Halloween is an exciting holiday for children and parents to get dressed up, eat their favorite sweets, and enjoy time with family and friends. But it can be challenging for children with autism and their parents as they navigate safety concerns, social norms, and changes to routines.
Some of the main safety concerns for Halloween include:
- Eloping or running off into crowds
- Nervousness in unfamiliar areas
- Safety crossing streets
- Safety around cars and traffic
- Interactions with strangers
Participating in Halloween celebrations can be fun for all children. By coaching parents on trick-or-treating social and safety skills, you can help ensure that your clients’ families have a safe and exciting Halloween. Parents can even approach Halloween as an opportunity to support the development of skills in their children.
Practicing Safety and Social Skills on Halloween
Because Halloween presents some safety concerns and can also be challenging for children with social difficulties, we will explore some recommendations for helping children practice social and safety skills during Halloween.
Halloween Safety Skills
There are many ways you can help your child stay safe during the Halloween season. You can practice Halloween-related safety skills ahead of time that your child will need to utilize during Halloween. You can make plans that make it easier for your child to be comfortable and supervised, as well.
Trick-or-Treating in a Familiar Area
Taking your child trick-or-treating in a familiar area is one way to keep your child safe. If your child does get lost, they will be more likely to be familiar with their surroundings. They might even go into a store they have been in before or, if they know where someone lives, they might go into that person’s home.
Personal Information & Contact Information
If your child does wander off, you can help keep them safe by making sure they have your contact information easily accessible. Some kids haven’t memorized their parents’ full names and phone numbers or their addresses. They may not have yet learned their full name either. Other children might freeze if they are scared and might not be able to recall the information when they most need it.
Provide your child with an information card or ID of some sort so they can give it to adult or emergency personnel if they ever need to.
Teach Your Child Safety Skills and Practice Before Halloween
Before Halloween, you might consider teaching your child certain safety skills, particularly the ones that will be important while you are out trick-or-treating or attending a Halloween event. This could include things like always staying with a buddy (never being alone), staying on the sidewalk (as opposed to walking in people’s yards or on the road), and not consuming candy or food without permission from a parent or guardian.
Drive the Route You’ll be Taking During Trick-or-Treating
Many kids do better when they know what to expect (especially children with autism spectrum disorder). To help make your child more comfortable with his or her surroundings, you might consider driving the route that your child will be taking during trick-or-treating. Explain that you are showing them where they will be walking around for Halloween.
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Halloween Social Skills
Halloween typically involves interacting with people to some degree. This is, of course, seen when children go trick-or-treating. They use social skills to walk up to the front door of someone’s home, to knock on their door, to say “trick-or-treat” or to put their basket or candy bag up toward the other person, to know which people it’s okay to approach and which people not to approach, and to communicate with people throughout the Halloween festivities.
We will provide recommendations for things parents can do to help their children practice social skills for Halloween.
Practice Knocking on the Door and Saying “Trick or Treat”
Parents can make it a fun activity as they help their children to practice knocking on the door so their child will be less nervous and more comfortable when it comes time to knock on someone’s door for trick-or-treating. You can do this at your own home. Have your child be outside (have another person supervising them if your child isn’t able to be outside alone) and you (or another person) could be inside. Have your child knock on the door and say “trick or treat.” Instead of giving them candy every time they practice knocking on the door, you might consider giving them a sticker or another small item as a fun replacement.
Saying “Thank you”
If you, as a parent, feel that it is important or at least that it would be ideal for your child to learn to use manners in certain situations, you could teach your child about saying “Thank you” when someone gives them candy while they are trick-or-treating or if someone gives them a compliment about their costume.
Before Halloween, you could help your child learn about saying thank you in response to these types of situations by role-playing or asking them “What do you say after someone gives you candy?” or “What do you say if someone says ‘I like your costume’?”
Supporting Your Child’s Needs
Some kids don’t speak vocally. Instead, they might use picture cards or sign language, or a technology-based communication device to communicate. Other children have anxiety that makes speaking stressful. Whatever your child’s experience is, the idea of working on skills to help them during Halloween isn’t to make them be like the majority of other children; Instead, the goal is to help your child develop skills and to grow in areas that will be in the best interest for them to support their overall quality of life now and in the future.
Sensory Experiences & Halloween
There are many sensory experiences related to the holiday of Halloween. There are loud noises, sudden noises, surprising sights, flashing lights, textures on costumes, and more. Parents can help their children enjoy Halloween by addressing any sensory issues the child may have. For instance, if a child is very uncomfortable with certain types of clothing, be sure they are comfortable with the costume they wear. Some kids might not even want to wear a costume at all either due to costumes feeling uncomfortable or simply due to a preference not to dress up – and that’s okay, too. Parents can monitor their kids’ experience throughout Halloween by making sure they aren’t getting too overwhelmed or overstimulated.
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