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 children 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. Many of them I implemented when Ryan was a trick or treater, and they really worked.
– 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.
– 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.
– Know your limits: As soon as you see your child becoming over-stimulated or agitated, it’s time to go home. It’s okay to end the evening earlier than planned.
– Pass Out Candy: This can be a fun alternative for the child who might find it too stressful to go door to door.
During the last two years we have seen “blue” trick-or-treat bags and “blue” pumpkins. As blue is the color of autism awareness, parents and homeowners are purchasing these items to indicate that they are autism friendly. I am going to purchase a blue pumpkin for my porch. Are you?