Happy Fall everyone!
We hope you’re staying warm and staying safe. This time of year marks the beginning to the upcoming holidays, and for starters, Halloween! Halloween is right around the corner and it’s a time filled with activities for the kids, spending time within the community and with family, as well as enjoying some candy and pumpkin flavored sweets. This time of year can also be a little overwhelming for children with autism or other related diagnoses as well, especially as we are still in a pandemic and many of our children haven’t been able to celebrate Halloween for quite some time. We wanted to take some time out and share some resources with tips and tricks (or treats?) for how to make this time of year more fun for the kiddos as well as keeping them safe!
If you plan on staying inside this year due to the pandemic or any other reason, we’ve found a great article from Arizona Autism United and Behavioral Innovations that lists inside activities for the family. Some suggestions they list are:
1. Spooky Movie Night:
A relaxing way to spend the night that’s still festive and a great way to stay safe and have a great time inside.
2. Pumpkin Carving/Decorating:
Pumpkin carving is a pretty common activity in the fall, but also a great activity to do while staying inside for Halloween. If you'd like to have the family partake in this activity, make sure to include some preferred stimuli for the kiddo. If they don't like the feeling of the inside of the pumpkin, try having some markers or stickers available as an alternative to decorate the outside of the pumpkin.
3. Virtual Costume Contest:
A safe alternative to going out and showing off costumes. Invite friends, family and more and have some fun and play some games over Zoom, FaceTime, or other web services!
4. Costume Bingo:
Create bingo cards from popular costumes that pop up every Halloween and place them on the cards. Every time someone with one of those costumes passes by, have them marked off on the bingo cards! You can have everyone decide what costumes are most popular, which ones they want on their cards, and even hand out prizes to the winners!
Arizona Autism United and Behavioral Innovations also both list some ways to prepare for the upcoming day if you’ve decided the family will be Trick or Treating. Some tips they include are:
1. Creating Visual Stories and Videos:
Making your own visual schedule with expectations of what your child will see throughout the night.
Make sure your kiddos are comfortable in their costumes. Of those on the spectrum, many have sensory issues with costumes such as wigs, make up, and textured costumes. AAU suggests having them try on and wear the costume for extended periods of time before Halloween to make sure that they’re comfortable. If not, try some festive clothing such as a “Happy Halloween” t-shirt or pumpkin pajamas.
3. Know Limits:
If the child can only handle going up to a few houses for Trick or Treat, that’s okay! Try not to push them to do more than they are comfortable with. Try to stop a potential problem behavior before it arises and praise them for a job well done, ending the event on a positive note!
Some other tips that the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles recommends are:
One last thing to note is that when handing out candy on Halloween, be on the lookout for blue pumpkin buckets! Raleigh Magazine states that some parents have opted into use these blue buckets to help signal that their child is autistic and may be non-verbal, so saying "Trick or Treat" may not come naturally to them. This way, parents have explained that this helps spread awareness about autism and acceptance. On the other side of this, some parents may not have this particular bucket with their autistic children and that's perfectly fine as well! Halloween is for everyone, and not all kiddos talk. That isn't our business and they don't have to disclose a diagnosis to participate in Trick or Treating.
The main take away is preparation, understanding limits, and what to be on the lookout for. Being prepared and knowledgeable is the best bet for a successful night out filled with treats, spooks, and fun. Below are the resources we’ve gathered and used for this post if you would like to check them out as well!
We wish you and your family a happy and healthy start to the holiday season!
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Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are dedicated to sharing their expertise on topics that are important to you.