With fall festivities in full force and Halloween rapidly approaching there is one thing that so many kiddos have on their minds: Trick-or-Treat! As a child, I remember anxiously awaiting Halloween each and every year. Which costume would I choose? How much candy would I get? What design would I carve on my pumpkin? It was an exciting and eventful time of year!
Yet, I also remember some of the scary parts of Halloween – the haunted houses, the strobe lights on my neighbor’s porch, the eerie music, and all of the strange creatures wandering the streets. As exciting as Halloween can be, it is understandable that the commotion and excitement can also result in some anxiety and overstimulation. So, how can we best prepare our kiddos ahead of time to ensure that they have the best Halloween experience?
One of the best ways to prepare for all of the novel and strange experiences that Halloween encompasses is to read about it, look at pictures, and watch movies/videos! The more that kids are able to prepare for what they will see, hear, and do, the better. One fun way to review what happens during Halloween is to read social stories. Social stories are short stories that aid children’s understanding of routines and rules and outline expectations and social norms. More information about social stories and how to create them can be found on our previous blog post: What Are Social Stories and How Can I Use Them To Support My Child. When it comes to Halloween, social stories are a great way to review the routine of trick-or-treating (e.g. put on costume, pick out bag, walk to door, knock, say “trick-or-treat,” take one piece of candy, say thank you) and the expectations of trick-or-treating (e.g. even if I don’t like the candy, I should say “thank you”). Some of my favorite trick-or-treating social stories can be found at the following links:
Trick-or-Treating 1: TPT Erin Blecki, 2014 – https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Halloween-Social-Stories-1526136
Trick-or-Treating 2: Positively Autism, 2010 – http://www.positivelyautism.com/free/unit_halloween.html?m=1
Trick-or-Treating 3: TPT L. McKnight, 2013 – https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Trick-or-Treat-Social-Story-1511589?m=1
In addition to social stories, the use of Halloween books and movies can be helpful in preparing for Trick-or-Treating. Use these tools as an opportunity to talk with your child about the costumes, different types of candy, and the many different situations that may arise.
2. Learning Halloween Vocabulary
Another way to make our kids successful at Halloween is to ensure that they have the vocabulary to participate! Particularly for kids who use augmentative and alternative communication methods such as an iPad, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), or sign language, it is important to introduce more fringe vocabulary relevant to the holiday. Fringe vocabulary is vocabulary that is related to a specific environment or topic. For Halloween, some fringe vocabulary may include words such as: monster, costume, candy, trick or treat, etc. For communication device users, you can program in new vocabulary on a “Halloween” page. You can even create a simple board with the Halloween vocabulary on it to take door to door with you while you trick or treat. These specialized vocabulary pages enable kids to request and comment based on the events around them. Maybe they want to say that they see a scary costume, or that the like the ghost in the yard. A board just like the one shown below can make that possible!
- A full version of this low-tech board can be found at the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2Ji_wPbVNNVZ0EzQTBjd0VJNkU/view?usp=sharing.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice!
A final way to make sure that your child is fully prepared to participate in Halloween is to provide them with plenty of opportunities to practice in a safe environment. After reading through social stories, watching video clips and reading books to introduce the routines and expectations of Halloween, you can set up a rehearsal for Trick-or-Treating right in the comfort of your home! Have your child dress up in costume and put little bowls of treats in different rooms of the house. You can practice walking from room to room with your child, knocking on the doors and stating, “Trick-or-Treat,” before picking one treat out of the bowl. You can also look into local events such as safe trick or treats and haunted houses. These opportunities serve as safe rehearsals for your child before the big night; after all, practice makes perfect!
So before deciding that Halloween will be too scary or exciting this year, try out some of these tips and tricks. Happy Halloween!
By: Kristen Siskovich, MA, CF-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist