When you have autism, there’s a lot more than ghosts and goblins that make Halloween unnerving. The sounds, lights, crowds, crazy costumes and transitions, such as during trick-or-treating, can be very stressful. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be an awful occasion for kids with ASD. Here are a few things you can do in the weeks leading up to Halloween to make it more enjoyable for your child.
- Read social stories every day. They should be clearly and simply written, contain visuals and describe everything that will occur during a specific Halloween activity, such as giving out candy or going door-to-door.
- Practice wearing costumes. Dressing up in their lion or skeleton suit several times before Halloween helps kids get used to the new and unusual garment. If your child has low tolerance for costumes, have them wear it for just a minute or two at a time and incrementally build up to, say, 30 minutes. Let them enjoy a favourite activity, such as listening to music, watching a video or reading a book, while they’re dressed up, and praise A LOT for good behaviour and tolerance. Putting costumes overtop regular clothes can also help kids feel more at ease. (If the costume still triggers anxiety, swap it for a more comfortable one.)
- Go door-to-door beforehand. For first-time trick-or-treaters, act out what will happen. Start inside your home: have your child knock on the door of a room and practice saying “trick-or-treat” and receiving goodies from the family member inside. Do this several times until they’re comfortable. Then expand the rehearsal outside by going to the neighbours’ (they, of course, must be in on the act).
- Stay in and shell out. If trick-or-treating is too overwhelming, keep your little one home. For gentle exposure to the sights and sounds of Halloween, have them shadow or help you give out candy. Remember to fill a bag with treats for your child, so they can experience the occasion’s deliciousness.