If you’re a parent of a child with special needs:
1. Select a costume that’s comfortable for them, and easily visible in the dark
Costumes are infamous for itchy fabric or multiple layers. The “best” Halloween costume doesn’t have to be the craziest or most elaborate—your child will be happiest in a costume that’s comfortable and accommodating to their sensory needs. Talk about ideas, and include them in the costume picking process. For maximum safety, pick a costume that’s easy to see in the dark, or equip them with flashlights, glow sticks, or even reflective tape.
2. Make a Halloween plan or routine
Halloween for kids is always full of excitement, and many kids with special needs may have anxiety about trick-or-treating or whatever activities might be in store. The best way to keep things calm? Plan ahead! Think about which activities you will be doing with your child (for example 5:00pm put on costume, 6:00pm eat dinner) and include your child in the planning process. Be specific to help them stay focused, and include photos if they are a visual learner.
3. Prepare kids so they won’t be afraid
Spooky decorations, surprising sounds, and even other people’s costumes can be scary or upsetting. Let your child know that these spooky sights are all in the fun of Halloween. Show examples of how scary things can be funny too—when your child knows what to expect, they will have a better experience!
4. Practice good trick-or-treating behaviors ahead of time
Going over the “rules” of trick-or-treating and talking about positive behaviors early on is a great way to ensure your child is prepared to enjoy their Halloween. Children with special needs often require some “pre-teaching,” prior to events. A few days prior to Halloween, practice ringing a doorbell and saying “trick-or-treat,” receiving a treat, and saying “thank you.” You may even want to walk the route with them ahead of time—this will also give you a better idea of how many houses your child will be comfortable visiting.
BONUS TIP: Decide your “candy rules” (no eating candy until after you inspect it, etc.) and discuss them ahead of time. If your child has strict dietary restrictions, you may want to equip well-known neighbor’s houses with other “treats,” toys, or goodies that will be safe for your child, while still letting them experience the fun of trick-or-treating!
5. Talk about self-regulation & staying outside
Children with special needs may have difficulty managing their impulsivity—remember this when you’re reviewing positive trick-or-treating behaviors. Remind children that a good trick-or-treater stays outside and doesn’t enter the house, and practice this behavior as well. Be prepared to patiently guide them in the right direction if they cannot resist trying to explore beyond the doorway. Always stress that they should not to go into a stranger’s house, even if invited.
If you’re passing out candy:
6. Be understanding of social skills and speech difficulties
Children with special needs may learn and remember manners a little differently than typical children. They may forget saying “please” and “thank you,” so be understanding of children who may not readily exhibit this behavior. Additionally, not every child’s language skills will be as developed as you may expect. Be patient with these children and help make this holiday more fun and accepting for everyone!
Tips adapted from Mandi Silverman at sheknows.com
Images from Google and Yahoo
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.