Halloween has always been a kind of therapy for our child with autism. That’s not to say it’s always easy. Just like therapy, it has it’s ups and downs. Some years have been harder than others. There have been years that she struggled and other years where she had progressed through some of her challenges. Now that she’s older, it’s wonderful to see how much more comfortable she is with this holiday.
Every child on the spectrum is unique and so each has different challenges. Halloween might be great for some and extremely difficult for others. We’ve experienced a few of the good and the bad. I’m sure I’ll be leaving a lot out, but here’s a few things to keep in mind when you’re welcoming children with autism to your doorstep this evening or even having them over for party.
Please don’t turn away the older kids. This may be there first Halloween even trick or treating. It’s a great opportunity to interact with people. Also, whether they are on the spectrum or not, they could be out doing far more crazier things.
Don’t expect that all kids will be able to look at you. Eye contact can be difficult for kids with autism. Our daughter still doesn’t always look directly at a person when saying hello or meeting someone for the first time. Please don’t tell the kid to look at you either. You have no idea how painful it can be for a kid if they have autism.
Let the kids take their time. It may take a lot for some of them to come up to you or your door, nevermind all the creepy and crazy decorations they may encounter along the way. They may also need direction, so if your rule is just one piece of candy, make sure to be specific. I know with our child if there are guidelines, she needs them spelled out and likes to follow them.
There might be a child that is not verbal and can’t say Trick or Treat. If it’s their first time, they may be learning what to do for Halloween which can be a daunting social event on many levels. Just tell them how great they look and give them candy for their bag. Help make their experience the best it can be.
On the flip side, you might get a kid like ours that will talk your head off and will ask you about all the types of candy you have, the quantity allowed, and she may even add some additional and possibly unrelated information. Just smile and say Happy Halloween. It’s an exciting night. Kids can be wound up and even over stimulated. So just show patience and good cheer.
Unless you are at Halloween Horror Nights or walking through an actual haunted house, chances are you probably don’t want to be scared out of your wits (maybe that’s just me). But I know my own children don’t always like the uber creepy stuff. So don’t go out of your way to traumatize a kid that comes to your home. Music and lights can be great, but it’s also nice to keep it all lower than a roar and not completely blinding, especially indoors.
Remember to be accepting of all the kids and whatever they’re wearing. You have no idea what it may have taken for that child to even put a costume on. The tags and material might be driving them batty and parts of the costume may end up being carried instead of worn. Maybe they don’t have a costume at all and that’s ok too. The important thing is to be welcoming to all the kids. Everyone will look different and everyone will be capable of different things.
It’s nice to offer a non-candy treat, especially for those who have allergies, but it’s also a nice option for kids who maybe don’t eat the gallon of candy they collect tonight. We end up taking all but ten pieces each to our dentist who buys it back. It doesn’t take much. The kids love fun pencils, stickers, or anything fun from the dollar store.
Don’t be surprised if some of us call it a night early. Many people like us have younger children with school the next day. If you have a kid on the spectrum, maybe they are a night owl and you’re in for a long night or maybe your kid is the one that asks to go to bed at 8pm like ours. If it’s the latter and you’re child is like ours and needs that sleep, understand if the parents have to dip out early. No one wants crabby children in the morning.
Finally, if you have to go in for the night a bit earlier and you still have candy, leave some out for the later trick or treaters. If you’re the one out and about late, make sure your kids are courteous and leave candy for others. If there are no lights on, no candy out, and it’s late, take into consideration that people might be down for the night and don’t knock or ring bells.
It’s not easy having a child with autism, but seeing them grow and progress is so rewarding. On Halloween, they really get a great opportunity to be exposed to a lot of new things and work on their social skills. I know it can be stressful for parents, but it is worth getting out there and at least giving it a try. It’s good practice for the kids and over the years, it’s possible for them to make great strides socially.
So Treat Halloween like therapy for your kid. Heck, it might even be therapeutic for you if you just chill and stay positive. You might be surprised how you and your kid could benefit by giving this holiday a whirl. Yes, it could get Tricky at times, but the real Treat will be seeing your child conquer their fears and maybe overcome challenges. Nothing could be sweeter.