5 Tips for Seamless Trick Or Treating

Halloween is coming up, and for kids with Autism, the strange ritual of walking door to door asking for candy can be stressful. As with any unfamiliar situation with lots of hidden rules, you can help make this day easier for your child with Autism and prevent meltdowns by doing a little preparation ahead of time to make sure your little one is ready to go.

1) Let your child choose their costume. Giving your child a choice in dress, food, activities, schedule, etc. whenever it’s feasible will help them have control over their environment. Allowing them to choose their Halloween costume is a perfect opportunity to help them express themselves and get excited about this fun event.

2) Practice putting on the costume. Try it on several times before the big day, so he/she gets used to the fabric textures. Give them time to get accustomed to the costume by walking around in it at home.

3) Practice Trick-or-treating. Have one parent stand inside and another outside with your child. Practice ringing the doorbell, and when the door opens, prompt your child to hold out the bag and say “trick-or-treat”. If your child is non-verbal, make a card that says “trick or treat” and have them practice holding it when the door opens. When practicing holding the bag out, you’ll first have to hold out their bag with both you and their hands, but with each successive trial you can give less and less assistance. Practice about a week before the event until you feel that your child is comfortable with it.

4) Ask the neighbors for help. If your child is on a Gluten-Free Casin-Free (GFCF) diet, talk with some of your neighbors about helping ensure he/she can still participate. You can bring by the GFCF candy and ask that they give it to your child when you come by. This way, your child can still participate with everyone else even with dietary restrictions.

5) Make Flashcards. Print out pictures of Halloween characters (i.e. witch, pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons) from the web or cut them out of a magazine. These can be Halloween staples or even kids trick-or-treating. You don’t have to quiz them, but point to and label the picture so they are accustomed to what they’ll see on October 31st, and maybe prompt them to receptively identify what they see (i.e. “point to the ghost”).

The goal of these five points is to familiarize your child with Halloween so that 1)They can participate like all the other kids 2) to reduce the probability that they'll have a tantrum due to unknowns. The more routine events become, the less likely you will see challenging behavior. The best way to make things more routine is to practice them.

Halloween doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just like with all things unknown to kids with Autism, gradually introducing the concept is always preferred springing new things on them in the last minute. Your child can be successful and even have fun this Halloween!

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