Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday for most kids, with candy and treats, not to mention tricks, pranks and scary good times. However, for children with autism spectrum disorders, the night can be anxiety-producing.
The Autism Society indicates that many of the things making Halloween so much fun for most children, such as wearing costumes, knocking on doors, and getting treats from multiple visits around the block, can create anxiety for neurotypical kids. But, with some planning and taking a few tips from the Autism Society and the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence, children with autism spectrum disorders can enjoy Halloween as much as any other kid on the block.
First, start preparing your child for Halloween early—as much as a month before, the Autism Society suggests. Ideas for doing this include:
Read a story with your child about Halloween and the activities involved, such as wearing costumes, trick-or-treating, even pumpkin carving.Teach your child how to trick-or-treat, and practice knocking on the door, holding out the bag, saying “trick-or-treat,” and then saying “thank you” when a treat is received.Write a social narrative to determine what your child will do, how he will do it, which houses will be visited, and what will be done with the treats received.
Costumes for trick-or-treaters are important, and a child with autism can enjoy wearing a costume for the night, as well. Choose a costume with your child, one that he will find interesting, then let him practice wearing it while practicing his trick-or-treating skills. If an actual costume is too much for him, suggest face paint, a scarf or a hat, but, should he still be uncomfortable, trick-or-treating without the costume is just fine.
A visual schedule can be an important tool. Create the schedule, and mark the activities on it for the child to see.
Again, practice is key, and if possible, arrange for him to practice trick-or-treating at the homes of familiar houses, individuals and families. If your child is on a special diet, provide the designated trick-or-treat homes with special treats for him.
Do not overdo the night. Short and comfortable will make for a pleasurable experience. If your child’s limit is only a house or two, go with that limit, it is fine.
Also, teaching your child to give candy to trick-or-treaters can be helpful. Create a social narrative, letting him know what to expect when trick-or-treaters knock or ring the doorbell. This can be a good way to involve your child in the Halloween experience if his active trick-or-treating evening is particularly short.