Halloween is literally tomorrow. For many, it is a holiday filled with candy, costumes, and parties. For others, it can be a stressful day filled with overwhelming feelings like stress and fear. When your child struggles on a regular basis, a day like Halloween can be extra challenging for both you and your child. Understanding what a child may be going through can be helpful for parents, teachers, and even those handing out candy.
Obviously, every child is unique and so can be their reactions to Halloween. Most kids whether they have sensory, ADHD, Autism, or something else will notice and react in some way to the change in their schedule. That alone can make their day difficult because we know that any deviation from their schedule can cause a myriad of emotions that they struggle to handle on a regular day.
Be Aware of the Costume
I remember one year I was so excited to have my three-year-old dress up as Mickey Mouse. I had a really nice costume with a headpiece that went around his head with Mickey ears, white fluffy gloves, and with just a little white makeup he was going to look perfect. We got to the Halloween party we were going to be attending and I went to put the costume on and he had a meltdown. Every time I tried to place the headpiece on he would scream, kick, and cry. He was frantic about not putting on the costume. I realized that he was actually scared of it. Needless to say, he went to the party and trick or treating in sweatpants. I felt bad that I had not even realized that this costume was going to be scary and overwhelm his senses.
Some tips I have learned through trial and error would be to avoid makeup or anything near their face. This is probably the most sensitive area in part because they do not regularly wear makeup or things on or near their face. Preferably, have them wear their costumer over his/her regular clothes. I feel like that gives them a layer between the different clothes and their costume. Although this is dependant on the costumer and the child. Find what works best for your child by trying on the costume well before Halloween. This allows for you to make adjustments if needed. Lastly, let them play with their costume before Halloween. The more time they have to adjust to the costume the easier it will be to wear it on the actual day, but realize that they may still decide they want nothing to do with it on Halloween so maybe have a “this is my costume t-shirt” ready as a back-up.
Practice Trick or Treating
A good idea to help your child navigate Halloween is by doing a little role-playing. This activity is great for helping your child work through a variety of social circumstances and be applied to trick-or-treating as well. If you really want to get into it, then have them dress up in their costume and knock on your door. When you answer to give them a variety of different circumstances they may encounter from little kids answering the door to the unprepared house who has to get their candy out the pantry. Each circumstance gives them the opportunity to try new skills and helps them to understand that every house will not be the same.
Navigating the Door
You have practiced trick-or-treating, you have picked a costume that your child feels comfortable with, now it is time for the big day. There are many social nuances to navigating the door and helping your child be aware of them can help your evening go smoothly. I think the first thing is to set realistic expectations for your child. Maybe they only can handle a couple of houses before they start to feel anxious and that is okay. Create an evening that will allow for you to take him/her home when they start to feel overwhelmed by making sure there is another adult there to continue trick-or-treating with other kids and bring two cars if you are not trick-or-treating close to your home. Also, talk about the rules of trick-or-treating like not walking on people’s grass, only going to houses with their lights on, waiting in line for your turn to get to the door, and doing your best to use your manners (for nonverbal kids, check out the Printable cards below).
Lastly, let’s discuss the scary houses. This is one of those times where you know your child the best and you know what they can handle. If you feel like noises and decorations are okay, then give it a try. If you feel like they just can’t handle it, then maybe cross to the other side of the street.
Enjoy your children and be safe!
Printable Autism Trick or Treat Cards
When Halloween is Hard – Challenges for the Sensitive Child