Halloween Tips and Tricks for Individuals With Autism

October 18, 2017

It’s Fall Y’all! As we fall into the autumn season, the weather begins to cool, the colors begin to change and everything is pumpkin. Local businesses and homes will be decorated, and fall festivals will be prevalent. As October approaches, scary movies and costumes enter the mix. For children, especially those with autism, this can be very frightening. However, with a little bit of planning and preparation, this can be a season enjoyed by all. Fall festivals and activities, particularly Halloween and trick-or-treating, involve skills and concepts that children with autism may struggle with. The following suggestions are just a few ways to help your child overcome these prepare for some of these Fall activities.

Social Stories

  • Create a story that explains the planned activities.
  • Talk about the sights and sounds that may occur and how to handle these.
  • Many social stories can be accessed online.

Practice Makes Perfect!

  • Have your child practice knocking, door to door. You can do this by incorporating your neighbors, friends and family or simply practice in the comfort of your own home by having the child go from room to room, knocking on various doors in your home.
  • Practice an appropriate response such as waving or verbally saying “hi” or “trick-or-treat.” If it makes you more at ease to explain your child’s behaviors, you can even practice handing out a card with a short explanation of autism (an example follows this article.)
  • Also, practice appropriate boundaries. When the door opens, the child must learn that it is not an open invitation into someone’s home.

Candy

  • Candy treats are common during fall festivals and Halloween.
  • Will your child be limited to the type or amount of candy they can consume daily? If so, make a clear plan and discuss this with your child. A visual schedule may be helpful as well.
  • If your child is on a restricted diet, plan for this as well. One option is to fill a bag with appropriate snacks or treats prior to the planned festivities.

Costumes

  • Will you or your child be dressing up? Besides the fact that many costumes and masks are scary, children with autism may have sensitivities to sounds or various materials.
  • Be sure to try on the costume prior to your planned activities.
  • If the child does not like the costume, don’t force them to wear it. Instead, take it slow. Start by having the costume in sight and work up to the child being able to touch and feel the costume. Eventually, allow the child to wear pieces of the costume for a short time period each day, until they can tolerate wearing it for the desired amount of time.
  • If the costume causes meltdowns, there are other options. Opt for a Halloween themed t-shirt instead. Or, consider a costume that fits on top of their regular clothing such as a super hero cape or butterfly wings.

Take Away the Fear

  • Many activities occur after dark. It may be beneficial to take an evening walk through the neighborhood. Practice using a flashlight and looking at the decorations.
  • As an alternative, try daytime festivals.
  • Also, malls and churches may offer indoor activities which may be more kid friendly.

Know Your Child’s Limits

  • Plan your activities when it is less crowded. If they can only tolerate 2-3 activities or houses, take a break, or end your night early.

 

Remember, fall festivals and trick-or-treating should be fun. Don’t feel obligated to participate or make your child attend an activity that results in a meltdown. Do your best to prepare ahead of time, but have a plan if things aren’t working out. Spectacular Kids, will have a mock trick-or-treating event in our clinic for current clients. However, it is important to practice these skills at home too. We hope these suggestions are beneficial and as always, wishing you and yours a Spectacular Holiday!

 

Autism Speaks Walk Houston 2017Kingwood Free Community Training (January)
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