It’s the first holiday of the season. The excitement is palpable, talk of costumes near constant, and hayrides and pumpkins are a focal point of the weekends.
When you are raising kids, Halloween just seems to take on its magic again. Yet, for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the holiday may bring with it a new set of challenges.
From the overstimulation to the change in routine to the expectation of a costume, you might be overwhelmed awaiting October 31st (and any trick or treat events earlier in the month). However, take a look at these tips and see if you can reclaim a bit of the magic you’ve been missing.
Choose a Costume That Meets Your Child's Needs
Some children with ASD prefer wearing certain fabrics, or even specific clothing items. The thought of a costume, for them and for you, might be a little daunting.
If you have a child who might struggle with the idea of dressing as something else, consider how to make it work for them. For instance, if the child asks to be Nemo, instead of a large fish suit, they may prefer orange sweatpants, an orange shirt, and a hat with a fin. Or, find the costume your child wants in a larger size so it can fit over a favorite outfit.
If your child is still anxious about wearing a costume, practice putting it on ahead of time. Start out having them wear it in one minute increments. Slowly and gradually increase the time. Your child will feel more confident, and it will make the night stress-free for everyone involved.
Help Your Child Visualize The Night
The best way to lessen anxiety leading up to something new or different is to let your child know exactly what to expect. And, for most children, this is most effectively done through visuals.
The most simple way to help your child visualize the experience is to show them videos or photos of past Halloweens. Talk to them about what people might be wearing, especially masks that cover their face. Discuss how the other children might be acting; some will be extremely excited, some might purposely scare others, and some might run house to house to be first to the candy. Watch and narrate children using the social skills required to go trick or treating.
Consider creating a social story that contains images of what Halloween will be like for your specific child. Are they participating in a Trunk or Treat? What will that look like? What are the expectations? Are they trick or treating with others? What will they be wearing? The more you can help your child prepare, the smoother the night will go.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
To prepare your child even further, spend time practicing the different aspects of the holiday and the social expectations of each. Leading up to Halloween, try:
- Walking them through the neighborhood or wherever you plan to trick or treat.
- Show them the decorations they might encounter.
- Rehearse the social skills they will use: knocking on doors, saying “Trick or Treat”, taking candy from a bowl, etc.
- If available, ask a neighbor to help practice some of these skills.
- Find places for breaks in between houses if needed.
With any child, and especially those on the autism spectrum, flexibility is key. A child may only wind up visiting three houses before reaching their limit. Maybe watching a Halloween-themed movie at home will be a more enjoyable experience. Some parents love simply bringing their child in costume to nearby relatives and friends. No matter what, enjoy this special occasion in the way that works for your particular family.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide