Halloween & Autism - 16 tips to enjoy Halloween with your Child
Mar 22, 2020
Are you excited about Halloween or dreading the stress of trying to participate?
How is your child going to cope with trick or treating? Do you need to work out what costume your child will be comfortable to wear? Are you worried about the busy schedules and how overwhelmed the holiday can be?! The secret to having a fun and successful time with Halloween is to prepare early.
1. Social Story:
- Create a Social Story of your Halloween routine and make it into a book for your child to start reading.
- Helps pre-empt and reduce any anxiety your child may have.
- Empowers them with familiarity and to feel in control with Trick and Treating
- Remember to include some examples of what people might say.
- Take some photos of the people and houses they might visit.
- When writing your Social Story, remember to include an ending at your house:
- When we get home, we will count our candy, or
- We will visit 3 houses and then go home to sort our treats.
- Have a contingency plan and be ready for bad weather in the event might change:
- if it starts to rain when we are collecting candy, we can go back home and count our candy. That is ok!
- sometimes it might rain and we can’t Trick and Treat, so we might have a treasure hunt inside.
2. What to wear:
- Does your child have trouble wearing new clothes, or do the tags irritate your child?
- Is your child sensory?
- Can you imagine your child even wearing a costume and dressing up?
- Purchase your Halloween costume EARLY.
- Wash their costume so it is not itchy, scratchy or smells funny!
- did you know putting clothes in the freezer can help take the scratch out?!
- Encourage your child to practice wearing their Halloween costume each day, for at least a week before Halloween. Then, they can feel comfortable in it and prepare their body for wearing it.
- each day increase the amount of time they wear it for.
- Remember Mom, It is OK to wear the same costume as last year!
- Reduce your child’s fear and give scary costumes a friendly name.
- Sometimes, costumes are just not going to work! Help your child stay comfortable and feel part of dressing up by wearing a special themed shirt.
- ‘I have Autism, I am learning’ Tee Shirts, help other people understand why your child may not be participating in the typical Halloween traditions and behaviours.
- Don’t be worried if your child has a meltdown when the door is opened. Their t-shirt will help others understand the enormity of this socialization skill.
- Is your child non-verbal? They can point to their shirt and it can help get their message of ‘tick or treat’ across.
- Order a larger size if your child doesn’t like tight fitting clothes.
3. Visit your neighbors before going Trick and Treating:
- practice knocking on their door or ringing their bell.
- take your child’s favorite snacks so they can give them to your child when you trick or treat.
4. Visual schedules:
- Have prompts and visuals ready to use, so neighbors can communicate too.
- Use PECS or visuals with different situations:
- have a visual for ringing the doorbell
- another one for knocking on the door
- what to do when they get a trick
- and how to respond if they get a trick
- remember to include manners and thanking your neighbors.
- Perhaps your child is non-verbal and uses their iPad with Proloquo2Go:
- Make sure the iPad is charged.
- Add your visuals to Proloquo2Go and practice using them
5. Model appropriate language your child can use:
- Hello, trick or treat
- nice try, you can’t trick me
- I don’t like that please take it away
- thanks for the treat
- happy Halloween
6. Know your child’s limits:
- Have a restful afternoon before heading out.
- Start early and visit 3 neighbors.
- Watch your child for signs of becoming overwhelmed and change the schedule to finish early if needed.
- Move at your child’s pace.
- Take a special torch for your child to hold to make it a magical night.
- Consider wearing glo sticks.
- Choose safe and special people to go out with.
7. Be flexible:
- It is ok for your child to remove their costume – consider wearing the ‘I have Autism. I am learning’ Tshirt.
- Don’t stress if your child doesn’t talk to the neighbors.
8. Model required behaviour:
- It may be easier for you to do the first house and your child can see what you do.
- You may need to do the talking and your child can ring the bell.
9. Work on SMALL goals and set up for success:
- Only 3 houses or
- 3 houses, have a break and then 3 more or
- do the whole block but have a break every 5 houses
- Remember to use visuals after each house to reinforce the routine
10. Be ready for weather changes.
11. Remember to take lots of photos and videos.
- Your child may watch them next year to ease their anxieties.
12. Let go of your expectations.
13. Look for signs of a meltdown:
- Walking slower
- Not attending
- Wanting to fill their bucket to overflowing
- Reinforce to the behaviour you want.
- Divert behaviour and attention to something fun.
14. Prepare this handout for your neighbors:
Adapt as necessary:
Thanks for helping us teach (child’s name) about Halloween.
Please don’t think (child’s name) is rude if they don’t say ‘trick or treat’ or ‘thank you’.
They are non verbal and are not able to give a verbal response, or they may be overwhelmed and not respond.
They might not wear their costume because it makes them feel funny, please know they are still doing Trick or Treat without a costume.
Sometimes (child’s name) gets so overwhelmed that they might not cope when you open the door. Please just smile and say Happy Halloween (child’s name).
We want you to know that it is really hard for our family to participate in Halloween and we are grateful for your support.
Thank you for helping us share in teaching (child’s name) about Halloween.
15. Don’t panic If Trick and Treating is too overwhelming to try. Instead you could:
- Have a family party at home to celebrate Halloween.
- Hand out candy at home to still enjoy the experience.
- Remember to encourage your child and practice giving candy to other people.
16. Most of all, remember Halloween is an experience and part of your child’s learning. Enjoy it – you are creating a memory for your family!
To discuss tips and strategies in greater detail head over to The Journey where we unpack these ideas and many others, as we empower Moms with wisdom, support and community to help their child.