Helpful Halloween Tips for Children with Special Needs
Preparing early for the holiday can make or break the event. Gather books, create social stories, look at pictures, and even practice a trial run to prepare for the experience. Books that explain what the holiday is about are helpful, and social stories can help provide a child with expectations for their own experience. Preparing early will also provide time to practice and gain confidence with different social exchanges that can be expected during trick-or-treating. Once everyone is feeling very confident, try a trial run of the day by getting dressed up and visiting the neighbors (with their cooperation, of course).
Carving pumpkins can provide an amazing sensory experience with the different squishy and slimy textures on the inside, however there are other fun options that provide for a safe, knife-free pumpkin experience. Instead of traditional pumpkin carving, try painting and decorating pumpkins instead! This fun alternative allows for a full range of creativity, and keeps little hands away from sharp tools. Plus, painting a pumpkin may be an easier task for a child with fine motor challenges. Check out these crafty designs from CraftBerryBush.com, InLieuofPreschool.com, PlaySational.com, and TheHappierHomemaker.com. (Links to their websites can be found at the bottom of the article.)
Create an Emergency Kit.
Be prepared, and create a mini-emergency kit that can fit in a child’s trick-or-treat basket. In a quart-sized Zip-lock bag, gather a flashlight, identification card, whistle, small snack, calming object, and a small map of the neighborhood. This small kit can be hidden in a candy bag, and will come in handy in case of an emergency.
Designate a Walking Buddy.
Make sure to find a walking buddy! Finding a trick-or-treating veteran who is familiar with the neighborhood or who has experience trick-or-treating to partner with is another great option for any kid who is having hesitations about the holiday. Having a friend to walk with can provide an extra boost of confidence without feeling like a parent is hovering too much!
Do a Trial Run.
Practicing a run-through can also catch any last minute costume alterations that need to be made. Is the costume comfortable? Is it functional? Does the child feel confident wearing the costume? Remember, wearing the costume at home, and wearing the costume out in public can be two entirely different experiences. It’s more important for the child to enjoy the experience, than to struggle through the day with the perfect costume. Having a back-up costume that is simple and easy to wear is also a great idea. There are many great costume ideas that can be created using everyday clothes, which may be more comfortable for the child should he/she need a last minute change. Check out a few of these costume ideas at RealSimple.com:
Depending on where trick-or-treating takes place, reflectors may be an option. If the area is dark, and eloping is a possibly, reflectors can help spot a child that has strayed off the path. Reflectors can be easily sewn into costumes, and can even add to the design! (Maybe they are extra lights added to a cool robot costume!) Glow sticks are also a great alternative that will look cool with any costume, however they shouldn’t be used if there’s a possibility the child may put them in their mouth due to high toxicity.
Discuss Candy Management.
For children with diet restrictions, trick-or-treating can be an obstacle. Frankly, for any parent trick-or-treating can be stressful, as children are encouraged to binge-eat mounds of sugary candy. Prepare ahead of time for how the candy will be used. Eating it all in one sitting or whenever a child wants does not have to be an option. Use an old fish bowl or an old canning jar as a reward jar to keep the candy in. Discuss with the child before hand when and how the candy can be earned throughout the week (i.e. Three pieces after homework is completed, two pieces after each chore completed, or two pieces after finishing all of dinner, etc.). This alternative option still allows for the child to keep all their candy, but prevents them from consuming it all at once. Another great option is to donate the Halloween treats. Many different organizations offer buy back programs where children can bring in their candy as a donation, and receive money in return. There are several great causes available that offer buy back programs: go to www.halloweencandybuyback.com to find a buyback near you, or check out SanDiegoFamily.com for more way to give back Halloween candy: https://www.sandiegofamily.com/things-to-do/seasonal-happenings/1481-12-ways-to-give-back-halloween-candy
Create a Back-up Plan.
Create a back-up plan if trick-or-treating does not go as planned. Handing out candy at the house or attending a small Halloween party are both great alternatives if trick-or-treating ends early. Handing out candy at the door is a great way to still participate in the festivities while getting social interaction as well.
Pumpkin pictures provided by:
Vanessa Lemminger M.A., LMFT 53937
Marital and Family Therapist
© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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