When it comes to favorite holidays, Halloween is usually at the top of most kids’ lists. It’s one day of the year where it’s fine to wear their favorite dress-up clothes out of the house, they get to see their friends, and they may get to enjoy some special treats! But for some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the holiday can be more overwhelming or frustrating than enjoyable.
Kids who struggle with going off of routine, being around crowds, or wearing clothing they are not used to may find it difficult to walk around to collect candy in a crowded neighborhood while wearing a costume. If you think that Halloween is something that will be a stressor to your child, try some of these BCBA-approved strategies to make the holiday easier and more fun:
- Choose a costume together - and try it on, if possible. Make sure your child is part of the costume choosing process. Not only will that mean they get to be whoever (or whatever) they want, it also lets you know that you aren’t buying something that will make them uncomfortable once they have it on.
- Have back up costumes! Sometimes, a special day comes around and you’re just not in the mood. Having a backup option or two will make sure you’re not getting into a lose-lose argument when it comes time to dress up.
- Make a costume from items already in your child’s closet. Having some sense of “normalcy” during this day could make your child more comfortable.
- Use Social Stories to prepare. Social stories are great visuals for children with special needs. Be sure to go over the social story plenty of time in advance. I frequent this site and found a digital download specifically for Halloween!
- Discuss plans for Halloween with your child's teachers. Be honest and direct with your child's school staff about any previous experience your child may have had. Ask your child's teachers/support staff about how they have previously approached dressing up and passing out or receiving candy for students with special needs.
- Last tip: celebrate at home. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your Monster Mash within the family! If strangers in masks and costumes isn’t something your child is ready for or interested in, you can always make a special holiday tradition in the house!
If you're looking for extra support for your family around Halloween, make sure to chat with your AnswersNow BCBA.