Dressing up as a favorite superhero, trick-or-treating for goodies, and spending the evening with friends are just a few reasons why Halloween can be such a fun holiday for parents and kids alike. However, for many children with autism this night also has the potential to be a difficult and stressful time of year.
If you or someone you know has a child with special needs but still plans to trick-or-treat, here are some ideas to make sure everyone has a safe and fun Halloween:
– Flashlights: Ryan carried one to help him see in the dark/dim evening. It gave him a sense of comfort and some means of control.
– Practice: Try on the costume, including make up or masks, to make sure he/she is comfortable; walk the route you intend to take; and talk about what will happen after trick-or-treating. Predictability is key to helping children with autism feel safe and calm.
– Role play: Similar to practicing, role playing provides structure and outlines specific behavior for trick-or-treating. Halloween is also a great opportunity to reinforce good manners, such as waiting their turn to ring the doorbell, saying “Trick or Treat,” only taking one treat, and always saying “thank you” before leaving.
– Be aware of sensory triggers: Although Halloween decorations can be very entertaining, flashing lights or loud sounds may evoke unpleasant sensory reactions for your child.
– Know your limits: As soon as you see your child becoming over-stimulated or agitated, it’s time to go home. It’s okay the end the evening earlier than planned.
– Be prepared: If your child is nonverbal or has difficulty communicating, it’s important to make sure that he or she wears an identification bracelet in the event that you are separated while trick-or-treating. Another idea is to create a “Trick-or -Treat” card explaining your child’s special needs and pass it out to houses on your intended route in advance of the evening. It’s a simple way to make everyone feel more comfortable.
Although Ryan hasn’t gone trick-or-treating in many years, he enjoys the Halloween ESO dance and has always enjoyed this holiday very much. That’s not to say that we haven’t used many of the tips above!
Any suggestions I may have missed? I would love to hear what has worked for your family!