Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S
In theory, it’s a fun day filled with free candy, sugar highs, and running around your neighborhood with your child and his friends. Well, if you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you know that’s not always the case.
Halloween can be tricky for many kids, especially kids with special needs. For some of our kids, going to a stranger’s home and ringing their doorbell is overwhelming. Then, let’s factor in that ringing the doorbell doesn’t mean that someone will come to the door, or that they will come to the door with the type of candy they like. How about that barking dog? Or the scents that come out to greet you once the door is open.
It’s a lot to process and a lot to make sense of while you’re trying to keep up or hold on to the parts to your costume and keep your candy in hand. In an effort to setting the stage, let’s talk about some ways you can prepare your child for the BIG day:
Create a Social Story for Your Child
Before writing the story, sit down with your child and ask him what they remember from the year before. What did they enjoy? What did they dislike? Factor these variables into your story so that there is the expectation that some houses will have the lights on, but no one will answer the door, or that a dog will bark, etc. In fact, turn it into a game. Keep a log of how many houses had a barking dog and how many houses didn’t answer the door.
Keep the Costume Comfortable
Sometimes, store bought costumes can be uncomfortable, itchy, stiff, and smelly. Find a costume that has some homemade pieces to it – an old sweatshirt, comfortable socks, their own winter gloves. Don’t want to wear a mask, how about face paint? If face paint is too uncomfortable, use women’s make up.
Not sure how it will all feel on the day of? Wear it a few times before Halloween to get used to it so that it ultimately feels like another pair of pajamas.
Create a Plan
Still not sure of how your costume is going to hold up? Not sure which route to take? Take a walk around your neighborhood with your child in his/her costume and walk up different neighbor’s driveway so they can go through the motions and be super familiar. You and your child may even want to make a plan for how many houses you want to hit before it’s time to go home and count the loot!
For younger children, set a time limit and place them in a wagon that you can pull. Little legs fatigue faster which can trigger melt downs as well.
Eat and Go Before You Go
Instead of trick or treating on an empty stomach, have a fun meal so that your child is not filling up on sugar and then crashing hard. Have stable blood sugar will also help your child to tolerate the walking around. Hit the bathroom before you make your way out to the streets. Nothing stinks more than having to go to the bathroom and having to leave everyone behind to empty out.
In the end, practice special Halloween mindfulness. Soak up the moment and let go of the expectations of how Halloween should be. Look for the gleam in your child’s eye even if they can only tolerate going to two homes. Take a moment to be present - feel the chill of the air, the laughter swirling around, the pitter patter of feet to the door before the ding-dong, the shouts of Trick or Treat and finally the sweet taste of a favorite candy that you will indulge on!
Wishing you and your family a safe and Happy Halloween!
For free social stories, check out these resources:
Safety tips for all: https://www.safekids.org/tip/halloween-safety-tips
For children with selective mutism, Dr. Shipon-Blum from the Smart Center shares her tips for you:
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles