Halloween is approaching quickly, and families of children with Autism understand that this can often be a challenging holiday for the family. Halloween can be a very exciting and fun holiday for many children with autism, but for others, it may be a very “scary” one. Here are some tips that may help minimize the stress and anxiety that may be associated with Halloween.
1. Check your local community resources for Halloween events. Many communities will offer Halloween festivities for children with special needs. This may be a great option for your child with autism, as such agencies and service providers will be aware of the unique needs of children with autism spectrum disorders. If your child has special dietary needs, remember to bring special treats for your son or daughter.
2. Consider planning your own party. Contact families from your child’s school or service agency and plan your own party with other families with children with autism. Prepare and have other families bring healthy yet delicious Halloween themed treats.
3. Plan your child’s costume well. Many children with autism have sensory issues surrounding clothing articles. If this applies to your child, try creating a costume out of articles of clothing your child is comfortable in. If you decide to purchase a costume for your child, have him or her try it on to see if the costume will be well tolerated. You may want to avoid masks, as many children with autism will have a hard time tolerating them. Once you and your child have chosen the perfect Halloween costume, have your child wear the costume, walk around in the costume, etc. prior to Halloween Day.
4. Start practicing trick or treating early. Practice may not make perfect as they say, but it certainly can help minimize your child’s anxiety on the actual trick or treating day. Plan out the route you will take, and if you have neighbors that are willing to assist, role play the procedure beforehand until your child is more comfortable with the routine. You may also want to consider purchasing or downloading videos to help prepare your child. If your child enjoys books, start reading books about Halloween with your child.
5. Schedule and Plan your Trick or Treating. Make a detailed plan that you are fairly certain you can follow. Your plan should include the time you’re leaving your home, the trick or treating path you will take, and when you will arrive home. You should also include rules about eating the treats your child receives. Will your son or daughter be permitted to eat a treat during trick or treating, or does he or she need to wait until you get home. Again, if your child is on a special diet, plan ahead and make sure you have treats with you that can be substituted. Remember to be flexible; however, if for some reason your child does not want to wear the chosen costume or becomes tired or agitated before the end of the route, it’s OK! It’s your child’s day, and follow his or her lead.
Click the following link for a variety of gluten free treats you can make for
Halloween: http://glutenfreecooking.about.com/od/glutenfreekids/tp/glutenfreehalloweenrecipes.htm (About.com).
6. Create a Social Story. Social stories can be a valuable tool for some children with autism. A Social Story can consist of a written or visual guide that describes the social interactions, behaviors, skills or concepts related to a specific social situation. Click on the following link for a great trick or treating social story http://www.autism-community.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Going-Trick-or-Treating.pdf (Copyright © 2005 by Autism Inspiration).
7. Have your child be the “official” giver of candy. If trick or treating is too stressful for your child, or the risk of wandering is too great, put your child in charge of handing out the treats to those visiting your house.
8. Spread Autism Awareness. Consider creating note cards with information about autism and handing them out in return for the treat your child receives at each home. The note cards can contain facts about autism and assist in raising awareness, which is always a good thing!
9. Have FUN. The more at ease you are, the more your child will enjoy Halloween. Make sure you note what your child enjoyed and what was stressful or unpleasant so next year’s Halloween can be even more special!
10. Skip Halloween. If you’re certain that your child is not ready to participate in Halloween this year, even after attempting to practice, try again next year. After all, Halloween isn’t the most important holiday, and if it causes your child more anxiety than pleasure, it might be a good idea to skip it altogether.