This year for Halloween, Elizabeth is simply going to pass out the candy with me or perhaps with a friend by her side. She is not dressing up for the event, at least not at the time of this writing. This is not to say she won’t change her mind and end up dressed and passing out candy.
But in any event, her prime trick or treating years are behind her. Which is kind of a shame because she is truly the Zen master in the art of trick or treating. She simply loves it all. From the costume, to the hunt, to the haul. Well… I should say, after a few years in, she loved it. But not in the early years…
The first few years she was deep in her sensory issues, so she cried and looked so fearful as I put her in her costume. And yes, I still put her in it.
Tears and all.
Because I did not know any better. I did not know what else to do.
So the whole night was pretty much stressful from start to finish. And it was an early finish you can be sure.
Then came the later years. When she wanted to go, but could not really talk. So the dressing part was easy.
It was the trick or treating part that was hard. Because she could not talk.
So I talked for her.
I talked about her in third person…”Elizabeth would love this or I am sure Elizabeth is happy to see you too.”
It was not fun to write about it now let alone, do it then.
I did it because, again, I did not know what else to do.
Finally came the last few years. And it is here that I knew what to do.
And it was pretty great and continued to be so until we encouraged her, at age 18, to hand up her pillowcase and join the adults to help pass out treats.
So with a couple of decades of experiences behind me, I wanted to offer up my thoughts on how to have the best success for Halloween. Hope some of them help you.
1. TRY SOCIAL STORIES!
If you cannot find one to fit your needs for Halloween, write one.
In it you can put down all the things you will be doing, what your child will see, smell and hear.
And you can put down in it, the things you want them to do through the night. Like, take only one piece of candy. Because do you really want to have to say “take only one, honey” all night? Sharing and talking about expectations really helps, even the youngest ones. Again, my opinion here.
2. THERE ARE EASY WAYS TO HELP YOUR CHILD SUCCEED
What I wish I would have done instead of talking in third person is help others understand Elizabeth’s needs. Meaning, letting others know that she struggled with talking would have been quite helpful, then they would not have stared at her waiting for a response.
This goes for any of the other issues special needs children face. Such as eye contact, conversations, waiting for the treats, whatever it is, I feel that helping others understand simply makes it so much easier.
Making up a card that helps people understand your child is something that would help them be successful. The words are there and you can hand them as you go.
An example of the card I would have used is:
“My child cannot talk well, please hand the candy to her. Thank you so much“
It can be anything you need people to know as they see your child.
It is an easy way of advocating for your child.
3. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL TO CALL IT A SUCCESS
Sometimes it is so easy to look at what everyone else is doing and compare. May I offer….DON’T!!
They are not living your life, nor do they have a child who has your child’s special needs. So please allow yourself to call the holiday a success, even if it is by no other standard than your own. Because only you know how hard your child worked that night. Only you know that they did something new this year.
If you got to three houses and everyone had fun, it is a success.
(The fact that Elizabeth did not cry at all one year, made us feel successful.)
It is all about perspective.
I offer out to be proud of yourselves for continuing to offer life’s experiences to your child when sometimes it would be easier to take a pass.
My hope is that you and yours will enjoy the holiday and make memories that are yours to keep forever.
I wish everyone a peaceful month,
Michele Gianetti is a mom of three, registered nurse, and published author (“I Believe in You,” “Emily’s Sister”). She writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.