Preparing for Halloween with Children on the Autism Spectrum

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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.

1) Visualize

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.

2) Explain

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.

3) Practice

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!).

4) Perform

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.

Source

Articles

Halloween for children with Autism by Bethany Sciortino

Trick Or Treat! By Lisa Ackerman

Tips for Preparing Your Child with Autism for Halloween

Halloween Tips for Parents with Children on the Autism Spectrum May Institute

Social Stories

16 Printable Halloween Social Stories

  1. What to expect on Halloween by Positively Autism
  2. Halloween Tips & Social Story by Therapics
  3. Halloween Social Story by Indiana Institute on Disability and Community
  4. Halloween Party by Teachers Pay Teachers
  5. Halloween Party 2 by Teachers PayTeachers
  6. Carving a Pumpkin by SETBC
  7. Trick or Treat, Wearing a Costume by Creating and Teaching
  8. Trick or TreatCards by Teachers Pay Teachers
  9. Trick or Treat 1 by TeachersPay Teachers
  10. Trick or Treat 2 by Teachers PayTeachers
  11. Trick or Treat 3 by Project Autism
  12. Trick or Treat 4 by Teachers Notebook
  13. Trick or Treat 5 by Chit Chat andSmall Talk
  14. Trick or Treat 6 by CCSD
  15. Trick or Treat 7 by A Legion for Liam
  16. Trick or Treat 8 by Autism Tank
  17. Halloween- Icons and Text by Indiana University
  18. What to Expect on Halloween Social Skill Story  by positively autism
  19. PPT Learning About Halloween by Carol Gray
  20. 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
to_____________________________________________.

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!

Source

Trick or Treat Cards

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Link to other styles of cards: Click Here

Link to Printable PDF of above cards for nonverbal/ reluctant to say “Trick or Treat”.

 

 

Joel Shaul’s Autism Spectrum Resources

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Recently, I ran across a treasure trove of resources from  http://autismteachingstrategies.com/. It was designed and published by Joel Shaul.  In this blog post I will provide links to his content.

Joel Shaul specializes in mental health services for children and teens at the autism spectrum.

In his work with children on the autism spectrum in various settings, Joel has noticed a need for more engaging social skills curricula, stronger visual components and more compelling social skills learning activities.  He first created the World of Ryuu with Rebecca Klaw, another Pittsburgh-based professional working with children with Asperger’s or other autism spectrum disorders.  His  two illustrated children’s books, The Conversation Train and The Green Zone Conversation Book, are published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.  Joel provides dozens of free social skills downloads on this website.

Through Autism Teaching Strategies, Joel provides trainings nationwide on the topics of social skills teaching and effective counseling for children with high functioning autism.

Joel provides individual and group services, in schools and clinical settings, at The Watson Institute in Sewickley, Pa.

He received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Louisville in 1986 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1979.  Joel was a community organizer with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone where he helped to build a midwife clinic and develop a health education curriculum for primary schools.

Source

Videos

Upset Feelings Video for Kids: CBT Video One

Upset Feelings Video for Kids: CBT Video Two

Upset Feelings Video for Kids: CBT Video Three

Upset Feelings Video for Kids: CBT Video Four

Upset Feelings Video for Kids: CBT Video Five

Upset Feelings Video for Kids:  CBT Video Six

Upset Feeling Video for Kids: CBT Video Seven

Upset Feelings Video for Kids: CBT Video Eight

Materials and Strategies

CBT Thought Bubbles: How to Download and Use Them

Simple CBT Worksheets: How to Download and Use Them

Brief descriptions of the free download resources on social communication

Brief descriptions of the free download resources on emotional regulation

Brief descriptions of the free download resources combining relationships/emotions/communication

Using visual word prompts and a song to teach showing interest to kids with ASD

Using picture prompts for non-verbal communication for children with ASD

Using chain and girder pictures to teach conversation skills to kids with ASD

Using a balance to teach relationship reciprocity to children with ASD

Using a balance to teach conversation reciprocity to children with ASD

Using a flip camera for social skills training for kids with ASD

How to make social-skills training game-like and fun for children with ASD

Social-skills training technique for ASD, using tokens

Hello songs to reinforce greetings for kids with ASD

Goodbye song for teaching goodbye to kids with ASD

Social-skills song to promote eye contact for kids with ASD

Social Skills

FREE SOCIAL SKILLS DOWNLOADS

Card Game

The World of Ryuu*

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Using a fantasy world of dragons to build social skills in humans.
Ryuu products are a collection of teaching and therapy aids based on a fantasy world of dragons. Ryuu  activities teach social and emotional skills to children and teens with autism, Asperger Syndrome, and other autism spectrum disorders. These products are designed to teach social, emotional and communication skills by combining fantasy worlds, card collecting, and role play.

*Sold at www.ryuuworld.com.

ADEPT (Autism Distance Education Parent Training) Interactive Learning

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ADEPT (Autism Distance Education Parent Training) Interactive Learning

An original MIND Institute/CEDD 10-lesson interactive, self-paced, online learning module providing parents with tools and training to more effectively teach their child with autism and other related neurodevelopmental disorders functional skills using applied behavior analysis (ABA) techniques.

 

Resources

Autism Distance Education Parent Training (ADEPT) PPT Presented By: Patricia Schetter, MA, BCBA

Autism and the Holidays

Twelve Tips for Helping Individuals with Autism Have a Happy Holiday Season

While many happily anticipate the coming holiday season, families of people on the autism spectrum also understand the special challenges that may occur when schedules are disrupted and routines broken. Our hope is that by following these few helpful tips, families may lessen the stress of the holiday season and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. The following tips were developed with input from the Autism Society, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Easter Seals Crossroads, the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at Logan and the Indiana Autism Leadership Network..

1. Preparation is crucial for many individuals. At the same time, it is important to determine how much preparation a specific person may need. For example, if your son or daughter has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event that is to occur in the future, you may want to adjust how many days in advance you prepare him or her. Preparation can occur in various ways by using a calendar and marking the dates of various holiday events, or by creating a social story that highlights what will happen at a given event.

2. Decorations around the house may be disruptive for some. It may be helpful to revisit pictures from previous holidays that show decorations in the house. If such a photo book does not exist, use this holiday season to create one. For some it may also be helpful to take them shopping with you for holiday decorations so that they are engaged in the process. Or involve them in the process of decorating the house. And once holiday decorations have been put up, you may need to create rules about those that can and cannot be touched. Be direct, specific and consistent.

3. If a person with autism has difficulty with change, you may want to gradually decorate the house. For example, on the first day, put up the Christmas tree, then on the next day, decorate the tree and so on. And again, engage them as much as possible in this process. It may be helpful to develop a visual schedule or calendar that shows what will be done on each day.

4. If a person with autism begins to obsess about a particular gift or item they want, it may be helpful to be specific and direct about the number of times they can mention the gift. One suggestion is to give them five chips. They are allowed to exchange one chip for five minutes of talking about the desired gift. Also, if you have no intention of purchasing a specific item, it serves no purpose to tell them that maybe they will get the gift. This will only lead to problems in the future. Always choose to be direct and specific about your intentions.

5. Teach them how to leave a situation and/or how to access support when an event becomes overwhelming. For example, if you are having visitors, have a space set aside for the child as his/her safe/calm space. The individual should be taught ahead of time that they should go to their space when feeling overwhelmed. This self-management tool will serve the individual into adulthood. For those who are not at that level of self-management, develop a signal or cue for them to show when they are getting anxious, and prompt them to use the space. For individuals with more significant challenges, practice using this space in a calm manner at various times prior to your guests’ arrival. Take them into the room and engage them in calming activities (e.g., play soft music, rub his/her back, turn down the lights, etc.). Then when you notice the individual becoming anxious, calmly remove him/her from the anxiety-provoking setting immediately and take him/her into the calming environment.

6. If you are traveling for the holidays, make sure you have their favorite foods, books or toys available. Having familiar items readily available can help to calm stressful situations. Also, prepare them via social stories or other communication systems for any unexpected delays in travel. If you are flying for the first time, it may be helpful to bring the individual to the airport in advance and help him/her to become accustomed to airports and planes. Use social stories and pictures to rehearse what will happen when boarding and flying.

7. Know your loved one with autism and how much noise and activity they can tolerate. If you detect that a situation may be becoming overwhelming, help them find a quiet area in which to regroup. And there may be some situations that you simply avoid (e.g., crowded shopping malls the day after Thanksgiving).

8. Prepare a photo album in advance of the relatives and other guests who will be visiting during the holidays. Allow the person with autism access to these photos at all times and also go through the photo album with him/her while talking briefly about each family member.

9. Practice opening gifts, taking turns and waiting for others, and giving gifts. Role play scenarios with your child in preparation for him/her getting a gift they do not want. Talk through this process to avoid embarrassing moments with family members. You might also choose to practice certain religious rituals. Work with a speech language pathologist to construct pages of vocabulary or topic boards that relate to the holidays and family traditions.

10. Prepare family members for strategies to use to minimize anxiety or behavioral incidents, and to enhance participation. Help them to understand if the person with autism prefers to be hugged or not, needs calm discussions or provide other suggestions that will facilitate a smoother holiday season. If the individual becomes upset, it might also be helpful to coach others to remain calm and neutral in an effort to minimize behavioral outbursts.

11. If the person with autism is on special diet, make sure there is food available that he/she can eat. And even if they are not on a special diet, be cautious of the amount of sugar consumed. And try to maintain a sleep and meal routine.

12. Above all, know your loved one with autism. Know how much noise and other sensory input they can take. Know their level of anxiety and the amount of preparation it may take. Know their fears and those things that will make the season more enjoyable for them.

Don’t stress. Plan in advance. And most of all have a wonderful holiday season! Source

Articles for Parents

Great Resource- Thriving During the Holidays

Reducing Holiday Stress for Families of Children with Autism

Holiday Road Trips: Five Tips to Reduce Stress

7 TIPS FOR A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON WITH YOUR LOVED ONE AFFECTED BY AUTISM

Preparing for the Holidays with Autism

Dealing with the “Back-to-School” Blues: Tips for Parents of Asperger’s Kids

Back to School with ASD

Social Stories

Visiting Family at Christmas

Going to Visit Santa

What to Expect at Christmas (PowerPoint) edit to meet your needs*

Airplane Trip (good example)

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Holiday/Winter Break Social Stories & Visual Supports

Calendar Icons

Christmas Presents A social narrative to help individuals understand social expectations when receiving presents.

 

 

 

Hand Flapping in children

What Causes Flapping and Self-Stimulatory Behaviors?

“Self-stimulatory behaviors are common in children with autism as well as those with sensory processing disorders. However, typically-developing children sometimes do these things as well. Just because your child is flapping or doing other self-stimulatory behaviors, it doesn’t mean he has autism. Many people see a child rocking or flapping and they think, “Oh, that child has autism.” That’s not always the case!”

Source: Speech and Language Kids

Great Handout with step by step details on how to intervien with flapping behaviors: stop-flapping-handout

How to decrease hand flapping

Bullying and Special Needs Students

Middle Schools can be a tough place to navigate socially for all children. For children who have cognitive and social deficits it can be especially difficult. Recently while looking into different options to help support kids on our campus, I ran across the Ohio Center For Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) website. On the site it has a multitude of resources including some on the topic of Bullying. They have an easy to implement anti-bullying intervention called “Be an Upstander”.

Anti-Bullying Supports for Peers: Be An Upstander
Be an Upstander is a video for use with middle- and high-school students. It demonstrates strategies that can turn bystanders (persons not directly involved in the bullying incident) into Upstanders, those who can help diffuse a bullying situation. Resources to help facilitators use this video include a Facilitator Guide and Strategy List.

Webcast and Resource Materials on Bullying

Awesome Brochure

Stats from the Autism Safety Site:

A 2009 survey on bullying revealed the following:

  • 65% of parents reported that their children with Asperger’s syndrome had been victimized by peers in some way within the past year
  • 47% reported that their children had been hit by peers or siblings
  • 50% reported them to be scared by their peers
  • 9% were attacked by a gang and hurt in the private parts
  • 12% indicated their child had never been invited to a birthday party
  • 6% were almost always picked last for teams
  • 3% ate alone at lunch every day

Source: Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing (2009)

Expected verses Unexpected Behaviors

Perspective taking is really important for our kiddos building capacity in the area of social skills. Categorizing Expected verses Unexpected can be crucial to developing a filter when making a good choice verses and not so good choices.

DEFINITION OF EXPECTED VS UNEXPECTED (Kid friendly)

MAPPING EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED
Expected -Simple Map
Unexpected – Simple Map
Expected vs Unexpected – Sophisticated

ACTIVITY
Expected vs Unexpected Activity

POWERPOINT ACTIVITY

PPT

GENERAL PERSPECTIVE TAKING RESOURCES
1st Link

2nd Link

3rd Link