Tips for autistic children with trick-or-treating
Updated: Nov 18
Your autistic child might be trick-or-treating for the first time, or perhaps they've had unsuccessful experiences, and you want to make sure things go right this time. What do I do? HFA Today goes over some ways to make it easier.
Think of strategies to avoid outbursts or meltdowns.
According to Autism Parenting Magazine, if you think back to what has triggered your child in the past, it will be easier to prevent episodes with them. Are there Halloween-related lights, noise, or smells that might distress your child? Is your child aware of what the Halloween routine is usually like so you'll know if something unexpected might occur? Have they watched a show where they've perhaps gotten a slightly wrong idea of what will happen during a real neighbourhood Halloween? Is there something this Halloween that they may especially look forward to that might not even happen? It would help if you considered these factors.
After you answer these questions, warn the child if something may not go as planned. For example, if the forecast calls for heavy rain on Halloween night, let them know that you might not stay out too long but that you will go to the houses they want to go to the most.
My parents were good with making sure things went as planned when trick-or-treating. Not that I experienced many unexpected obstacles anyway, but they still tried to make each Halloween night as fun as possible.
Review Halloween safety.
Healthychildren.org says that of 1,218 participants in a 2012 study, a little under half of the autistic children have wandered from a safe environment at least once after turning four. Apply this to Halloween, and it will be important for you to keep a close eye on the child.
Through my experience, when I attempted to wander in my younger years, I was curious about its environment. Sometimes walking in areas I didn't know was fascinating. These feelings were mostly because I was intensely interested in geography, streets, maps, and neighbourhoods back in the day.
If you suspect your child might wander or perhaps think similar to how I would think as a young child, help them understand how important it is to stay close to you during Halloween night. You should also remind them to watch for vehicles on the road if running towards the road might be problematic for them. Being alone at night can be a dangerous time. Flashlights would also help your child be more aware of their surroundings.
Go over what to do when you visit someone's house.
Remind them to say trick or treat and thank you during the trick-or-treating process. According to Beautiful Minds Center For Autism, modeling good manners and praising them for doing the right thing are ideal strategies to help your child apply good manners in the real world. Apply this to Halloween, and you can maybe pretend you're the person giving out candy and that your child is the trick-or-treater.
When I took ABA therapy, my parents and therapists frequently practiced these strategies with me, so I would know what to do when I faced unfamiliar social situations.
Going back to wandering, it will also be crucial to let your child know not to walk into the person's house when trick-or-treating.
Understanding your child's likes and dislikes, spatial awareness, and social skills can come a long way in ensuring that they have a great Halloween night with no issues.
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