First and foremost, we are all human. Every individual with autism, a developmental disability, or mental health diagnosis is more than their label. The label that is given to them based on behaviors observed during an assessment. A label which is then used to explain why those behaviors occur. This is a human error. How can one get a label based on their behaviors, but then those behaviors be attributed back to that very same label. How is it that we say…”Oh he can’t pay attention….he must have ADHD.” and in the next breathe say, “He has ADHD, that’s why he can’t pay attention.”? Let’s stop defining people by their labels. By labels that are given to them…sometimes incorrect labels – because let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes. Let’s look at each person’s individual differences.
I always refer to autism more as a color wheel than a spectrum. A spectrum implies that there are the severe and the less severe. But that simply is not the case. One child may be great at social communication, but struggle with reading comprehension. Another may be great at reading comprehension, but struggle with social communication. One may be unable to talk, but can draw beautifully. Another may thrive at independent daily routines, but struggle with intense behaviors that interfere with their independence.
Let’s look more at the individual and their unique qualities. What are their unique strengths? Their unique needs? Let’s truly look at the individual and strive to create an environment that best meets their needs and builds on their strengths.
Halloween is quickly approaching! It is a great time to make memories and do family activities; but, it can be a challenging time for some children with autism. Use these tips to help your family have a fun and successful Halloween!
1. Prepare your child – Prior to trick or treating, spend time watching videos of trick-or-treating or create a visual story for your child. Use pictures, drawings or even read a book of what Halloween may be like.
2. Try on costumes ahead of time so that your child knows what to expect. This also allows time to make sure the costume fits and is comfortable. If your child can not tolerate the costume fabric, consider just a Halloween themed t shirt like one with a pumpkin or a Halloween graphic shirt. Ask your neighbor’s to participate in your child’s preparation. Practice going to a neighbor’s house and ringing the doorbell to receive candy.
3. Safety – Large crowds can be very difficult for children with autism therefore keeping your child safe is the number one priority. Use flashlights or glow sticks to know where your child is at all times.
4. Make Halloween fun not scary- Try going to familiar places that your child may be comfortable with already, such as family or friends homes, or the schools fall festival. Consider avoiding homes with a lot of lights and frightening decorations. Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal or toy? Allow them to bring it with them for comfort.
5. Keep it short and simple. Your child may not be able to go to all the houses in the neighborhood. Maybe just 1 house is a win. It’s okay – don’t try to force more if you see signs that your child is becoming overwhelmed.
What other strategies help you to have a successful Halloween?