‘It’s like a transformation’: Spring man creates massive Christmas lights display for son with autism

Kelly McArdle and his son, Conor. (Kelly McArdle , Kelly McArdle)

SPRING, Texas – Kelly McArdle puts a lot of inflatables into his Clark Griswold-esque Christmas display in Spring.

The father of six makes sure to add tailored smart spotlights and other customizations to make his display’s inflatables -- Disney characters, gingerbread men, snowmen and so, so many more -- stand out.

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McArdle said he doesn’t even really like inflatables because of the damage that they do to his lawn, but he does them up in a big way for his 6-year-old son Conor.

Conor, who has autism, absolutely loves inflatables. McArdle said he discovered this when his son -- who had previously been non-communicative -- had his first full conversation with his dad about Halloween inflatables a few years ago.

Kelly McArdle and his son, Conor. (Kelly McArdle)

The first time he saw the lights, McArdle said, “he just went from nothing to running across the yard, laughing and giggling.”

“He wants nothing to do with me and then the holidays come around and he wants everything to do with me,” McArdle said. “He wants to see the inflatables. He wants to test them when they come in.”

When Conor sees the display these days, his dad said he gets really relaxed.

“You hold down a conversation with him,” McArdle said. “It’s amazing. It’s like a transformation with him. He comes home from school, gets his snack and then wants to go outside. He has a level of satisfaction at the holidays. … He’s able to process things better. (He is in) speech classes, a special school, but none of that has done as much as the lights have.”

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“It’s awesome,” McArdle said of experiencing his son’s love of the lights. “It’s every night. It’s awesome. It’s so rare that we get it. It’s four months of prep, six months of repairing the damage that’s done to my yard. But every time he goes, ‘I want to see the lights,’ I go, ‘Heck yeah.’”

McArdle said with a laugh that his extensive display is hooked up to Alexa and Conor takes every opportunity to see the display alight. One year, Conor learned how to turn the display on himself and wanted to bring it on all night long. These days McArdle said he keeps the display “on” switch a secret, but they turn on the lights as much as possible.

McArdle said there are “so many avenues” to connect with kids with autism, from the lights to music. “None of (those things) are really boring,” he said. “This is something we both liked and like being together doing it.”

This month, McArdle invited families with children with autism to experience his display at 6610 Trailway Lane. “I create this display for my autistic son,” he wrote on the social media site NextDoor. “If you have an autistic child come and sit with them in it. I would first do a ‘drive-by- and see if they like it, if so, ask them if they’d like to go IN IT!!! I have put seating and definitive barriers (the fence). Please ask all kids not to pull on the strings connected to the arches. Merry Christmas EVERYONE!!!!!”

Take a look at the extensive Christmas display below.

I started this 6 years ago, but 3 years ago it switched from my hobby to something I could share with Conor. Merry Christmas!

Posted by Kelly McArdle on Friday, December 9, 2022