- Posted by Caravel Autism Health
- On October 18, 2018
- 0 Comments
Halloween is on the horizon. To help make the holiday easier for families touched by autism, Caravel Autism Health’s experts offer the following “tricks.”
Create a “Halloween orientation” for your child.
Reducing anxiety for your child is a great way to help him or her enjoy the holiday. If your child can see and hear what Halloween is going to feel like, he or she will be much better prepared for a positive experience. Gather photos and videos of families enjoying Halloween. (YouTube can be a great source for videos.) Explain what the neighborhood will look like. Describe the decorations, the costumes, the trick-or-treating experience, and the overall energy of the holiday. This orientation will help prepare your child for what to expect and will lessen the element of surprise when Halloween rolls around.
Choose a costume carefully, then help your child get comfortable with it.
Costumes can be particularly challenging for children with sensory issues. Store-bought costumes may have scratchy fabric and unfamiliar smells. They may be too loose or too baggy. Makeup can feel sticky and uncomfortable. Masks can make it difficult to hear or see. Many parents forgo the traditional costume for their children with sensory issues. Instead, they might take their child shopping to pick out a special Halloween-themed shirt or a funny hat to wear with regular clothing on the big day.
Whatever costume you and your child choose, make sure you try it out several times before Halloween arrives. If your child can’t seem to get comfortable with the chosen costume, don’t force the issue.
Practice trick-or-treating in advance of Halloween.
Not all kids on the spectrum can tolerate trick-or-treating. But if you plan on giving it a try, help prepare your child in advance. Explain exactly how the process works. Outline the specific steps: knocking on the door, saying “trick or treat,” staying on the porch, waiting for the candy, then saying “thank you.” Many therapists and teachers help children get comfortable through role-playing. Enlist the help of a few friendly neighbors willing to help with a mock trial run.
Survey the neighborhood to plan your route.
Before you venture out on Halloween night, scope out your neighbors’ decorations and talk with them. There may be some houses with extra scary decorations or playing spooky music. Or neighbors who will be jumping out of the shadows as children approach. You may want to avoid specific homes because they might be too frightening for your child.
Keep your expectations in check and adjust your plan accordingly.
Halloween is all about make-believe, and many children with autism have a difficult time understanding the concept of make-believe. In addition to that, Halloween can be a hodgepodge of sights, sounds and smells. The combination can overwhelm any child, especially one with sensory issues.
Work with your child to assess how comfortable he or she is feeling. Some children take to trick-or-treating almost immediately. (The free candy being dispensed doesn’t hurt!) Others might make it to just a few houses. And that’s okay.
If the prospect of going door to door seems too daunting, create an alternate plan. Maybe you and your child sit on the porch and hand out candy to other neighborhood children. Or participate in alternate Halloween celebrations at the local community center or shopping mall. Your family’s celebration doesn’t have to look exactly like everyone else’s. The more you can do to prepare your child for the holiday and reduce stress, the more positive the experience will be for everyone. Happy Halloween from all of us at Caravel Autism Health!