Trick-or-Treat…and autistic children…

Wonderful article…please read it if you have an autistic child…

How to Teach an Autistic Child to Trick-or-Treat

Source: One Place for Special Needs Newsletter, Issue 11, October 2009. Copyright Vickie Ewell
Need to teach your autistic child to trick-or-treat? Learn the best way to introduce Halloween and the steps required to go door-to-door for a fun evening. Autistic children need preparation to deal with the changes that Halloween night brings – not only because of their literal thinking style, but also because the fun and games require them to break some of their rules. It’s confusing for children with autism to knock on the front door, yet not go inside. It’s also confusing to dress up in something different from what they normally wear. While make-believe is often beyond their understanding, if parents take advantage of the child’s interests, break down trick-or-treating into small steps, and use the positive reinforcement automatically built into the activity to motivate, Halloween night can be a pleasurable experience for both parent and child.

Introduce an Autistic Child to Halloween Slowly

Don’t wait until late October to start introducing Halloween. An autistic child won’t be able to adapt that quickly. Begin talking about holiday ideas, activities, and themes several weeks in advance. A good place to start is to go to the public library or bookstore and check out (or buy) several picture books that talk about trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, Halloween parties, and costumes. Books can interest the child in the idea and introduce some of the important words like “trick-or-treat” and “thank you” that he needs to learn.

Another good way to help children understand is to have them watch a few videos of children going door-to-door on Halloween night. Not only does it help to introduce them to the idea of costumes and the reward involved for participation, but a trick-or-treat video can also serve as an important modeling device when it comes time to teach the child how to do the individual steps.

An important preliminary is to walk the neighborhood and carefully plan the route. There is no room for impulsiveness when sensory issues are involved. To avoid possible problems in advance, make note of which houses look scary, which have bright lights, and which make loud noises. If possible, take the child along so he becomes familiar with the streets and houses, but also to get a sense of his reactions to the various lawn and porch decorations. In addition, take the child’s stamina, strength, and endurance into account when planning the evening. Tiredness or becoming overwhelmed can quickly bring on sensory issues.

If the child appears to be interested in Halloween, at least a little bit, try to get him involved in holiday festivities. Carve or decorate pumpkins, download and print out Halloween coloring pages, visit stores that sell Halloween costumes, and decorate the house. Set up a calendar to show him when the activity will take place. Mark the date with a special sticker, set a time to leave the house, and stick with it.

To feel secure, children with autism need strict rules and structure. Going trick-or-treating is a social activity, and will be stressful, even with a lengthy preparatory period. Always be considerate of the stress the child will be under, and do everything possible to make him feel comfortable.

Teach the Child to Say: “Trick-or-Treat” and “Thank You” First

Teaching autistic children social interaction is difficult. Nothing will bring on stress faster than trying to teach a child something new when he doesn’t know how to do the individual steps. Before beginning the actual rules involved in trick-or-treating, it’s a good idea to have the child learn how to say “trick-or-treat” and “thank you” first. After which, it will be easier to show him where they fit into the activity. Using the books and videos that introduced the child to Halloween can help. When a parent comes to that part in the story, have the child repeat the words themselves.

If the child is nonverbal, or simply cannot (or will not) say “trick-or-treat” and/or “thank you,” a parent has a couple of different options. The easiest option is to say it for him on Halloween night. Another option is to create a sign he can hold up at the appropriate moment. If “trick-or-treat” is placed on one side of the sign, “thank you” can be placed on the other, and the child taught to flip the sign, as needed. A parent can also write the words on a piece of paper with a black marker. After cutting out the words, tape “trick-or-treat” to the front of the child’s costume or shirt, and “thank you” on his back.

How to Break Trick-or-Treating Down Into Simple Steps

To teach an autistic child to go trick-or-treating, parents need to break the game down into a more simplified form. Most behavioral therapies use small steps, and lots of repetition, but parents don’t always understand how to do that. For neurotypical children, learning comes through observation and understanding. Generally, they can visualize an activity as a whole, and learn several steps simultaneously.

But children with autism learn in a different way. They need to focus on one small part at a time, and then put those individual steps into a specific order to perform a given activity. For example, going trick-or-treating breaks down into the following steps:

  1. Get dressed to go trick-or-treating.
  2. Leave the house at the set time.
  3. Walk down the street with family, and stay with them at all times.
  4. Look for houses that have a porch light on. Those houses are playing the game.
  5. Walk up to the door.
  6. Ring the doorbell, if it works, and knock if it does not.
  7. Wait, until someone opens the door.
  8. When the door opens, say “trick-or-treat.”
  9. Hold out candy container.
  10. Someone will put candy into the container, or ask them to take a piece themselves.
  11. If they are asked to do it themselves, take one piece only.
  12. Say “thank you.”
  13. Turn, and leave, going back to parents.
  14. Look for the next house that has a porch light on, and repeat.

There are many steps to remember, which is why most autistic kids cannot trick-or-treat without first being taught. Even with weeks of repetition, parents can still expect to do a lot of prompting Halloween night. While social stories and homemade picture books can give autistic children a good understanding of what is going on, parents still have to zero in on one small step at a time before the process begins to become automatic.

Following the Rules for Halloween Night

Once the child has mastered the words “trick-or-treat” and “thank you,” (or the parent has decided he is not capable of learning them this year), the best way to teach him about the steps involved is to start at the beginning. For most parents, that means having their child pick out a costume that won’t set off sensory issues, or make one out of his current clothing, and get used to wearing it. Some children with autism, however, will totally reject that idea, even though they are interested in going trick-or-treating. Follow the child’s lead. If he is not interested in dressing up, don’t make him. Just go on to the next step.

Practicing each step at home, or around the neighborhood, weeks before Halloween night is best. That gives the child plenty of time to adjust to, and learn the new activity. If he is on a special diet, make sure that one of the rules is that he doesn’t eat anything mom or dad doesn’t okay. Practice leaving the house at the set time, walking the neighborhood, and looking for porch lights that are on. Have the child practice ringing the doorbell or knocking on the front door at home, and then waiting patiently for it to open. As the child learns each step, go on to the next one.

Have siblings practice giving out candy, or switch the process around, and let the autistic child have a turn to pass out the goodies. Sometimes, being on the giving end can teach him just as much, if not more, about how the game is played. Remember to praise him, even for partial successes. Getting the child involved in Halloween isn’t about demanding perfection. It’s about teaching him enough that he becomes comfortable with the whole holiday game and enjoys himself. Above all, be patient. Since Halloween comes only one day a year, It can take several years before an autistic child learns the full routine.


Elisabetta Tonini

13 Comments On This Topic
  1. Click here!
    on Apr 23rd at 04:38

    What’s up i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anywhere, when i read this paragraph i thought i could also create comment due to this brilliant piece of writing.

  2. webpage
    on Mag 25th at 23:31

    When someone writes an piece of writing he/she maintains the image of a user in his/her brain
    that how a user can be aware of it. So that’s why this piece of writing is amazing. Thanks!

  3. education policies
    on Giu 7th at 07:21

    I visited various sites however the audio quality
    for audio songs present at this web site is genuinely fabulous.

  4. Anti Spam Lotus Notes
    on Giu 28th at 23:35

    Excellent weblog here! Also your website
    so much up very fast! What host are you the use of? Can I get your
    affiliate link in your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly
    as yours lol

  5. want to Lose weight fast
    on Giu 30th at 09:52

    I am genuinely pleased to glance at this blog posts which
    carries plenty of useful information, thanks for providing these statistics.

  6. Tanisha
    on Lug 7th at 06:14

    Thanks for finally talking about > Trick-or-Treat

  7. Redunovin
    on Lug 7th at 08:12

    Howdy! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment
    form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having problems finding one?

    Thanks a lot!

  8. streetdirectory
    on Lug 7th at 10:19

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the highest quality websites on the web.
    I will highly recommend this website!streetdirectory

  9. stag do tshirts
    on Lug 7th at 20:07

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit
    and sources back to your weblog? My blog is in the exact same niche as yours and my
    visitors would truly benefit from some of the information you present here.

    Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks a lot!

  10. Premium Raspberry Ketone
    on Lug 14th at 09:19

    I tend not to leave many remarks, however i
    did a few searching and wound up here Trick-or-Treat

  11. learn singing online free
    on Lug 15th at 08:22

    What’s up, all is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s genuinely excellent, keep up writing.

  12. Clicking Here
    on Lug 23rd at 06:00

    I benefit from reading your website. Thanks!

  13. best noise cancelling headphones
    on Lug 25th at 00:24

    In more distinct terms, that is completed to facilitate the entry of
    good alterations into any aspect of your daily life. When answering an issue, repeat the dilemma
    or possibly a few important terms on the concern or rephrase it just before presenting your reply.

Lascia un commento

Il tuo indirizzo email non sarà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *