4 Ways to Support Families of Kids on the Autism Spectrum at Halloween
One of my favorite while simultaneously most-dreaded holidays is soon to be upon us.
Halloween can be hard for a child on the autism spectrum, which means Halloween can also be hard for their parents and the unsung heroes of the family — their siblings.
My daughter Audrey is amazing. She is sweet, kind and practices the most inspiring sense of perseverance. She also happens to have autism.
Audrey absolutely loves Halloween. She loves dressing up. She loves going trick-or-treating. She loves spending time with her family adventuring around the neighborhood.
However, Halloween is candy and a can of worms for us. Here are a few reasons why, and some helpful suggestions to help us help her (and all the other amazing kiddos on the spectrum) fully enjoy this holiday.
1. Kids with autism sometimes struggle with communication.
While Audrey has her words, she often has anxiety related to talking to strangers. It has taken years of practice for her to master the phrase “trick or treat” while also mustering up the courage to use it.
If you encounter a child who doesn’t use the appropriate catch phrase, doesn’t say thank you, doesn’t look you in the eyes, whatever the behavior or lack of communication may be — please practice kindness. They aren’t being rude. They’re in fact being brave and venturing outside of their comfort zone in an overstimulating environment.
2. We take much longer to trick or treat than your average family.
We have to practice safety in walking, work through behavior challenges and adjust to triggers we often can’t anticipate. So please practice patience with us. We know we may be holding up the line or event a bit. We are doing the very best we can to allow our child to have the same experiences as yours.
3. If you see us struggling, if you see our child struggling, please do not stare or make hateful comments.
Halloween and all the festivities that come with it can be extremely challenging for children on the spectrum. Their routines are changed, new expectations are put in place and overstimulation is extremely hard to avoid. This can lead to some very problematic behaviors happening in very public places.
4. Ask how you can help.
Families like mine need a whole lot less judgment and a lot more joining in as a community. Offer to assist with my other kids. Talk to your children about autism and how they can help be a friend to those on the spectrum. I’ve said it once before, but I can’t reiterate it enough.
Be kind. Help us through our hard times. Every child deserves to experience the magic of holidays, Audrey and those with autism included.