Friday 30 October 2015

Halloween, sensory issues and autism

Halloween is a tricky time for many children with autism and sensory issues. I appreciate it's a tricky time for many other children too, particularly those with allergies, and there's been some great ideas around that (although I think there's still debate to be had over whether handing out purely healthy snacks is the only answer?!)...

I'll admit to being somewhat 'bah humbug' about it all this year. We used to live on a nice quiet estate with young families, where there was rarely any trouble, and it was easy to spot houses who had decorated and therefore shown they were happy to participate. We did it ourselves as you can see below:

Last year though, more people from outside the estate obviously cottoned onto how lucrative the area was in terms of sweeties and free parking. There was a marked increase in Trick-or-Treaters and our candy bowl pretty much ran dry. We were having fun though, and youngest girl was enjoying handing out candy when the doorbell rang while eldest went round the (relatively safe) streets with a friend. Youngest wasn't keen on going out herself - approaching strangers in the dark is never going to be her favourite past-time and even less so if there's a chance they are dressed up. She only likes the blue sweeties anyway, so wild and wacky candy is no treat for her.

It was going swimmingly, if a little tiring after the hundredth doorbell, when all of a sudden a larger group of children, whose parents had stood back at the end of the drive, rushed and pushed and snatched handfuls of sweets from the bowl rather than a polite one or two. Youngest girl dropped the bowl and went to hide at the back of the house for the rest of the evening, ánd I'll admit I was happy to join her.

Going out on the streets herself (with me) doesn't come into it; the question is whether to decorate our new house and answer the door or not. I have a feeling that there may be even more callers in the area where we have moved to, and I'm slightly nervous that there may be more 'tricks' played too. Still, I've bought the candy and we'll carve a pumpkin each tomorrow - not sure they'll beat last years efforts though:

We've already decorated Halloween cupcakes, because that's the funnest bit in my eyes....

It's no wonder there's confusion from our children though when we seemingly do an about turn on safety and say it's fine to go knocking on strangers' doors asking for candy. If staying in, the build-up of excitement and loud screaming of 'trick or treat!' by the door ringers can add to extreme sensory issues and tip your child over the edge. Another issue for me is that the costumes seem to be getting more creative and gory year after year; is it really a good idea to scare our children witless? Is that what fun is all about?!

I'd started writing some tips for preparing any child with difficulties for the challenges of Halloween; then I came across a great post and thought they put it much better than I could! You can read them in Parent Tips: Make It A Better Experience.

To be honest, I think media (particularly YouTubers) has hyped our youngest up so she feels like she should be celebrating Halloween, but she's not as well equipped as others to deal with the whole occasion. Before she got into bed tonight, she informed me she would definitely be having nightmares, 'because, duh, Halloween'.

What are you and yours up to? Are you a Halloween Fan, or will you be hiding out the back?!

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