For many children, Halloween is an exciting time of year. Choosing a costume, trick or treating, parties with friends, celebrations at school, and other autumn activities can be a lot of fun. But for children with autism or other sensory processing concerns, it can be stressful. Here are some helpful tips to make Halloween fun for everyone:
- Prepare your child by talking with them about what to expect when trick-or-treating. Show them a movie or read them a book where other children are trick-or-treating. You might even try using different rooms in your house to practice knocking on the door and saying “trick or treat”. You could also do a practice run at the home of a family member or friend.
- Lots of children with sensory concerns are very sensitive to different clothing items. Halloween costumes can be itchy, tight, awkward, or otherwise just plain uncomfortable! Have your child try on their costume and spend a couple hours wearing it around the house so they can get used to it. This will allow you time to make adjustments if necessary, like cutting off tags or layering over a more comfortable shirt. Click here for more about sensory-friendly costumes and be sure to check out Pinterest for lots of great ideas.
- Help your child identify which candies they like, and let them know about some types that can turn your mouth a different color, get stuck in your teeth, or be very sour.
- Pumpkin carving is a great Halloween tradition. For many kids, the sensory experience of playing with “pumpkin guts” can be really fun! However, others might not enjoy that sensation. There are other ways to incorporate jack-o-lanterns besides carving – kids can decorate pumpkins with paint or stickers instead. Click here for some great ideas that don’t include carving.
- If your child is going trick-or-treating and has trouble communicating, you can make a card that says something like, “Hello, my name is ______ and I have autism. I might have trouble saying ‘trick or treat’ or ‘Happy Halloween’ but I am trying my best. Thank you!” Your child could hand it to the person answering the door or you could attach it to their treat bucket. Click here for a printable card or create a customized one.
- Don’t feel pressured to participate in trick-or-treating (or any other activities for that matter) if they don’t work for your child. It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. You might have just as much fun staying in for movie night!
Venture will also be hosting its first Sensory-Friendly Not-So-Spooky Halloween Event on Thursday, October 26th from 4 – 6 pm at our Community Day Services Program, 670 Douglas Street, Uxbridge, Mass. The event is free and focused for children 12 and under with autism and other sensory concerns. Event volunteers will include clinicians and direct care staff with experience working with people with special needs. Activities will include practice trick or treating, scavenger hunt for prizes, activities, games, crafts, snacks, and access to our sensory room for a quiet space if needed. Please RSVP with number of people attending to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lately it seems impossible to go an entire week without seeing or hearing a story about the embattled Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Three recent tragedies, all involving children connected to DCF, have again put the department on the front pages of newspapers and led to cries for changes in the child welfare system. Nonetheless, it is important that people look beyond the headlines and try to understand what DCF was created to do and to recognize the daily challenges state social workers must confront.
DCF has a simple and straight forward mission: Strive to protect children from abuse and neglect and, in partnership with families and communities, ensure children are able to grow and thrive in a safe and nurturing environment. While the mission is easy to understand, achieving it is more than complicated. DCF intervenes with thousands of families and children every year and in virtually every case it is with a family in active crisis. Drug abuse, neglect, sexual trauma, criminal activity, poverty, and mental health issues are common concerns for DCF social workers trying to effectuate a positive change in a child’s life. Helping a child overcome any one of these challenges seems daunting enough but helping a child thrive when confronted with most or all of these challenges is a herculean task. Headlines rarely capture these elements when dedicating 350 words or 75 seconds of air time to a case that DCF may have spent years trying to salvage.
Fortunately, change is on the way. Governor Charlie Baker has put forth major changes in an effort to support DCF and its mission. In addition to over $35 million in new funding, DCF has new procedures for tracking children and families, reducing caseloads for employees, training staff, assessing risk, managing intakes, and emergency responses. There is also an investment in technology and in resources such as reopening a shuttered regional office in Worcester. Given that DCF is tasked with saving at-risk children it seems likely that the department will always be a lightning rod when something goes wrong. Hopefully, all of the changes to DCF moving forward will help to shine a light on the countless times every year that things go right.
Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO
Venture Community Services would like to extend our thanks to Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, State Senator Anne Gobi, and State Representative Todd Smola for visiting today. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to introduce members of state government to our Sturbridge Day Program, our dedicated staff members, and our administrative offices. We are always grateful for the chance to talk about the incredible working being done by our staff members every day of the year. We also enjoyed exchanging thoughts and ideas about the future of autism services, life skills training for transitional populations, foster care for both children and adults, and our plans to build a new facility to expand community support in Central Massachusetts. After a visit to the day program, the conversation turned to discussion of the human services industry and our commitment to innovative solutions to complex social problems, including community based treatment and support services for families through the Department of Children and Families.
Be sure to visit Lieutenant Governor Polito’s Twitter profile to see more about her visit.