Spooky season is upon us! Halloween is my absolute favorite time of the year, but it’s not always easy for some of our friends. Costumes can be uncomfortable, “Trick or Treat” is really hard to say, and somehow elementary students get a Fall break now? Plus there’s pumpkin patches, Oktoberfests, and so many other Fall activities to fit into your weekends. Let’s talk about Halloween!
Trick or Treating
In the past several years Trunk or Treats have become very popular for several reasons. Halloween Night is dark and spooky. It can be overstimulating for some people. Think about the flashing/strobe lights, loud noises and screams, and gobs of kids running from one house to the next for sweets. This is a lot to take in, especially for anyone with sensory difficulties. Trunk or treat events are a great way to practice before the “big night.” (If you have neighbors willing to be a practice house for you that’s another great option!) This gives opportunities to practice social skills like saying hello to unfamiliar people, waiting your turn, asking people’s names, and saying thank you.
Encourage your trick or treater to use their words, but if they cannot–adapt! Make a sign for your trick or treater to hold, put in their candy bag, or attach to their costume that says “Trick or Treat!” This takes the pressure off of your trick or treater to “perform” for people they do not know and is a good way to spread awareness of people with communication difficulties/disorders. Noise cancelling headphones, standing back from larger groups of people, and going to a quieter neighborhood if possible are other ways to decrease sensory stimuli.
If you see a trick or treater with a BLUE pumpkin, this usually signifies the precious human on your doorstep has autism. Please allow extra processing time and be understanding if they cannot look you in the eye, respond to your questions, or say “trick or treat.” If a trick or treater has their whole hand in the candy bowl and is struggling to take only one or two pieces, they may have fine motor difficulties. Here at CSTC we LOVE inclusion. Here is a list of ways to make Halloween inclusive for all, courtesy of University of Michigan:
- Sit at the end of your driveway. If your house has stairs or you have a steep driveway, it may be challenging for some kids to knock on your door. Sitting closer to the road doesn’t only help those on crutches or in a wheelchair, but it can also feel more inviting to an anxious trick-or-treater.
- Keep on outdoor lights. Cracks or bumps in the sidewalk can make navigating a path especially tricky. Bright lights can help.
- Describe the candy you give out. If you notice a child is blind or has limited vision, describe the types of candy you’re offering and let them make a choice.
- Give extra time. It can be difficult for children with special needs to reach quickly or accurately for a piece of candy, especially with other trick-or-treaters in the mix. Try not to rush anyone through the candy picking process.
- Offer non-edible treats. Remember that some children are limited in what they can eat or how they eat. Stickers, bubbles or glow sticks can be a great substitute for candy!
- Be mindful of your decorations. Children with special needs may have a heightened sensitivity to loud noises, bright lights or unexpected sounds. Minimizing or turning off spooky decorations can reduce the chances of startling them.
- Try not to judge. Some children may not tolerate certain textures of clothing well, so they could not be wearing a costume. That doesn’t mean they should miss out on the fun! Also keep in mind that some children may not be able to say the traditional “trick-or-treat” phrase because of anxiety or being nonverbal.
Crafting is a great way to work on OT and speech therapy goals. Here are some of our favorites!
- Masking Tape Mummy; https://www.pinterest.com/pin/313563192815542652/
- Q-Tip Skeletons; https://www.pinterest.com/pin/8022105577490700/
- Paper Strip Pumpkins; https://www.pinterest.com/pin/234327986853352667/
- “The Little Orange House” Story; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI6w2nTjxts
- Toilet Paper Roll Bats https://www.pinterest.com/pin/771241504931124094/