My wife belongs to the Baltimore Mommies, a group for mothers here locally that’s associated with a national network. Somehow, she got roped into doing a Trunk or Treat thing, which I’m perfectly okay with… because it seems to me to be a good way to do trick-or-treat for a child with Autism.
But of course, it also highlights things to consider with the mixing of the two things.
So, for starters, let me just correct something that might be a misconception. I don’t hate Halloween. I think it’s a stupid holiday for anyone beyond children, and I’m perfectly content to live in the middle of an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where they don’t celebrate it. For small children – like R and the Monster – it can be perfectly fun and I’m content to encourage them to enjoy it.
So, the Mommies decided to do a Trunk or Treat around the corner from here at a shopping center, and the wife took the minivan to go set up to hand out candy. I brought the kids about an hour later – children of parents who did trunks are allowed to come a half-hour early – and we tried to do the circuit.
Some hints for when you’re trick-or-treating with a child with Autism, or when one comes to your door:
- Scripting is your friend. I didn’t manage to show the Monster some social stories about what he’s expected to be doing, but we spent the car ride over to the event going over “Trick or Treat”.
- Be ready to remind those handing out candy that your child has Autism and that there’s communication issues. The Monster, for instance, doesn’t necessarily remember the scripting when there’s all kinds of stimulus distracting him.
- Don’t do things that remove comfort from the child. My biggest mistake is that we ended up going back and forth a few times past the wife’s van, and he really just wanted to spend time with the wife (instead of me).
- Be flexible about the plan for the day. The goal is the kid’s enjoyment of the event, not your seeing how much candy they can get.
- Be realistic about the child’s abilities. The Monster can probably tolerate about a half hour of trick-or-treating, maybe longer if he’s got a concrete reward dangled before him at an ongoing basis. I wouldn’t try to do a real trick-or-treat run with him, though, beyond a housing development or a trunk-or-treat.
- Don’t be a jerk. (More for folks at the door.) Yes, the Monster is six. But seriously, if you’re in a reflective mask, and you’re trying to coax a “Trick or Treat” out of him, while holding a balloon pump and a bowl of candy… he’s overwhelmed. He’s not going to know what to be doing or saying, or where his attention should be. And when his parent tells you that he has Autism, don’t insist that he has to say something. No, he doesn’t, and it just makes his overprotective, supposedly NT father want to kick you hard in the nuts.
My wife’s still talking about doing some trick-or-treat on Friday, and we’ll see how that one develops…