Considerations for Halloween for your Neurodivergent Child
The time is quickly approaching! Halloween is often one of the children's favorite times of the year! However, some children do not view it that way. While wanting to participate, they find themselves anxious, worried, and scared. Neurodivergent or not, this can happen to many of our kids. I would like to provide you with some tips on how maybe you can make this a little more stress-free for your whole family.
Things to do in Advance:
-Consider researching for social stories to read. A social story is written in order to describe common occurrences in a child's life in simplified terms with problem-solving approaches provided. They are meant to be read over and over until a child is able to cope or get comfort in being able to participate in that particular subject. You can use Google to find resources for this already made up. I have also found a great video that hits on the topic of Halloween that may be helpful to begin watching now. Watch it HERE!
-Use a calendar count down to help give your child a visual reference to "how many sleeps" until the big day.
-Costumes overall can be a source of multiple melt downs! Consider your child's sensory sensitivities and rule out in advance (scratchy, itchy, tight, loose, colors, etc.) Are Halloween stores overwhelming for your child? Do decisions stress them out? Bring home 2-3 costumes in advance to have your child choose from. Practice wearing in advance at home. Always have a t-shirt/sweatshirt/jacket that is a sure hit for your child in preparation of him/her refusing to wear the costume when the time comes. Even though he/she has successfully been wearing at home, when the time comes and the other stressors kick in, he/she may need something of comfort in order to participate.
-Consider asking family/neighbors to trick or treat a day in advance or an hour before to avoid the chaos of the evening. He/she may enjoy handing out the candy even more in the comfort of home versus receiving it.
-Practice walking the route you plan on taking.
Day Of Halloween
-Practice knocking on the door, saying "Trick or Treat" and "Thank You". Is your child shy? Anxious? or Non-verbal? Consider using these Cards to provide to the person giving out treats. People, in general, have an understanding of this, but to help provide education giving them a simple reminder that not all kids are alike will help them "get it" the next time a child has similar difficulties.
-Consider passing out candy versus actually trick or treating. Our children actually enjoyed this more! In fact one year I recall taking our daughter out, coming home and she proceeded to hand her own candy back out to any that stopped by.
-If your child has siblings, bring another adult along if at all possible. As much as your child needs to escape, your other may want to continue on. If you can avoid this by having a trusted adult continue with that child, you will provide an opportunity for peace at the end of the evening.
-If your child does not have a sibling, does he/she have a role model peer that they can Trick or Treat with? Confidence can sometimes be in the shape of a friend who can do this effortlessly.
-If allergies exist, keep an eye out for teal pumpkins! These houses are aware of allergies and are possibly providing allergy-free alternatives.
-Still have a bucket of candy with a child who has food allergies or restrictions? Use candy as currency to redeem for "small prizes". Ex. Hand in 5 candy bars and get 1 Hot Wheel in return. Obviously, this will take some planning, but can be just as fun when they have some Dollar Tree treats to "shop" for.
-Keep a close eye on body language and behaviors. Understand that running, pushing, yelling, saying rude comments are often signs of overwhelm. It may be time to exit if any of this seems excessive. Don't wait until it is too late to escape. Your child will thank you.
-Be Flexible! As much as you or your child has anticipated the joy that this Holiday is supposed to bring, it may not feel that way if you force things. Be prepared to change into different clothing, leave early or change plans.
-Be prepared for a night when sleep may be difficult. Your child may be over-stimulated and off schedule. Attempt to make the ending of the evening as much like the "norm" as possible. Even then, sleep may be a tough one for everyone!
I hope these tips give you some food for thought. I hope you and your family make some memories that you can look back on and smile. As with so many things you face as a parent, try not to sweat the small stuff. This too shall pass. You will be able to one day look back at the pictures (whether Hallmark worthy or not) and know that during those times, you did your best and as long as your child felt safe and loved, you nailed it!
- Miss Connie