Preparing Your Child with Autism for Halloween Part 2

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Preparing You and Your Child with Autism for Halloween Part 2

October 27, 2015,

Halloween! The first half of this blog was published earlier this month. This is Part 2 of 2.

Let’s pick up where we left off on Steps 3-5 for preparing you and your child with autism for Halloween night.

  1. Prepare your child for costumes (his and everyone else).

    Trick or treating is a big deal for most children. It is the moment they have been waiting for and you have been anxious about. If your child is ready to wear a costume, work out what to wear several weeks ahead of time. [One approach we like is to attach the costume to his favorite clothes to make him more comfortable.] Have your child practice wearing the costume several times. Take pictures of each step of the child putting on the costume and show it back to him on your phone.

    If you buy a store bought costume keep in mind your child’s sensory issues and comfort level with the whole idea of wearing a costume. In other words, he probably shouldn’t dress as Darth Vader if he can’t handle anything touching his head. Maybe a soft t-shirt with a pumpkin on it will suffice. Don’t overthink this part unless your child is really engaged. If that’s the case, use the costume selection process as another pathway to bonding with your child.

    Discuss with your child costumes worn by other people. Explain this is the time of year when people of all ages get dressed up as characters. Some costumes the child may find silly, scary or just plain confusing. Describe what costumes may include such as makeup, masks, hats, weapons, wigs and other props. Everything is pretend! All of this may be a bit overwhelming for your child with autism so make sure he gets extra sleep and a nutritious dinner to optimize your chances for a successful, fun night out.

    Be sure to check your school’s policy about wearing costumes in advance. Prepare your child ahead of time one way or the other. If he’s focused on wearing the costume to school and this is not allowed, we advise you to not wait until the last minute to have this discussion. If his heart was set on it, one possible alternative is to suggest he wear the costume at home the moment you all return from school. Have the costume in the car with you when you pick him up as an extra surprise.

  2. Map out your trick-or-treat route for everyone’s safety and comfort.

    On this night, of all nights, parents of a child with autism are on high alert. There are some easy steps you can take to keep your child safer and make everyone more comfortable.

    • Select specific homes to visit and map it out. If you’re friendly with certain neighbors, be sure they are included. Make a simple map that shows where to go and the sequence you will follow. As your child gets older and more at ease with Halloween, you can expand the number of homes visited. ACES prepared an example map for your reference.
    • Practice walking during the day. Take your child during daylight hours on your Halloween route. Talk about staying on the sidewalk, keeping close to you when crossing streets and other traffic safety rules. Make sure he knows not to walk inside anyone’s home no matter what! This is a good teachable moment all the way around.
    • Practice walking at night. It is common for children with autism to be reluctant to go out after dark. Try the trick-or-treat route a few times before the big day to help allay his concerns. Bring your flashlight. Maybe simply being outside for a few minutes is enough for him at first. Give yourself plenty of time to work this part out. Explain he is never to venture outside without a grown-up. Again, teachable moment.
    • Place contact information on your child. Make sure your name, address and phone number is secure to his costume/clothes and visible to others. You never want to think the unthinkable but having this information readily available will give you peace of mind in the unlikely event you become separated.
    • Take a buddy. This applies to him and to you. It’s possible your child may be more comfortable trick-or-treating with a trusted classmate, family member, or friend. Invite them along for your Halloween adventure. You too will need a grown-up buddy as an extra pair of attentive eyes.
  3. Make your own fun!

    The sight, sounds and sugars of Halloween may just be too much to handle and that is okay. This does not mean the night has to be a total bust. Create your own party and make your own fun.

    For your family, making your own fun may involve your child’s favorite dinner and movie in a quiet area with the porch light off and a “do not disturb” sign on the door. Or, if not upsetting for the child, perhaps the family spends time together and everyone helps to pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters. If you want to go big, have your own party at home with the proper accommodations. Invite other children with special needs (and their families) to come over. Yes, it’s going to take some effort on your part but you’re used to that as an autism parent. This will be a special time making memories for everyone involved.

  4. Whether you go out in the community, stay close to home, or choose not to participate at all, the idea is to do Halloween as a family and on your own terms. We hope these tips from ACES will make Halloween season a little less frightening and lots more fun!

    ACES Trick or Treat Map template: