October has officially arrived, triggering a return to school, apple picking, frolicking in the pumpkin patch, tractor rides, and the delicious aroma of pumpkin spice coffee. Of course, fall also stirs up the ghosts, goblins, and witches of Halloween!
While Halloween can be a memorable and exciting time for children all over the country, it is also a time of uncertainty, confusion, and stress for those who experience communication and sensory challenges. For these children and their families, Halloween can prove to be a difficult and overwhelming experience to navigate.
At SmallTalk, parents and families often ask how we can help prepare their children for the holiday seasons.
Below is a list of tips and tricks to help our families and emphasize the treats as opposed to the tricks of Halloween.
Prepare for Unexpected vs. Expected Situations
If Halloween brings discomfort to your child, discuss what they might expect to see, hear, or feel around or on that costume-filled night.
- Read a non-threatening Halloween book/social story, watch a fun Halloween movie, listen to upbeat Halloween music or make a trip to a Halloween store.
- Prepare and practice a written script for how and what to say for trick or treating interactions with neighbors and friends.
- Review with your child a Halloween social story or sequence of events that will occur on Halloween while trick or treating.
- Share your trick or treat route and script with your neighbors before Halloween night.
- Discuss how your child is feeling about Halloween- excited, scared, happy, etc.
- Anticipate and talk about some unexpected situations that could occur.
- Reassure your child that friendly faces will be by their side throughout the night.
Create a Halloween page on your child’s AAC device with various Halloween icons and answers to possible Halloween questions such as “What is your costume?” “Are you having fun?”
- Practice using the device’s Halloween page with your child, so they feel comfortable using it on Halloween night.
Articulation/ Phonological Delays
- Suggest Trick or Treating in a small group of familiar people.
- Consider a group costume with friends/family (i.e., Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, circus, etc.) to help your child feel more included.
- If Halloween trick or treating is too overwhelming for your child, many communities, local churches, and schools provide Trick or Treating options.
- Encourage your child to attend/participate in a Halloween party at school or local community.
- Try an alternate Halloween plan.
- Allow your child to hand out candy to trick or treaters and practice asking “Wh” questions to trick/treaters (i.e., What is your costume? Where did you get that?).
- Provide a Halloween craft or carve a pumpkin to expose your child to different textures.
- Create a Halloween sensory bin.
- Trick or treat before it gets dark.
- Before Halloween night, walk around your trick/treating route and observe your neighbors’ decorations and lights.
- Schedule sensory breaks while trick or treating or at Halloween festivities to avoid possible overstimulation and provide distance from foreseeable stressors.
- Bring headphones to block out overwhelming/loud noises.
- Try tasty candy alternatives if you have a “picky” eater.
- Allow your child to pick a costume that makes them feel comfortable.
- Try on the costume on several different occasions before trick or treating to make sure it is comfortable.
- Allow it to hang in a visible spot days before Halloween to familiarize your child with the costume.
- Create your own costume out of preferable fabric if a store-bought costume cannot be tolerated, and invite your child to be a part of the process.
We wish you a fun-filled and SPOOKTACULAR Halloween season. We cannot wait to see your costumes and hear your children tell us about their experience!
by Pamela “PJ” Baragona, MA CCC-SLP