There’s no better time to enjoy Halloween than when you are a kid. The experience of dressing up in costumes, going door to door with all the other neighborhood kids out, and arriving back home with a bag full of sweets is one that is looked forward to for weeks.
However, given the abundance of potential for sensory overload, the social pressures of trick or treating, and possible dietary issues, intentional preparation will be especially needed for parents of autistic children.
First off, make sure you know if your child will want to go trick or treating at all. It is important not to put pressure on your child one way or the other. If your child doesn’t want to go out, consider letting him or her stay at home to help hand out candy. Be prepared for the potential for sensory overload at home as well, such as constant doorbell ringing and people dressed in colorful costumes.
If your child does want to go trick or treating, there are a number of ways to help prepare for this. You can check in with the neighbors days prior to getting an idea of what to expect from each house. If you know there will be a scary surprise at a particular house, you know to avoid going to it with your kids. If your child doesn’t eat candy, you can even hand out a special treat for them at each house you will visit so they do not feel left out.
When it comes to picking out the costume, be prepared to let your child be picky with certain textures or fabrics. You may have to try different versions of a costume before you settle on one that’s comfortable for them. As with the houses in the neighborhood, you might also need to scope out which store you can buy from beforehand to see if any particularly scary decorations are installed.
Make sure your child knows the rules of trick or treating beforehand. It can be difficult for him or her to understand cultural exceptions for one holiday, such as taking candy from strangers. Be sure to explain everything step by step: ring the doorbell, wait for it to open, smile and say “trick or treat” while staying outside of the house, accept the treat and say thank you before moving on to the next house. Many parents find it helpful to even do a “dress rehearsal” using the different rooms in the house on the days leading up to Halloween.
When the big night arrives, don’t be surprised if your child isn’t able to make it to all the houses on your planned route. Your child may only be able to make it to one or two houses before he or she feels overwhelmed and needs to go home. Give your child praise for the distance made and try making it to more houses gradually in the following years. Focus on your child’s needs and remember what you learn from the experience to prepare for the next Halloween, but most of all have fun!
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