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”.

 

 

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Stress and the Holidays – How to Support Yourself and Your Kids.

Family reading together on sofa at Christmas time, viewed through window

APA suggests these tips to help parents effectively manage holiday stress

  • Strengthen social connections – We know that strong, supportive relationships help us manage all kinds of challenges. So, we can view the holidays as a time to reconnect with the positive people in our lives. Accepting help and support from those who care about us can help alleviate stress. Also, volunteering at a local charity on our own or with family can be another way to make connections; helping others often makes us feel better, too.
  • Initiate conversations about the season – It can be helpful to have conversations with our kids about the variety of different holiday traditions our families, friends and others may celebrate. Parents can use this time as an opportunity to discuss how some families may not participate in the same holiday traditions as others. Not everyone needs to be the same. It is important to teach open-mindedness about others and their celebrations.
  • Set expectations – It is helpful to set realistic expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Depending on a child’s age, we can use this opportunity to teach kids about the value of money and responsible spending. We need to remember to pare down our own expectations, too. Instead of trying to take on everything, we need to identify the most important holiday tasks and take small concrete steps to accomplish them.
  • Keep things in perspective – On the whole, the holiday season is short. It helps to maintain a broader context and a longer-term perspective. We can ask ourselves, what’s the worst thing that could happen this holiday? Our greatest fears may not happen and, if they do, we can tap our strengths and the help of others to manage them. There will be time after the holiday season to follow up or do more of things we’ve overlooked or did not have the time to do during the holidays.
  • Take care of yourself – It is important that we pay attention to our own needs and feelings during the holiday season. We can find fun, enjoyable and relaxing activities for ourselves and our families. By keeping our minds and bodies healthy, we are primed to deal with stressful situations when they arise. Consider cutting back television viewing for kids and getting the family out together for fresh air and a winter walk. Physical activity can help us feel better and sleep well, while reducing sedentary time and possible exposure to stress-inducing advertisements. Source

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Reading

How to De-Stress Young Children During the Holidays

LESSENING HOLIDAY STRESS FOR LITTLE ONES

THE ABCS OF A MEANINGFUL & STRESS FREE CHRISTMAS WITH YOUNG CHILDREN- Tons of ideas if you need them.

Research on Holiday Stress -APA

Handling Holidays After Divorce

 

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.