Challenges for Your Child
Crowds, noises, activities, and changes in routine are just a few of the challenges that kids with autism face on Halloween. The changes, such as scary or even fun decorations, can be stressful for everyone. But imagine not understanding why everyone is excited. Costumes are expected to be fun, but what if the costume is scary, itchy, or confusing? Add to this the social rules that are different from everyday life, such as saying trick or treat in order to get candy from people you barely know, and you have a potentially chaos-filled evening on your hands.
Strategies for a Happier Halloween
The best strategy is to be prepared! Plan for any activities that are known to be a challenge for your child. Use a visual schedule to prepare for the holiday and any events leading up to it. This can be pictures, calendars, items, etc. Review the schedule daily with your child to help them prepare. Let your child know what to expect, like: Is it going to be dark? Will there be a large number of people? Will there be bright lights? Scary decorations or costumes?
The second thing you can do is practice trick-or-treating. This can be with a neighbor or teacher. Have your child ring the doorbell or knock on the door, wait, and then say “Trick or Treat!” Remember, speaking is not the only way to say “Trick or Treat.” Kids who have difficulty speaking or speaking to unfamiliar people can use a card that says “Trick or Treat”, sign language, or apps on a tablet or smartphone.
Lastly, let your child practice wearing their costume. Have them try it on for a few minutes. Then, each day, increase the amount of time they have it on. If your child doesn’t like the costume, try to determine if it’s uncomfortable or just different. If you can change what is uncomfortable, do so. If not, adapt their costume to something they do like or are willing to wear. A cape, a shirt with a character, or a hat/crown can be worn over comfortable clothes. Costumes are not required, but they should be fun.
The most important thing is knowing your child’s limits. If trick-or-treating is too much, go for a walk, look at decorations, drive through a neighborhood, hand out candy, or attend a Trunk or Treat instead. Plus, it’s okay to go home early. It could turn out to be the best Halloween treat you get all night!
Want to learn more about having a more enjoyable Halloween with your child and family? I recommend these articles.