HARTFORD -- Most kids love Halloween: the candy, costumes and occasional chaos of the spooky occasion, but for children on the Autism spectrum it can be scary and very overwhelming.
We spoke to local Autism advocates, Donna Swanson, Sara Taussik and Leslie Simoe for tips on making it fun for everyone.
Helpful Helpful Tips For Children/Adults on the Autism Spectrum
For Families with Children with Autism:
- Reduce the element of surprise...Show you children pictures or videos of people Trick or Treating
- Create social stories to prepare children for what they might see and do
- Take a stroll (or two) before the big night. Check out what route you plan to take, which houses might be too spooky...the more predictability the better
- Teach and review the steps...1) Ring doorbell, 2) Say “Trick or Treat” 3) Politely take treat 4) Say Thank You
- Do a dress rehearsal...A child may not want to wear a costume (despite it being his/her favorite character), take sensory needs into consideration. Perhaps a fun hat or festive shirt are more comfortable
- Have a candy plan...whether your child has allergies or a restricted diet, make a plan that no candy will be consumed until it is checked by a parent. If delayed gratification is a concern, be prepared and bring along a few safe treats for your child to enjoy.
- Go early...there are less people (and friendlier costumes) while it’s still light.
- Bring a flashlight! The dark can be frightening for all of us. Having a flashlight for you and your child will make the whole evening brighter
- Have fun at home! If the idea of taking your child out on Halloween doesn’t seem like a good idea, flip the switch! Costume, no costume...doesn’t matter! Kids can engage as much or as little as they want observing costumes and handing out candy to the rest of the neighborhood
For Friends and Neighbors of Children with Autism:
- Be patient and don’t judge... A child may not say, “Trick or Treat” or “Thank you”, not because they are rude, but because they’re nervous or possible non-verbal.
- No costume? No Problem! Some children may find wearing a costume unbearable, but still want to partake in the festivities...Let them! Smile, hand out you treats and make their night!
- Age is not a factor...Just because you may see teenagers and young adults ringing doorbells on Halloween, doesn’t mean they are not a kid at heart. Chronology (age) and maturity and interest don’t always gel with the autistic population.
- If you are hosting a party, be mindful of the following:
- Strobe or bright lights
- Volume of music
- Providing a quiet “break space”