Halloween is an exciting time for many children! It is a fun time for families and friends to spend time together, dress-up in costumes, and roam the neighborhood for treats. Many families affected by autism are unsure if they should even take their child to a local trick-or-treating event. Some families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder may feel some anxiety about Halloween, but with a little preparation all families can participate in the festivities.
1) Add Choice to Costume Selection:
Allow your child to make a choice between three to four potential costumes. The options that you present your child should be costumes that are easy to create or purchase, comfortable and fit any sensory needs for your child, and are appropriate for the weather conditions. Helpful tip: Don’t give too many options or have costumes that are overly extravagant which could
become uncomfortable for your child throughout the night. Keep it simple!
2) Practice, Practice, Practice
Walking to a neighbor’s home and requesting candy is a learned action that should only be applied during Halloween. (You don’t want your child to periodically engage in this activity on any day other than Halloween!) Parents may use a visual cue or calendar that marks that requesting candy from a stranger is only acceptable during Halloween. Secondly, practice the “trick-or-treat” approach. Break the approach into small steps and practice
- Practice identifying the right house to approach: Does the neighbor have a light on? Yes! Then we can
approach the home.
- Practice waiting in line: Are there other children in line? Then we need to wait our turn by standing quietly behind others.
- Practice asking for treats: When we approach the adult giving candy you say “Trick-or-Treat” and open our bag.
- Practice Thank You: We then wait for the adult to place candy and say “Thank you”
Helpful Tip: Practice wearing and walking in the costume at home prior to the Big Night! Be sure that your child feels comfortable and happy in their outfit and make adjustments if needed.
Children affected by ASD generally prefer to have stable and predictable environments. To help set the stage for a successful Halloween Night, parents should identify the following to map-out the evening:
- The number of homes to visit. You can also have a visual representation or checklist to count houses as you go if this is helpful for your child to see.
- The amount of time that will be spent trick-or-treating as well as other festivities.
- Transition activity to end the event: “This is out last house, then we will go home, make your favorite hot chocolate, and
count our treats.”
4) Find the good and praise it:
During the Trick-or-Treat activities, don’t forget to reinforce your child for following your directions, appropriate approaching of homes, practicing good social skills, and being kind to others.
Final helpful tip: Due to social media, many families are aware that a blue treat bag or bucket represents that the child has autism. Families may choose to utilize this approach if there are behavioral or communication concerns to assist in community awareness.