Halloween can be a bit tricky for individuals on the spectrum, with or without a pandemic. Whether you will be staying in to celebrate this holiday with your children or going around the neighborhood, we have some helpful tips for our families:
If you’ve decided to stay home for Halloween, check out these alternative options for trick-or-treating:
Preparing your child with enough time in advance can help prevent tantrums. Have multiple conversations with your children about the reasons why you are deciding to celebrate at home and help them understand why other kids may be out trick-or-treating.
Pass out candy ensuring social distancing
You can create and print some bingo cards containing pictures of popular or preferred costumes for all the members of your family to play. Your children can be involved in selecting some of the options to go on the cards. You can mark those you have on your cards as people walk by while you are all looking out the window. Be prepared to give out some prizes!
Halloween Scavenger Hunt
Take a walk or drive around your neighborhood. Here’s a list of items to look for, or create your own:
Host or participate in a virtual costume contest
Family and friends can be part of this fun activity from the comfort of their own home.
Watch a Spooky Movie Inside
It may be just as much fun as going out.
If you will be going out to trick-or-treat, here are some useful tips:
There are many things to consider when it comes to having a successful Halloween. For our children, preparation is key, especially when it come to trick-or-treating. The sections below will help you be more prepared.
Visual stories and videos
Watching social stories and videos.
Create your own visual schedule with expectations of the night for the child to see and follow during the event.
Many individuals on the spectrum have sensory issues with costumes (wigs, make up, and scratchy outfits). Make sure your child is willing and comfortable wearing their costume prior to the big day. Consider allowing the child to wear their costume around a couple nights before. If they aren’t taking well to the costume, perhaps try a simple pumpkin t-shirt or pajamas that they would be comfortable in. Practice safe-mask wearing as well.
Practice makes progress, not perfection
Role play with your kids! Knocking, saying trick or treat, receiving the candy, waving bye or saying thank you, and walking away.
Nonverbal? No problem!
There are different options for saying "trick or treat" without talking, so choose what would work best for your child. You could make little cards to pass out or have a candy bag with messaging such as, “I have autism and it can be difficult for me to say ‘Trick or Treat,’ but I am trying and I love candy!” Use whatever messaging fits best for you. If your child has a communication device, you could have the statement ready in their device, so that when they approach the door they just have to hit the button, instead of searching for all the buttons to make a long statement each time. Don’t forget to include any allergies your child may have in their statement.
Some individuals, including parents (haha), might have a hard time not eating the candy right away. You could practice having someone else hold the candy or bring candy of your own to snack on during your outing. Some individuals may not like certain candies or have allergies, so consider purchasing items that the child can have and asking your neighbors to give that item to your child when he or she arrives.
Location and time
It may be helpful to trick or treat while it's still daylight. The streets will be less crowded which may put less pressure on your child. Venture out to familiar neighborhoods. It may be helpful to walk around the neighborhood on days leading up to Halloween so that the child knows the spooky decorations are fake. If the child has a tough time attending for long periods of time, keep the route known and within close proximity to home. Consider attending local trunk-or-treat events or a sensory friendly Halloween party. Contact your local adaptive recreation program for availability.
Candy might be very reinforcing to many children; however, to avoid a sugar rush or distraction, try bringing along other items that are reinforcing to your child such as stickers, iPad, music or toys. Don’t forget to use verbal praise and high fives throughout the night!
Write down your name/ number, as well as your child’s name somewhere visible on themselves! A good place could be on a wristband or on their trick-or-treat bag. Anytime we go to a museum or water park with wristbands, I make sure to do this in case of separation. Have your child practice their phone number and your full name, if you can, prior to going out.
Lastly, know the child’s limits. If they can only handle a few houses, try not to push them to do more. Stop before a potential problem behavior arises and praise them for a job well done, and try to end the whole experience on a positive note. If you have an available provider, see if they would like to come help earlier in the night, so other siblings don’t miss out. Parents can take turns with the kids if needed.
If Halloween doesn’t go so well this year, you can always try again next year. We hope you have a happy Halloween, and have a ghoulish time!