Halloween is one of our most beloved holiday traditions, but it can be challenging for some children. Children diagnosed with Autism or Sensory issues or even language delays or speech disorders can find various aspects of Halloween to be more of a “trick” than a “treat”.
Planning ahead can help alleviate many of these challenges. Here are some simple tips for reducing stress!
1. PREPARE YOUR CHILD. Show your child pictures or videos of Halloween. Talk about what happens or read a social story or even role play the act of trick-or-treating. Anxiety is often caused by not knowing what to expect.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT COSTUME. Some children with sensory issues have difficulty adjusting to different textures or weight of fabric. Masks should be avoided and it’s best of every day clothing can be adapted to be a costume. Use sweats and a hoodie to make an animal costume or super hero. (I was a pink sweat suit bunny in preschool!) Let your child wear the costume before Halloween and be prepared that they may refuse on the big day. And that’s alright!
3. MAKE A PLAN. Choose to go early before it gets dark or too crowded. Choose to only go to houses near your own in case your child needs to exit quickly. Avoid houses with scary decorations or people dressed up to scare the kids.
4. THE BUDDY SYSTEM. Stay with your child, but it helps if you can pair them with a neuro-typical peer if possible. This peer can serve as a role model and may help reduce anxiety.
5. DIET RESTRICTIONS. If your child has a restricted diet, you can bring your own treats to hand to the homeowner at the moment or ahead of time. Also, discuss with your child ahead of time what and how much candy they will be allowed to eat that night.
In some cases, it can help if the child carries or wears a card explaining why they don’t say “trick or treat” or “thank you”. Feel free to use mine or make your own.
Last week I had, not one, but two people ask me about kids who "don't talk". In one case it was my neighbor who is concerned about his grand daughter and another case was a friend concerned about her friend's daughter. In both cases, little girls over the age of three are not talking. In both cases, they wanted to know if they should be concerned and how to help.
I, of course, suggested both children be seen and evaluated by a Speech Language Pathologist and I wondered why their pediatricians hadn't recommended this. After talking to both individuals, what I could ascertain is that the girls both appear to comprehend language and are very social. They just don't verbalize. In both cases, it appears that the parents, in an effort to be "kind", give their child what they want/need without a verbal request or even an attempt.
Language is acquired though exposure and early attempts are reinforced. An infant babbling inadvertently says 'baba" and suddenly is given a bottle! REINFOREMENT! An infant babbling inadvertently says "dada" and is rewarded with happy faces, cheers, and DADDY! REINFORCEMENT. Sometimes it just doesn't happen naturally, and that is when the adults in the environment have to be the "gatekeeper". You have to play ignorant even if you know what the child wants, only granting their wish when they make an attempt to communicate. Cruel? Not at all. It is a natural occurrence in life - you have to work for what you want!!!!