Halloween is arguably the second best day of the year after Christmas for most children. A huge amount of candies, people in costumes, special activities at school and "Trick or Treat" with all their fun can also cause sensory overload for children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorders. It impedes an individual's ability to focus and control impulses. Children with ASD are often highly sensitive to noise and touch and usually thrive in a routine environment.
Halloween, as a special and exciting day in North America, can become more of a challenge for individuals with ADHD, autism, developmental delays and sensory processing disorders. It can also causes more stress and worry to parents of a child with ADHD because managing the excitement, the sensory overload and impulsivity can be quite difficult.
There are ways to manage all this and make Halloween a fun and memorable day for the whole family! The key is to prepare your child as much as possible for what to expect.
Strategies for a Successful Halloween:
Visual Schedules: Create a visual timeline of the day's events to reduce anxiety and provide a clear understanding of what to expect. Ask your child's teacher for the day's schedule to help prepare for the full day.
Social Stories: Explain the expectations and social norms related to Halloween through simple stories that help individuals with ADHD and Autism understand what is expected of them.
Token Systems: Use a token system to reinforce positive behaviors throughout the day. Tokens are exchanged for small rewards which provide motivation to manage impulses or expectations in the social stories.
Sensory Support: Develop sensory tools and strategies to help your child with ADHD, ASD and sensory processing disorder cope with the sensory aspects of costumes, decorations, and the Halloween environment. For noise reduction, you can try noise cancelling headphones and products such as Flare Calmer ear plugs for kids (we are not affiliated with this product). These tools may not be suitable for every child, so have a go at testing them out beforehand.
Emotional Regulation: This skill is better taught a few weeks and months in advance. Teaching self-regulation strategies is best when the child is not in a heightened situation. Parents can pre-teach with their child at home. Techniques like deep breathing exercises and grounding techniques learned ahead of time will help to manage emotions during Halloween.
Early Warning Signs: Be aware of the signs that your child shows when they are starting to get heightened or overwhelmed. Finish the task as soon as possible and re-direct them to a calm and less-stimulating environment. This can help your child (and you) to have a successful experience and avoid huge meltdowns.
By incorporating all of the above strategies, Halloween can be a very enjoyable day for you and your child with.
We are all different individuals and a strategy that would work for one person might not be effective for somebody else. If you have tried all of the above and feel like nothing is working, you can book a free 30-minute Discovery Call to further discuss what would work for you and your child.