This is Halloween!
This is Halloween, (Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween)
I love the autumn season- the changing leaves, pumpkin everything, Halloween, and my favorite movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s actually a big debate in my home about whether “Nightmare” is a Halloween or Christmas movie. I am firmly in the ‘it’s a Halloween movie’ side of things, but my husband would strongly disagree….but let’s not open up that can of worms.
I love Halloween. I love seeing kids dress up and get excited about their candy or the switch witch coming to see them. Whoever came up with Switch Witch is a genius by the way (check it out here).
There is one thing I don’t like about Halloween though. It’s not as inclusive as I wish it were and, unfortunately, a lot of children
with disabilities (and often children on the Autism Spectrum) miss out on this rad holiday. With a lot of patience and preparation, I think children with disabilities can join in on the festivities and neurotypically developing children get the opportunity to interact and learn from children who are different from them. It can be a win-win for everyone.
Below, you will find some suggestions on how to prepare your child for Halloween. Although any child can benefit from these suggestions, they would be especially helpful for a child on the Autism Spectrum
Tips for Children with Disabilities
- Create a visual-social story of what Halloween will look like. List out the events that will occur that day. Visuals are crucial to support children with language delays. If your child is receiving speech therapy, ask your SLP to create this visual-social story for you!
- Include a section about other children wearing costumes. You don’t want your child to get caught off guard or be frightened by other children’s costumes.
- Also, include expectations about candy privileges and expected behavior. This one’s important. Let me say it again; include expectations about candy privileges and expected behaviors!
- Test drive the costumes BEFORE you go trick or treating. Let your child spend a day in their costume. This way, you’ll find out ahead of time if it’s uncomfortable and take care of it before the actual big day. For example, the tags may bother your child over time, which you may not have predicted and could potentially lead to a melt-down on Halloween day. You can foresee and prevent this by doing a test drive and then be sure to remove the tags or even buy a different costume before trick or treating.
- If the costume doesn’t fit well or if your child doesn’t like it for whatever reason, don’t force him or her to wear it. Consider creating a costume where they can wear accessories over their favorite clothes. Examples include: butterfly wings or a cape over your child’s favorite clothes.
- If that’s too much, how about eye liner whiskers to look like a cat? The costume isn’t the most important part…letting your child participate in age-appropriate, socially-appropriate activities with their peers is what is important; that’s the prize at the end. So keep your eye on the prize and don’t get bogged down by the details.
- Practice trick-or-treating by going to your neighbor’s house several days before the actual event. Give your neighbors warning, provide them with the candy to hand out. Practice and repetition will help reduce anxiety on the actual day-off because the event and sequence will be more familiar for your child and they know what is expected of them.
- If you have a smart phone or other recording device, get someone to record your child while they are practicing trick-or-treating. Show them the video if they behaved the way you expected (e.g., rang doorbell, said trick or treat, took candy, said thank you, etc.). This is called Video Modeling and it is very effective in teaching children with Autism expected behaviors. Review the video with your child in the days leading up to Halloween.
-Halloween Day Tips
- Be mindful of your child’s limits. If your child gets cranky in the evening, go to 2-3 houses earlier in the daytime/early afternoon.
- Consider going with a family that your child is familiar and comfortable with.
- Check out local speech therapy clinics in your area- some offer trick or treating groups led by speech language pathologists. If you live east of Seattle, Sammamish Children’s Therapy usually has a fun Halloween group. Check it out here.
Tips for Neurotypical Children
- Address your child’s curiosity and be frank: Children are naturally curious and you can help them foster an attitude of acceptance and inclusion.
- Tell your child ahead of time that they might see children who are different from them. Be honest, factual, and avoid being overly emotional. For example, you might say something like “Sally has cerebral palsy and her muscles work differently than ours. Sally is going trick or treating with us this year.”
- Or you might say something like “Billy has Autism and his brain sometimes gets overwhelmed by loud noises or lots of people. If he screams, it just means he needs a break.
- Keep is positive: avoid saying derogatory terms like ‘retarded’ or ‘cripple.’ Separate the person from the condition. For example, you could say “ Billy has Autism” instead of “Billy is an autistic child/Billy’s austic.” Avoid calling kids without disabilities “normal” as it implies that children with disabilities aren’t “normal” or are defective in some way. Your child is intuitive and the language that you use affects your child’s perception of disability.
- Point out similarities: Teach your child that children with disabilities are still children. They likely have some similar interests, like videogames, Star Wars, Pokemon Go and Paw Patrol.
- Don’t allow jokes or bullying: make this expectation clear and explain how words can hurt.
-Halloween Day Tips
- Encourage your child to
- greet children with disabilities in the trick-or-treating group.
- ask questions to learn about similarities (e.g., what’s your favorite candy/what candy did you get, etc.?)
- Don’t walk too far ahead from other children in the group
I hope you found this helpful. Be sure to include tips in the comments below if I missed any.
Happy trick-or-treating to all!