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Presented by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum in association with the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center (SMart Center). This 40 minute FREE webinar will give you all the tips that you need for a comfortable and “communicatively” successful halloween!
Halloween is a great opportunity for children with Selective Mutism to practice their social communication skills! Situations such as Trick-or-Treating and parties with friends and family give ample opportunity to engage.
Here are some things to keep in mind when your child is in one of these situations to avoid making your child feel too uncomfortable:
Tip #1: Do not push or pressure child to verbalize or to engage if they are uncomfortable. Halloween should be fun!
Tip #2: Know where your child is on the Bridge in any environment.
Environments to consider:
- Child can hand the candy over, or drop in the trick-or-treater’s bag.
- Wave Hi/Bye
- Parents can bring their child into conversation via “Hi” or “Bye” and/or acting as the Verbal Intermediary.
- Prepare a script for kids. (Use a visual for young kids, a written script for others, of what to say when trick-or-treaters come to the door.)
How to make the activities easier
- Go over the routine in advance-PREPARE
- Give your child a role in the encounter to establish control, reduce anxiety:
- Potential roles: help pick out candy, prepare Halloween bags, decorate, be the door-opener, hold the candy bowl, give candy out, play with scary or silly decor.
- Utilize a sibling or peer to make the interaction more fun and minimize direct attention on your child with SM.
Trick-or-Treating (Outside of the home)
Prepare your child in advance: (i.e. tell them where you are going, what to expect, who is going with you).
- Prepare child for Trick-or-Treating by practicing at home first (knowing what to expect reduces anxiety and allows for more confidence and control).
- Know where your child is on the Bridge to establish how they should participate in the actual trick-or-treating.
- Head out earlier if possible.
- Going out with daylight reduces anxiety.
- Typically there are less people out at this hour, allowing for better adjustment to the environment.
Never PUSH your child to say, “Trick-or-Treat” or PUSH them to go up to a house if they are shut down.
How to use the Bridge and allow the child to participate:
- FrontLine– allow child to go up to the door with parent/sibling/peer (allows the child to be present and engaged with the support of parent, family, or friend).
- Handover, Takeover– child holds out their candy bag and allows it to be filled instead of taking the candy themselves. Or child holds bag out and parent, sibling, or peer picks candy and puts it in.
- Wave– “Hi” or “Bye”.
- Bring Into conversation– Parent can ask their child a direct choice question e.g. “do you want the Hershey bar or the Milky way?” Child can point (nonverbal), tell the parent (verbal intermediary), or verbalize their choice (verbal).
Halloween party (At home or Outside of the home)
Things to keep in mind:
- Give your child a task or role.
- Bring the child into conversation.
- Small group interactions are easier than larger groups.
- Be aware of the environment: is it too scary? too overwhelming?
- If the party is at home: stagger times that guests arrive so the child has time to acclimate to the growing crowd.
- If the party is at someone else’s house: arrive early to check out the fun decor and familiarize your child to the new environment, giving them time to warm-up.
- Prepare your child with some ice-breakers; i.e. use costumes as a way to bring the child into conversations.
Practice dressing up. (Wigs, makeup, texture, etc.)-
Many children with SM are highly sensitive, so just the new textures and sensations alone can be overwhelming and potentially cause them to shut down.
- Talk about types of costumes a child will see. (Scary, Silly, etc.)-prepare them for this new stimuli.
- Look online at different costumes in advance to show scary types and funny one’s.
- Make a game out of how many scary costumes you see…”oh that kid is wearing a scary one, can you find any scary one’s?”
*Pearls* to remember:
- Halloween is supposed to be fun and silly for the whole family.
- Allow for warm-up time. The child may cling to their parent in the beginning.
- Encourage child to be present and take part at the level they are comfortable with according to the Bridge
- Prepare, prepare, prepare!