BYS knows Halloween can be a scary time of year for some children. To help you prepare for the upcoming holiday, we’ve prepared strategies to make Halloween an enjoyable holiday for everyone.
Use a Social Story
Social stories are individualized short stories that describe a social situation or event that your child may encounter or has had difficulties coping with in the past. These social stories are used to proactively address anxiety or concerns with facing unexpected events. Social stories can be customized to individual learning styles to be used for teaching skills through the use of precise and sequential information about everyday events.
Personalizing stories with photographs of familiar places, people, and things can make creating social stories a family affair! There are even free apps available for easy access to creating social stories and visuals. Click here for a sample app.
Below is an example of both a written and visual social story that can be used.
The use of social stories can be beneficial when preparing for the sights, sounds and routines of Halloween.
My name is _____________________.
Soon it will be Halloween.
Lots of people like to dress up in costumes for Halloween. They dress up because it is fun.
When children wear costumes they are still the same child inside the costume. The costume may look different but really the child wearing the costume is the same child.
There are many costumes that are soft and feel good to wear. I can wear a costume, too! I may wear a ________________ costume.
On Halloween, different kids like to do different things. Some kids like to go to a party. Some kids like to go trick-or-treating. On Halloween I want to_____________________________________________.
Halloween is exciting so sometimes there can be too much excitement. When I feel too excited I can take a break or _____________________________________________________.
It is important to stay safe on Halloween. Kids need to stay with an adult. Kids need to always stay on the sidewalk and wait until an adult can take them across the street. I will only go to houses where the light is on and the house looks friendly.
I may get lots of treats on Halloween. I can eat ______ number of treats on Halloween. I will save the rest for later. My ________________ will let me know when I can eat my treat.
I will have fun on Halloween!
Make a plan
- Making a plan will help reduce fears because your child will know what to expect and how to respond to his/her environment. The plan should include understanding is going to happen (a social story can help) and appropriate ways to react if they are feeling overwhelmed or over stimulated. For example, making it a plan to allow siblings go up to the door first while your child stays behind to see that it is safe, quiet, and/or not scary, and if your child does start to feel upset, they know they can ask for a break.
- If your child has a certain fear, or worry about trick or treating (dogs in the neighborhood, too many people etc.), make a game plan of what you will do in that situation. You could walk back home, avoid certain houses, or take a break on the sidewalk before continuing to trick-or-treat.
- Start with a dry run. Walk around the neighborhood and create a route of where you will walk for the day of trick-or-treating. This can help a child better understand exactly what is expected and where they will be going.
- You can discuss expected and unexpected behaviors for going house to house. Examples of expected behaviors are saying “trick-or-treat!”, saying “thank you” when given a piece of candy, walking from house to house and staying with your caregiver. Examples of unexpected behaviors are saying “give me candy!”, running from house to house, and leaving your caregiver.
- Have your child try on their costume beforehand. They should develop a preference for their costume, which will help better prepare them for the real event.
- Some children may not be ready to walk house to house, in which they can walk to a few selected houses (grandparents, friend’s homes), or stay home and help pass out candy
- Exposure and practice
- Plan for the unknown. If a child has a tantrum during the event, plan for strategies that may help them through their difficult time. You may need to come prepared with music, iPad, or other preferred items.
Identify appropriate coping strategies / Practice self-regulated strategies ahead of time
- Have your child practice calming strategies ahead of time, in case they need to utilize these skills during the real event.
- Examples of self- regulated strategies are deep breathing, counting to 10, taking a break, and deep pressure. These tools are helpful in calming a child’s body.
- Be prepared to know and recognize potential triggers before your child has had a chance to act.
- Find sensory friendly streets.
- Find sensory friendly places – BYS truck or treat!