Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Autism and Halloween: 7 tips to handle Halloween.

Holidays in general can be difficult when you are dealing with autism, but for us Halloween is especially difficult. I always see Halloween as the ultimate "joke" to get. You see all these "boogie men" and you know it's all a joke...unless you have autism. Then you have a hard time understanding or making that "make believe" connection. There are a variety of reasons why this is. Sometimes they are simply too logical. They KNOW you aren't really a zombie, or Thor, so they don't get the point of pretending to be. Why be something you aren't? Another reason is they can't distinguish a make believe false reality from true reality so they get scared. And yet another is that it is all simply too overwhelming. Kids out all over the place, candy being handed out here and there, lights, sounds, smells....all so very overwhelming! On top of all of that, there's the candy. Ohhhh the candy. the candy brings on so many issues. Food dyes, casein or gluten of you are GF/CF, sugars, and the social graces of waiting your turn, saying place and thank you....and trick or treat....and not reaching into the bowl taking what you want, how to deal with getting a candy you don't like, etc....etc...overwhelming etc.

I know.   I understand.  We have BEEN there! This year I hope to take Mr. B to a fairy tale themed event at the local park. It is supposed to be a non-scare, safe event for kids. Church Trunk or Treats are another great idea. And lots of explaining, social stories, and the like go a long way. Ultimately, you must decide for your family whether or not you want to partake in the Halloween festivities. We do, but we do in moderation. When he decides he's finished, then he's finished. We don't go far from home, and I limit his sugar intake drastically due to health needs. Knowing he may not eat much of the candy, I always have a spare bag of what he does like (Kit Kats) and we use the treats as school work rewards.

How to handle Halloween with Autism

1.) Social stories. Take several days, even a couple of weeks to talk about Halloween, costumes, social norms, etc. 

2.) SAFETY! Think safety! Depending on your child, plan for safety measures. Let them know to not talk to strangers, don't wander off, watch for traffic, etc. Have a plan in place. Reflective clothing, GPS wrist/ankle bands for runners, tethers, whatever you would use going out to an amusement park in the dark. 

3.) Don't be afraid to educate others. We can't expect awareness if we don't promote it ourselves. When Mr. B appears to be rude by reaching into the bowl, I explain he has autism and while he can do a great many things amazingly, he sometimes has an issue with social norms such as trick or treat etiquette (if there even is such a thing.)

4.) Take an alternative approach. Find special needs friendly events, trunk or treats, etc. 

5.) Let your child choose his/her own costume. Mr. B wants to be an IRS worker. Who cares if no one gets it! You do, and they do, and that's all that matters. 

6.) Check the treats. Make sure they do not contain ingredients that will trigger your child. 

7.) Have a back up plan. You may need to decompress or withdraw to a calmer environment. Be understanding that this is a very sensory filled event for your child and they may stim as a result. 

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