Tricks for Halloween

Halloween is scarily close! We all know kiddos who adore dressing up and can’t wait to scream out their best “TRICK OR TREAT!”. However, for others, the allure of breaking their usual routine isn’t as exciting. Here are some tricks to help ensure this year’s Halloween is a treat!

  1. Keep it simple! Create a route that has a definite beginning and ending, such as around the block or a loop up and down your street. This can help kids understand the expectation of how long the activity will last.
  2. Practice! Decide ahead of time the route you want to take and practice walking (without the trick or treating part) for a few days ahead of time. If possible, try to do it at the same time that you anticipate going trick or treating on Halloween.
  3. Role Play! Have each family member go to their rooms and then have your child practice walking up to each door, knock, say “trick or treat”, and then receive something to put in their bag. If your child will be answering the door, practice that part, too!
  4. Create visuals! Make a visual schedule that helps organize the sequence of events. It might be something that explains what to do at each house. Or maybe a social story that can be read for a few days ahead of Halloween. This one explains that other kids may be coming to your home dressed in costume and ringing your doorbell for candy. This one explains “trick or treating” and “wearing a costume” expectations. Here are some other free Halloween social stories.
  5. Set a timer! Set a timer for how long you expect your child to participate and show it to them along the way.
  6. Costume choice is key! If dressing up as their favorite character isn’t your kid’s “thing”, consider a costume that is just a shirt design or pajamas. Don’t get caught up in masks and accessories. Gotta love the superman cape shirt or skeleton pajamas!
  7. Tolerance training! If your child needs some time to get warmed up to new ideas, consider having them wear their costume for increasing amounts of time for a few days or week leading up to Halloween. If you think the trick or treating route will take about 60 minutes on Halloween, start off with just a few minutes of costume wearing and add a few minutes each day until you are close to that target.
  8. Pairing! When your child is wearing their costume before Halloween, have them engage in their most preferred activities (e.g., playing video games) so the costume is associated with awesomeness.
  9. Reinforcement! Some kids enjoy getting dressed up and participating in the tradition, but if your child isn’t one of them – no worries! Consider providing reinforcement for their participation along the way. This might look like using a token board after each house and then exchanging for a choice of 1 piece of candy. Maybe they can earn 1 minute of screen time for each house they visit.
  10. It’s a team effort! If you have a home-based ABA team, reach out to your program supervisor and ask them how they can help with any of these ideas to support your family.
  11. Trunk or treat! Many towns in New Jersey host “trunk or treat” events which may be easier for your child to participate. The amount of walking is much less since you are usually going around a parking lot, rather than a neighborhood. If you are in NJ, here is a list of trunk or treat events.
  12. Autism Acceptance! Never miss an opportunity to educate those around us about the importance of including kids of all abilities in the fun. Consider handing out a card which explains why your child may not be following the “expected” behaviors. Check this out – easy download!  If you’d rather not get into the reason, consider this one.
  13. Have a backup plan! Don’t be upset if things don’t go perfectly – 365 days is a long time to go in between opportunities to practice! Try to have a backup plan, in case things don’t go smoothly. If you have other young children who need supervision, ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to join your group. Then, if you need to take a break or go home, your other children can keep going as planned.

All in all – enjoy yourself and the kids! And, if this isn’t your year to try, there is always next year!

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