Keeping Halloween Happy for Everyone

Tips for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their Families:

Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday, but it may be challenging or even stressful for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).   In order to keep this holiday stress-free and enjoyable proper preparation and planning is key.  Listed below are some ideas to help you and your child make the most of the holiday.

Preparation

  • Create a visual story of what Halloween may be like for your child, with some pictures or drawings. Be sure to review what behavior is expected of them and what the consequences will be.
  • If your child uses a picture or written schedule, be sure to include any parties or trick-or-treating on the schedule.
  • Try on costumes before Halloween!  An ill-fitting or uncomfortable costume can quickly become a huge source of stress and ruin the fun.
  • If your child does not like their costume, do not force them wear it. Instead, have them wear it for short periods of time and at increasing intervals over time in the weeks prior to the holiday, and provide reinforcement for wearing the costume.
  • Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell or knocking on the door and receiving candy.  Provide reinforcement for engaging in this behavior.

Halloween Day

  • Set your child up for success by knowing their limits and setting clear contingencies and goals for the night.  For example, if your child is not comfortable trick-or-treating, you can start by going to fewer houses. Provide a promised reinforcer for meeting the goal (for example 10 minutes with the tablet for visiting 5 houses) and develop a plan for increasing their participation next year.
  • Take your child to an activity in the community, such as a trunk-or-treat, school festival or a party where your child is already familiar with the setting and people.
  • Celebrate with family and friends that your child likes.  Have a preferred peer present if possible to accompany your child to the door while trick-or-treating.
  • If you are giving out candy at your home, give your child the opportunity to practice greeting trick-or-treaters and giving out candy.
  • If your child is afraid of going out at night, plan indoor or daytime Halloween activities.

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