As the exciting and spooky holiday of Halloween quickly approaches, many families wonder what they can do to help their child with special needs enjoy this special night that so many neurotypical children look forward to. I’ve put together a few ideas and strategies that you can try at your home to help your child overcome some potential difficulties and help prepare the entire family for that last day of October.
- Costumes!When it comes to costumes, the first step is to try to find or create a costume that catches your child’s interest. If possible, get your child’s input. Whether it’s a character that they adore, or part of the costume is made out of a fabric that they love, this will help your child look forward to wearing something new.
Once you choose your costume, it’s time to try it on! If your child is weary of this, start early in the month and have them wear the costume for only a short period of time. Provide reinforcement for wearing the costume for that short time and then gradually increase the length of time that you want them to wear it. This can help you build success in small steps until they are ready to wear the costume for the length of time you think they will need to wear it on Halloween.
- Take out the Surprises!Many children with special needs thrive on routine and having clear expectations for an experience. One of the ways that we can tackle this with Halloween is to eliminate as many surprises as possible. Read your child a social story that explains what happens on the night of Halloween, practice wearing the costumes, and practice trick or treating at friends and family’s homes. These things will all help your child prepare for Halloween night and will make them feel more comfortable participating in the activities.
- Set the Expectations.If your child has specific dietary needs, speak to your neighbors and family members and give them some of your child’s favorite treats that they can eat. That way when your child goes to Trick or Treat at their home, they will receive yummy foods that they know they can enjoy later.
Another thing you may want to consider is letting your child know what will happen after they acquire all of their candy. Can they have candy as soon as they get home? How much can they have? Will you let them have one piece per day, or can they have it as soon as possible? Be sure to review this with your child so they know what to expect.
- Go with Friends.A common concern for many parents of children with special needs, is the possibility of elopement on Halloween night. One of the ways you can combat this is to use light up devices like glow sticks on your child to ensure you can see them at all times, even in dim light. You can also go with a group of friends and assign your child a buddy. This way, there will be multiple individuals keeping eyes on your child as you move from house to house.
- Other Options.If you still feel like going trick or treating may just not be the best option for your child, seek out other activities that you can participate in that may be more accommodating. Have your child pass out candy at your home, plan a candy swap with other families that you know, or go to a trunk or treat event instead. This way, your child can still participate in Halloween activities, even if they aren’t ready for trick or treating.
I hope you find these ideas and strategies helpful for you and your child. Happy Halloween!