Halloween can be a fun time for all children. However, kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders can have particular difficulty enjoying this crazy day. Here are a few tips to help your child with ASD make the most of Halloween:
1) Skip the fancy store-bought costume! They are usually very expensive and made of cheap, ill-fitting, scratchy material. Just about any costume, from princesses, to dinosaurs, to superheros can be created with a little hand stitching and some fabric paint. Simply start with the comfy base of a sweat suit or t-shirt and leggings and let your imagination run wild! Also, skip the masks and face paint. Most children with ASD (and many other children) are very tactile defensive toward these accessories. If you really want a head accessory, try a bow for girls or a decorated baseball hat for boys. However, even these may not be tolerated.
2) Practice! There are a lot of social demands associated with trick-or-treating. Allow the child to “practice” with family members, going from bedroom to bedroom, knocking on the door, and saying “trick-or-treat” and “thank you”. For children who are non-verbal or especially shy, you can also make a special Halloween sign that says “trick or treat” on the front, and “thank you” on the back. Also, consider going to just a few friendly, well-known neighbors and possibly repeating these houses over and over. This will help decrease social anxiety. As always, social stories and reading various books on what it is like to go trick-or-treating can help decrease social anxiety, and help children to know what to expect.
3) Prepare for dietary issues! If your child is on a special diet, consider providing stickers, pencils, etc to the houses which you know you will be trick-or-treating so that your child will have an appropriate treat. If you don’t want the candy in the house, some dentists’ offices will buy the candy back and send it to the troops serving overseas. Just search the Internet for a program such as this near you. If your child is allowed to eat candy, only allow 1-2 peices on Halloween night to prevent a sugar rush with the hyperactivity and crash that is sure to follow!
4) Keep it short! Trick-or-treating occurs at the end of the day, around bedtime for most children. Understand that your child may be too tired at the end of the day and unable to endure a trick-or-treating maraton. This, combined with a sugar rush is a certain recipe for a meltdown! As much as possible, try to keep a normal bedtime routine on Halloween night and don’t delay bedtime by more than an 30 minutes to an hour. This will make everyone’s life more enjoyable.
And as always, know your child and set resonable expectations!