Halloween is right around the corner!  For many children, Halloween is a fun night to dress up, collect candy, and yell “Trick or Treat.” However, for those with selective mutism, Halloween can be a very stressful and anxiety-provoking night (Kotrba, 2015).  Below are three tips to help prepare your individual with selective mutism to change trick-or-treating into a positive Halloween experience. 

The first step is to talk about it. Many individuals with selective mutism like to be prepared and informed about exactly what they experience. This conversation may discuss seeing other individuals in costumes, walking past unfamiliar individuals, walking up to unfamiliar houses, and holding out their basket for candy to strangers.  Some costumes can be pretty fun, but others are kind of scary.  It may be helpful to explain the difference between make-believe and fantasy versus reality. For example, the peer in costume may look like a zombie, but it’s your cousin. This conversation can help take some of the anxiety and the unfamiliarity out of this Halloween experience.

The next step is to make a plan.  In addition to knowing what is about to happen, individuals with selective mutism work well when a plan is in place.  This may include making a map of the neighborhood, planning your trick or treating route, Or even discussing who you’ll be trick or treating with. Sometimes going with familiar people can ease some of the anxiety that they may experience. 

The final step is to practice. For those who can be verbal, rehearsing what to say and practicing going up to their door or reading a script may help ease some of their concerns. For those non-verbal, practicing holding their bucket out to collect the candy would be very helpful. One site recommends handing out a card with the words trick or treats on it. This would serve as a way for the individual to still engage in trick-or-treating while spreading awareness of selective mutism.  This would also decrease the expectation and the pressure for this individual to speak at this time.  Overall, talking, making a plan, and practicing in advance can help reduce the overall stress and anxiety placed on Halloween, thus making it a positive experience (Kotrba, 2015). 

Author

Jessica LaMont, M.S., LBS

Reference 

Kotrba, A (2015). Preparing for Halloween. https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Successful-trick-or-treating—-with-Selective-Mutism-.html?soid=1105980874426&aid=w8ptyFUoYBQ