Halloween is all around us. The air has an autumn crisp to it at night, pumpkins are making their way to more and more porch steps and the amount of fall decor available in every store makes it tempting to start stocking up on candy immediately, even knowing your jeans will never forgive you for the extra pounds. It’s evident that it’s time to start prepping for the big night! Especially if you are the parent of a special needs child.
Don’t fret just yet! Take these simple tips and help make Halloween the best day out of the year … Noises, Candy, Witches and all!
Tip #1: Buy a Costume Early
This is the perfect opportunity to set up a pretend play program in order to achieve Halloween costume-wearing success! Buy the siblings their costumes as well and at the end of the night after dinner, pretend its Halloween night and let the fun begin. Toss in candy bags and trick-or-treat for puzzle pieces by hiding out behind a closed door, having your child knock on the door and practice for their role in trick-or-treating.
Don’t forget to pretend to scan and check the play candy just like you would the real thing. To make this extra fun, toss in a pair of big clown glasses from the dollar store to put on while scanning the candy. Give everyone a turn and remind them of what type of bad things they are really checking for. Act out what happens if they find a bad piece of candy. Finally, count who earned the most! Toss in a few M&M’s as a treat at the end to the winner and all participants!
Tip #2: Go on a Community Outing to a Pumpkin Farm
Going to a pumpkin farm is great practice for tolerating noise and big crowds. Suddenly going trick or treating, dressed up, in the dark and coming in contact with unpredictable people and noises is a big deal for a special needs child. If needed, plan to go several times through the month of October to build tolerance and increase the amount of time your child can tolerate each time you go.
The more practice the better! It’s okay to go the first time for just 15 minutes. You can go for 30 minutes the next time and so on. Social stories can also be made as a teaching aid. These can often be found online. Plus, Halloween is not complete without a fun outing to the pumpkin farm and it’s a great way to get pumpkins for your house like everyone else!
Tip #3: Visit a Costume Store
Visiting a Halloween store is a great way to nix the Halloween spooks out of anyone. You can physically show your special needs child that all the scary people and things you may see on your trick-or-treating adventure were all the result of a product purchased at a store. This is an excellent way to prevent the realization of frightening items as well. Many parents shy away from this one at Halloween, worrying that the good old “black and white” method will carry over into the realization that even Santa and the Easter Bunny are simply the product of store bought goods. Stick with the fairy tales and magic of the other holidays, but Halloween is a good one to just be honest about. Halloween can be very scary for anyone, let alone for those with disabilities.
This is also another opportunity for exposing your child to unpredictable noises and people! You can even include purchasing goals if your child is at that level! Make a short list of things to purchase for your child. Get them engaged and have them cross items off the list as they are added to your cart!
Check back next week for more Halloween tips! And add your own in the comments below!
Happy Halloween everyone!
-Michelle O’Neill, AHSS Lead Care Team Member and Mother of a Special Needs Child PLUS Two!