Does anybody else feel like Halloween has become the new Christmas?
People are going all out – the costumes, the elaborately decorated homes, the ever-popular haunted hikes. Back when I was in elementary school and we had our costume parade (remember those), I don’t recall anyone wearing head-to-toe purchased costumes.
And have you visited the Halloween store? It’s busier than Costco on a Saturday morning.
I’m not into the Halloween scene but I do enjoy driving around to see the decorations and I love to see all the kids in their costumes on Halloween night.
What are your Halloween traditions? Do you enjoy carving pumpkins? Do you give out the best treats (which are full-size bars in case you were wondering 🤣)? Do you dress up too?
There is this window of time when Halloween can be a lot of fun for families – that time between when they are excited to dress up and go trick or treating until they reach the age where they just wear a mask and would not be caught dead being seen in public with you.
When Tyson was a toddler we managed okay for the most part by pulling Tyson in a wagon but by the time Tyson reached age three, Halloween turned into a bit of a struggle.
Unlike many kids with sensory issues, Tyson had no issues wearing a costume, however he did not get the concept of Halloween nor did he have any interest in the treats neighbours were giving out.
He was overwhelmed by the lights and scared to death of many of the decorations.
After a short amount of time, Tyson was overwhelmed by the experience and needed to go home.
By the age of six or seven, Tyson was more willing to trick or treat but still didn’t quite get the concept. Whenever someone answered the door he would try to enter their house, especially if he could see or hear their TV.
And if they had a visible DVD collection, it was game over. He was coming on in and making himself comfortable.
Tyson also had struggles with holding the bag or more specifically opening the bag to allow treats to be dropped in.
Our main challenge however was managing the expectations versus the realities of Halloween with two very different children.
Letting go of what Halloween should look like and realizing that what works for one child does not work for another helped a great deal.
Remember parents Halloween is a rare celebration that requires very little effort from us with the promise of lots of fun for all.
For several years I carried a sign for Tyson that said ‘trick or treat’ because he could not verbally say it. He had no interest in carrying the sign himself.
Another year I got on the ‘blue pumpkin’ bandwagon as this was available to purchase in stores as a symbol of autism. The actual result of carrying around this blue pumpkin was having a lot of people (strangers) ask what it symbolized which was then followed by an awkward silence.
In our experience, all people have been extremely kind and do not question when your child does not say trick or treat or thank you.
They do not need to know that your child is autistic in the 30-second face-to-face exchange on Halloween night unless your goal is to bring autism awareness to your neighbourhood.
I say, do what makes you and your child happy.
Now that Lincoln has grown out of Halloween, Tyson is enjoying it – go figure!
For the past two years, Tyson has played an active role in picking out his costume. This has been a huge step forward for him in his ability to communicate his wishes.
He doesn’t try to enter people’s homes anymore, for the most part, well unless they got a spectacular DVD collection that he can see from the door.
And we have made it completely around our block – he doesn’t do every house but is happy enough to knock on most doors. Last year he was a little overenthusiastic with some doorbells.
What has changed?
Time and a little bit of practice.
For many kids on the spectrum, things outside the normal routine can be challenging. Preparing ahead of time for change can be helpful.
Here are some tips that have helped our family have a successful Halloween:
1. My first piece of advice is to always set realistic expectations. Planning to visit all houses on your street may not be reasonable.
2. And to follow up on that, know your limits. If you can see that things are starting to go downhill, end the night then and there, instead of pushing on.
3. For families with more than one child, having a backup plan can be equally as important. If you have other children that will want to continue trick or treating when your autistic child has tapped out, have a plan for this. It can be very disappointing for the other child(ren) if Halloween is over after 3 houses. This may mean arranging for your children to go with their friends’ parents.
4. If the idea of trick or treating in your neighbourhood is too overwhelming or too dangerous for those kiddos that like to run, perhaps plan to visit family and friends. Going somewhere familiar may be more accepting to your child and easier on you, the parent.
5. My kind hearted neighbour Madonna suggested to me one year for my little picky eater, to place treats Tyson did like at a few of my neighbour’s houses. Tyson doesn’t eat any of the typical chips, cheesies, chocolate or candies given out on Halloween night so receiving a treat that he did like might be just the thing to entice him to continue.
6. If your child doesn’t want to dress up, who cares. If anyone questions why the child is not in costume, you can tell them they are a disgruntled teenager. By the time they figure out what this really means (no costume), you would have already moved on to the next house.
7. Or if trick or treating is not something that your child would ever be willing to do, consider splitting the night with your hubby so you both get to enjoy some of the fun. Or if you only have one child, consider dressing up yourself to give out treats and make that your Halloween tradition.
8. Check out Halloween events in your neighbourhood that may be suitable to the needs of your child to get your Halloween fill. Some community groups are doing trick or trunk events and kid friendly haunted walks.
9. And if all else fails and none of the above suggestions work for your family, turn off the lights, help yourself to some of those Halloween treats (why are those mini bars just soooo tempting?) and call it a night.
For those reading this that may not understand the struggles many children may face with this holiday, I have some advice for you. If you are unsure what to do if a child or teen knocks on your door with no costume or doesn’t say thank you, it’s simple, just give them a treat.
It’s one night, it may have taken a lot for them to leave the house and participate, so just be kind.
Stay tuned for Tyson’s Halloween costume this year!! Shocker – it’s not a ninja turtle.
Happy Halloween Everyone 🎃
One thought on “Trick or Treat”
Great read Amanda, your a wonderful mom, Happy Halloween to you and the boys
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