite alright.  He wanted nothing to do with valentines as school (because he doesn’t love those kids… which is true).  We talked about him just thinking about people he really does love and just think about them on Valentine’s Day.  He agreed that the day wouldn’t be bad if he could just tell you and Papa about love and maybe give you guys a valentine.”

Miss D


Poor Liev fretted so much over the holiday, he hardly slept last night. His anxiety unleashed a torrent of tics, which vanished after a few hours with his caretaker Miss D. She planned a low-key cake-eating event with his favorite drink–orange-juice.

Even an anti-holiday can be good.

10 thoughts on “Why My Autistic Son Hates Valentine’s Day

  1. Thanks for this insight. Brady has trouble with it too. He does not like the hearts. It bothers him because real hearts don’t look like that. I make him photo cards by uploading clip art of real heart labeled diagrams from medical textbooks and print them on photo paper. Those he will give out. We did that past two years–in kindergarten he was so overwhelmed we usually stayed home on party days because the routine disruption was not fun. Since it is supposed to be fun and he was so young, it did not hurt to skip it. This year he had fun at the class party but he also has lots of accepting friends now. This is his first year with friends.

    1. That is genius! We stayed home, the drama was too much. I love anatomy and your idea of using real hearts delights me. I am begining to think we need to avoid all party days. When I look back on my young life, I realize my mom kept me out. Thanks for visiting. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed of late and behind on my comments.

  2. Did you let him stay home? Seems like a good call to just let him opt out completely. It’s great you have such understanding support people!!

    1. Yes, I sure did. He spent a few hours with our caretaker Danielle and enjoyed some pink cake. I think I will plan on keeping him out on party days. thank you for visiting with me! 🙂

  3. Oh, my! I was T! I wrote about my anxieties as a child with V-Day … actually, it did not end until this year. I think my post last year helped me finally deal with what felt like “trauma” about that day. I took all of the words literally on the cards and would comb over them for hours trying to pick the right one for each kid in my class. I also, had the fear of not remembering names. I had to have the list of kids in my class in front of me and use the visual map of the classroom in my head to help me remember the kids. There was whole lot wrapped up in that caused me anxiety.

    I wish I had Danielle when I was kid AND now for my kids! 🙂 It is so awesome to have such an intuitive person in T’s life and to help you. She does rock!

  4. i find valentines between children completely stupid myself. fortunately, it’s not really celebrated that way here in Australia. but everybody is gearing up for Halloween BIG TIME, and we have a complicated relationship with it (including me) i am probably going to fabricate signs ‘sorry no candy’ so that there won’t be too much of a hazzle that night. (we have 2 doors going onto 2 different streets.. )

    1. Suburp,

      You are not alone in hanging up the “No Candy” sign. We have only celebrated one Halloween out of Tyoma’s seven years. The whole process is stressful for us. I am getting caught up on the internet. We went on vacation and the weeks leading up to and returning from absolutely blasted my brain. I look forward to reading your comment with much pleasure. In fact, that pleasure tends to stifle me a bit because I long to say something spectacular in response. Alas, I might ramble a bit for the next week! 🙂

      1. He. This last bit deserved a thoughtful response but I do not have one either. The pleasure is both sides, tho. This may sound odd but am actually taking my time to very slowly back read your posts.. Also found your flickr 🙂

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