Halloween is quickly approaching and children everywhere are preparing to put on quirky costumes and devour considerable amounts of sugar. Although Halloween night can be a child’s dream, parents are often less-than-enthusiastic to spend the night walking, adjusting costumes, managing tantrums, and maintaining a safe environment for their eccentrically clad children. As a parent of a child with special needs, chances are you have added stress around holidays like Halloween, because your child has additional needs and requirements leading up to and during this special occasion. Here are a few things you can do to help prepare for the spookiest holiday of the year:
- Keep it short. Being that Halloween primarily consists of walking, crossing busy streets, and other safety concerns, it’s best to keep the trip brief. An hour or less is plenty of time to meet your child’s expectations, while keeping them safe and content.
- Preparing your child for a transition is the best way to prevent a major meltdown. If switching from a preferred to non-preferred activity or vice versa, it’s best to use simple language like: “First get dressed, then we can trick or treat.”
- Go before the streetlights go on. Although Halloween is meant to be shadowy and creepy, for young children and especially those with special needs, it’s best to go trick-or-treating at dusk while there is still some light out. Being able to see your child walk up to the door and back will help put your mind at ease.
- Have a plan. Being prepared will always help you overcome unexpected circumstances. Making visuals or bringing along things that help your child cope with unpredictable conditions will make the evening more enjoyable for both of you. For example, if your child has an aversion to sensory input, bring along some head phones to help keep the noise level manageable.
- Set ground rules. Make sure you identify rules in a positive manner to make the experience enjoyable. For example, use directives like “calm body” or “hold mom’s hand” rather than “don’t walk in front of me” or “stop jumping.”
- Although you may not create opportunities for your child to trick or treat daily, you can do a mock-run to see how your child will manage this kind of experience. Dress the child up and take them door-to-door ahead of time. It’s best to speak with your neighbors and let them know where and when your child will be trick-or-treating, so they also know what to expect and to help make the experience more enjoyable.
If you’re concerned about your child’s health or safety, you can choose to stay in for the night or make alternative plans like attending the PediaPlex Halloween Event to provide the fun without some of the usual concerns around this observation. You can watch a scary movie, tell silly ghost stories, or play a fun sensory game! It may be just as much fun to throw shaving cream on your kid’s face and or dig through overcooked spaghetti worms!
No matter what you decide, the rule of thumb for Halloween night is: Be safe and have fun.