For those of you planning to celebrate the upcoming Halloween Holiday,
it can be a mixture of frustration and fun when you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. To help the fun outweigh the frustration here are some tips:
1. Practice, Practice, Practice - Be sure you practice trick-or-treating ahead of time. Practice walking up to a door and ringing a doorbell. Practice saying trick or treat while you hold out a bucket/container for the candy. Practice saying “thank you”. Practicing walking from house to house. Whatever elements you want your child to participate in - PRACTICE!!!
2. “Trick-or treat” - If your child can verbalize this phrase, great! If they need more support, consider creating a picture card, or putting the phrase on an augmentative device for them to use. And of course, give them a chance to PRACTICE multiple times before the big night.
3. Special Interests - This is one night that engaging with a special interest is definitely warranted! If your child has a favorite character, let them choose a special costume that motivates them.
4. Trunk-or-treat - There are a lot of places where you can find less intimidating trick or treat options for children with special needs. Search your local schools, first responder agencies, autism centers, etc. to see if anyone is hosting an event.
5. Costumes - Give your child opportunities to practice wearing their costume ahead of time. Sometimes starting off small (e.g., wings, hat, cape) can go a long way to building up the courage and the desire to wear the whole costume. If they prefer to just wear a few pieces, that works too!
6. Expectations - Be sure to set expectations that make sense for you and your family. If attending three Halloween parties and an hour of trick-or-treating is in the cards, great! If not, decide what you think will work for you and manage events accordingly.
7. Costumes are NOT required - If you have tried and tried to help your child get comfortable wearing a costume and they are just not interested, you can still experience some of the festivities without the costume. There are no rules associated with Halloween! It is a kid day and your kid can find what works for them!
8. Visual Supports - Create a visual schedule describing the steps to trick-or-treating. Write a Social Story (credit: Carol Gray) to help your child understand what is going to be taking place and what their role will be. Create a token economy board using pumpkins, a picture of candy, or a favorite character as the tokens. Making it visual takes time, but the benefits are definitely worth it!
Do you have some great ideas about how to support kids on the spectrum as they navigate this holiday? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section! Happy Halloween!