Halloween can be a fun and exciting time for many children but for children the spectrum it may cause a lot of anxiety. Having to wear a costume or seeing others in costumes can be a strange experience and can be scary if children are not prepared. Likely with a little preparation you can make Halloween fun and reduce stress for yourself and your kiddo. One way to do this is in the weeks approaching Halloween have your child practice tolerating wearing his or her costume for short periods of time. Even if it’s just for a couple seconds at first, you can work up to longer periods of time. Be sure to have a strong reinforcer ready and provide praise such as “Great job wearing your costume. You look awesome!” Edibles work great because you can fade them easily and they will be the same reinforcer that the child gets when they wear their costume on the night of Halloween. Additionally, you or siblings could wear costumes around the house so that way the child may become more desensitized to them.
Another way to reduce anxiety is to practice the routine of knocking on the door, saying trick-or-treat, and getting candy. You can practice in your own home using other family members for help or if you have a neighbor who’s willing you can also work on approaching a different house. Or you can work on going on walks around the neighborhood to practice holding hands and prepare the child for the setting. Make sure that this experience is a positive one and bring reinforcers and you may be less likely to see any negative behaviors when trick or treating. Remember that this is a novel routine and they will probably need a lot of prompting from you to have success. Don’t forget to pair a lot of praise for this too as this can be a challenging step.
On the night of you may want to take additional steps to set your child up for success. Waiting until you get home to eat the candy may be a big challenge. Bring some candy from home with you that you know is safe that the child can have after he/she knocks on the door or maybe a small toy that he can hold after he/she completes the routine. This will provide immediate reinforcement and reduce frustration over waiting. We wish you a safe and happy Halloween!