Making Halloween less tricky for children with autism

Educators say awareness is key

(ABC27) – Walk into a classroom at The Vista School in October, and you’ll see the typical Halloween decor. But unlike other schools, these aren’t just decorations; they’re subtle and purposeful lessons.

“As educators and as parents, we’re trying to provide all those opportunities that a typical child gets for our kids as well,” Special Education teacher Renee Spangler said.

The Vista School serves children with autism, who can have a tough time with certain Halloween practices. The school’s Chief Operating Officer, Jim Bouder, has first-hand experience; his son has autism.

“Every other day of the year if we’d go to somebody’s home, knock on the door and open it, we’d go in the house,” Bouder said. “If somebody offers him something, he’s going to take it. But Halloween’s different.”

“When the doors were open, sometimes he’d try to dart in the house,” Bouder continued. “Other times, when individuals would offer him candy by holding a bowl out, he’d see the candy and he didn’t know any better but to grab a handful of the candy.”

That’s why Bouder recommends parents practice trick or treat behavior at home. At The Vista School, everyone dresses up and goes through the motions to prepare students. Certain staples are also phased in throughout the year.

“We try to introduce things slowly and repeatedly so they don’t get overwhelmed,” Spangler said. “So the pumpkins you saw today, we might introduce that once a week. And the witch hats, we do an activity every single day.”

Even if your child doesn’t have autism, there are ways you can help. Educators say awareness is key. For example, some children with autism have trouble with words, making it difficult for them to say “trick or treat,” or even “thank you.”

“Just understand that the families are having a hard time too,” Bouder said. “And they’re just trying to help their child enjoy trick or treat night the same way any other child would.”

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