Social events and community outings can be a stressful time for special needs children, as well as parents. The unpredictability of such events can lead “typical” children to become stressed or frightened, let alone a child who has a learning disability, such as Autism. However, with proper practice and preparation, a potentially overwhelming event, such as trick-or-treating on Halloween, can turn into a fun and safe experience for everyone.
It’s important to recognize what factors during an event like Halloween can be trying for a special needs child. The child has to wear clothes they are not accustomed to, there is the uncertain nature of going door-to-door to strangers’ houses, there may be other people in scary costumes and there is a fatigue factor of staying outdoors for a prolonged period.
In order to address some of these concerns, a “social story” can be used that explains what can be expected at an event such as Halloween, from the sights and sounds, to different feelings that a child may feel as a result of participating in that event. A typical children’s storybook can be used as well, but should be adapted to the child’s specific needs or difficulties, such as if a child is sensitive to lound sounds.
In addition, a “practice run” for Halloween night would be very helpful in order to curb the unpredictability of doing it for the first time. Practicing at the houses of family members, familiar neighbors, or within the security of an apartment building, the night before can serve as a sort of dress rehearsal for the real thing.
Finally, a child should be offered the opportunity to ask for a break if they become tired or overwhelmed on Halloween night. This can be in the form of a verbal request, or if the child is non-verbal in the form of a break card.
Having a chance to talk to your child beforehand, practice and recooperate during a long night of trick-or-treating, can be the difference between a successful and enjoyable night and a tantrum.
There are many events around Los Angeles for celebrating Halloween with your child, such as carnivals, sing-alongs and pumpkin patches.
- Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch: 702 North Doheny Drive, West Hollywood – (310) 276-9827
- Lopez Ranch Pumpkins and Christmas Trees: 800 N. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles – (323) 804-5618
- Fall Harvest Festival: 15200 Rinaldi St., Mission Hills
- Old Town Halloween Celebration: Central Park and One Colorodo Courtyard, Old Town Pasadena – (626) 356-9725
- Safe Haven Trick or Treating: 3800 Homer St., Los Angeles
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