Costumes, makeup, parties and Trick or Treat—it all sounds fun, but for the child with special needs, Halloween can be a challenge. Some children may have sensory issues which prevent them from wearing a costume or enjoying loud noises or flashing lights. Some children may be required to eat a restricted diet and may not be able to enjoy the candy received during trick-or-treat. Some children may have limited verbal ability. It may be a challenge for them to follow simple directions and/or communicate simple phrases such as “trick or treat.” Some children may be easily excitable or distracted and trick or treating in a crowded neighborhood could present safety concerns. Halloween should be a fun for everyone. Here are 5 practical tips to make it fun for everyone!
- Set reasonable expectations
Sometimes adults get more excited that kids do and have high expectations that our children/students will follow the same fun activities that they enjoyed when they were kids. Its okay if kids with special needs participate in a few activities to celebrate but not everything. For some kids, maybe it is a success to go to a few houses to trick-or-treat. For some kids, maybe it is a success to wear jeans, t-shirt and a hat as a costume.
- Have fun
Enjoy the festivities! Halloween is intended to be fun. It’s a time for sharing candy and a day to enjoy some pretend time while dressed up. It’s a time to meet neighbors. It’s a time for enjoying pumpkins and scarecrows. Do what you can to ensure your kids have fun!
If you know your child/student is going to have a challenging time with wearing a costume, prepare a costume which will be more appealing. There are lots of ideas for sensory friendly costumes all over the internet. If you know your child/student is going to have a challenging time with being outside in the dark during trick or treat, practice going outside at dusk and practice using a flashlight. Talk about what’s going to happen on Halloween before Halloween. Share expectations. For some children, a little bit of preparation goes a long way.
- Acknowledge Child’s Preferences and Give Choices
Everyone, including children with special needs, should be given opportunities to make choices about how they spend their time and how they participate in activities. Whenever possible, acknowledge the child’s preferences and give them choices.
- Consider Community Activities
Many communities and non-profits have sensory friendly activities. This may be a good alternative for some children who may struggle during trick-or-treat. Because these events are planned for children with special needs, they will cater to unique needs and be more understanding if a meltdown should occur.
What additional tips do you have?
Got-Autism Guest Blogger Lisa Houseworth, JD, BCBA has worked with children with special needs using the principles of ABA and Verbal Behavior since 2001. In 2005, Lisa graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education, and then continued her education by graduating from the University of Dayton Law School in May, 2010. She completed coursework to earn her Board Certification in Behavior Analysis from University of North Texas and her clinical supervision from Step By Step Academy (Columbus, OH), Carbone Clinic (Valley Cottage, NY) and through Cherish Twigg, BCBA. Lisa has had experience as the director of center-based programs in Dayton, OH and Wapakoneta, OH, school consulting, staff training and also overseeing in-home programs. She has worked with individuals ranging in age from 2 years old through young adults. Lisa currently works part-time for Key Behavior Services in Dayton, OH. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging, travelling and couponing.