4 Steps to Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloween
By – We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Tarzana, CA
Halloween is a family-friendly holiday that’s especially exciting for younger children. It’s a time once a year where they can dress up in rockin’ costumes, stay out late, explore their neighborhood, and — most importantly — make childhood memories that will last them a lifetime. If your child has autism, there’s no reason he or she can’t participate in this special time as well! Children with autism are very capable, but often need more preparation than a neuro-typical child. That’s why we created a list of steps to help prepare your child with autism for Halloween festivities.
Show Them Photos and Videos
As any parent knows, the best way to reduce the anxiety and nerves that come from the unknown is to help your child visualize what’s going to happen before it happens. On Halloween night, the neighborhood and world as your child knows it seemingly changes. Families will be roaming the streets wearing different costumes, running from door to door asking for candy. Show your child what it’s going to look like with photos and videos of previous Halloweens. YouTube is filled with videos of parents filming their children’s first trick-or-treating experience. Preview the videos to make sure they’re safe, but use these to show your child what it will be like. If you have your own home videos of the night, that’s all the better!
Preview the Route
Take your child on a walk around the neighborhood to get used to it. If you have a specific route planned out for the night, walk them through it and let them know what houses they’ll be going to, and which ones they won’t. Have them examine the Halloween decorations to make sure they aren’t surprised or scared the night of.
Talk Them Through the Social Cues
After you’ve shown your child what’s going to happen on Halloween, make sure you explain it as well. Talk them through the actions they’ll take, especially the social cues they’re expected to do. Explain how to knock on doors, ask for candy, and help them come up with good replies for when someone asks them a question about their costume or candy preference.
Research to Answer Any Questions
Kids are curious! Be sure to do a little research of your own so that when your child begins asking you a thousand questions about Halloween — how it started, why you say “Trick-or-Treat”, what’s with the costumes, etc. — so that you can provide not only the answers, but the assurance that all is going to be okay.
Dress Them in Their Costumes Before
After you’ve found the costume that your child wants (a process that deserves a step-by-step guide itself!), don’t wait until show time to practice putting it on. Children with Autism, especially children with Sensory-Processing Disorder, are very particular about their clothing choices and comfort. If your child has a particular outfit they are most comfortable wearing, consider reducing stress by complimenting the outfit with a cape or mask so they can still have the comfort of their favorite clothes. If your child is willing to try a costume, then plan on having them wear it a few times before Halloween until they can put it on relatively stress-free.
Walk Them Through a Test-Run
Before the big day, take everything you’ve been working on and put it into practice. Have them get into their costumes, go over their social cues with you along with any last questions they have, and then take them on their Halloween route! If you can, even talk with neighbors who would be willing to participate in this practice with you. Have your child knock on you neighbors door and go through the motions of trick-or-treating, but without the actual tricks or treats (save the excitement for the actual day as a reward!).
Finally, the big day is here! It’s Halloween and it’s time to get your child dressed up and ready to explore the neighborhood with other children and friends. Keep in mind that any success, no matter how small, is still a success and a step in the right direction. Maybe your child only makes it to three houses — but that doesn’t mean they won’t make it to three more next year! Be positive and happy for any progress you can make, and remember that this holiday is supposed to be about family fun and good memories, so be sure to know your child’s limits and compromise if you must. It will only ensure a happier time for the both of you.
16 Printable Halloween Social Stories
- What to expect on Halloween by Positively Autism
- Halloween Tips & Social Story by Therapics
- Halloween Social Story by Indiana Institute on Disability and Community
- Halloween Party by Teachers Pay Teachers
- Halloween Party 2 by Teachers PayTeachers
- Carving a Pumpkin by SETBC
- Trick or Treat, Wearing a Costume by Creating and Teaching
- Trick or TreatCards by Teachers Pay Teachers
- Trick or Treat 1 by TeachersPay Teachers
- Trick or Treat 2 by Teachers PayTeachers
- Trick or Treat 3 by Project Autism
- Trick or Treat 4 by Teachers Notebook
- Trick or Treat 5 by Chit Chat andSmall Talk
- Trick or Treat 6 by CCSD
- Trick or Treat 7 by A Legion for Liam
- Trick or Treat 8 by Autism Tank
- Halloween- Icons and Text by Indiana University
- What to Expect on Halloween Social Skill Story by positively autism
- PPT Learning About Halloween by Carol Gray
- See Example below.
Halloween Social Story
My name is _____________________. Soon it will be Halloween. Lots of people like to dress up in costumes for Halloween. They dress up because it is fun. When kids wear costumes they are still the same kid inside the costume. The costume may look different but really the kid wearing the costume is the same. There are many costumes that are soft and feel good to wear. I can wear a costume, too! I may wear a ________________ costume.
On Halloween, different kids like to do different things. Some kids like to go to a party. Some kids like to go trick-or-treating. On Halloween I want
Halloween is exciting so sometimes there can be too much excitement. When I feel too excited
I can take a break or _____________________________________________________.
It is important to stay safe on Halloween. Kids need to stay with an adult. Kids need to always stay on the sidewalk and wait until an adult can take them across the street. I will only go to houses where the light is on and the house looks friendly.
I may get lots of treats on Halloween. My ________________ will let me know when I can eat my treat.
I will have fun on Halloween!
Trick or Treat Cards
Link to other styles of cards: Click Here
Link to Printable PDF of above cards for nonverbal/ reluctant to say “Trick or Treat”.