5 Ideas for making Halloween easy for your child with autism

If you have a child with autism or know one, you can probably imagine the potential problems that might spring up when you take them trick or treating. If you do not  know much about autism, it can be difficult to describe how a person with autism might feel, as each person displays different traits on the spectrum. However, imaging you are in a busy shopping mall with a lot of noise and activity on Christmas Eve and you have the stress of buying presents on your mind. Then imagine you are required to answer questions whilst under this pressure. You may feel a flight or flight sensation, which children with autism do when put in busy, stressful situations. Halloween can make your child with autism feel that very flight or fight sensation so here are some suggestions for helping them deal with this holiday event.

1. Do you really need to go?

Is your child going to realise they have missed something fun or will you manage to get away with not going out for trick or treating? You know your child best and know how they react to particular situations. Will they be able to cope? If the answer is no, then stay at home - it really sin't worth the stress for everybody and try again next year. If the answer is yes (such as in my case, my daughter with autism will be adamant she wants to go), then off you pop but you need a plan of attack (perhaps that's not the right word!).

2. Have an exit strategy

Develop a plan with your child about what you are going to do, for how long and how it will be done such as: firstly, we will go to these houses, then we will knock on their doors, if they answer we will say 'trick or treat!, then we might get candy... 

Discuss the plan (or better still draw a visual) with your child so they have a clear idea of what to expect and what to do if nobody answers or they don't give out candy! Then build an exit strategy into your plan so everybody is clear on the rules such as: if you run away from me - then we have to go home. This will help you later if things unravel, but don't be afraid to up and leave if things become too much.

3. Bring the appropriate equipment

My daughter rarely leaves the house without her sound reducing headphones nearby. She wears them when she knows there will be loud noises or just lots of traffic around. If your child with autism needs a soother or piece of equipment to help them get through trick or treating, then be sure to bring it along.

4. Let people know your child has autism

Wearing a badge or some sort of signage is a great way to let others know that your child has special needs. You do not need to buy one, even a sticker with writing such as "I have autism, please be patient with me" can work wonders. My daughter wears a badge when she goes out and this is because she wants to. It goes without saying that your child must be happy to wear this sign before you put one on them!

5. Have fun and relax

Your child may not want to wear a costume or they may want to dress in something very odd! Pick your battles and try to enjoy the evening. Practice what they might say through role play, when they knock on a door. Explain that people may or may not give candy and that's okay. 

The irony about Halloween as a holiday season is all children are wild, over excited and often act inappropriately, so your child with autism will not be standing out!

Side note:
If you're not going out for trick or treating, ensure your child knows what will happen that evening. That strangers will be coming to your door. Be extra careful on this night if you don't want visitors knocking on your door, a small sign would be appropriate nearby. In some neighbourhoods, it is encouraged to only turn your outside light on if you are taking part, if not keep your light out. Find out what your neighbourhood custom is and do the same.

Good luck and Happy Halloween!

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