By Maddie Mueller, MA, BCBA
Fall is here! Most of us enjoy this changing season as it brings cooler weather and the promise of family time in the upcoming holidays. However, the holidays also mean a change in routine, which can be challenging for individuals with autism. Halloween, in particular, can be full of different sensory experiences from new or possibly uncomfortable clothing to the loud or scary decorations. Here are some tricks and treats to remember when preparing your child for Halloween.
Trick #1: Let your child pick their costume:
When it comes time to pick a costume, let your child help, too. Follow his or her motivation every step of the way by letting them choose different aspects of their costume. Try giving your child options and if your child has trouble communicating, he or she can point to items or you can follow their gaze to see what he or she likes best. If you need help on knowing how your child best communicates, ask your child’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) for help.
Trick #2: Practice before Halloween night:
Be sure to practice wearing the costume a few times before Halloween night, so your child will be familiar with the costume. If your child is showing distress at the idea of wearing something different, have the costume out while he or she is playing, or involve the costume in their play to show them how fun the costume can be! Teach your child to tell you “all done” or ask for a break if they are uncomfortable.
Trick #3: Trick-or-treating:
Make your child comfortable while trick or treating. Pull him or her in a wagon, bring a favorite toy or comfort item, or plan to go to only family and friends’ houses to limit the amount changes in the environment. If you are worried about trick-or-treating, create a trick-or-treating set-up at home by having your child walk from room to room or other indoor Halloween activities.
Trick #4: Set your child’s expectations:
As soon as you know your family’s Halloween plan, share it with your child! Tell them every aspect of their evening: like what time you’ll leave the house, how long you will be out, what their costume will look like, what to do if they get tired along the way, or what to do if they need to go potty along the way. Tell your child what types of decorations they might see and teach them how to tell you if they are scared or don’t like what they see.
And now for the…Treats!
Treat #1: Saving candy for later:
When it comes time for candy, your child might have a hard time not eating it all at once. When it’s time to be done, avoid using the word “no.” Instead, offer them options of other things they can do or eat and show them how fun other activities can be. Try setting a timer to visually show them when they can have more candy later.
Treat #2: Switch Witch:
Trick-or-treating can be so much fun, but having too much candy might not be the best option for your child. Dietary restrictions and health concerns are a great reason to try a new trend called “Switch Witch.” The Switch Witch will exchange your child’s candy for a toy, prize, or dietary appropriate snacks! Similar to the “Elf on the Shelf” phenomenon, the witch has a fun story to share with your child about why this is important. Learn more here: http://switchwitches.com/
We hope that following tricks and treats can help you and your family avoid anything too scary this Halloween. Have a safe holiday!
September 22, 2020, Maddie Mueller, MA, BCBA