Halloween should be fun! And it’s an awesome time to practice goals!! Whether your child or teen is handing out candy, trick-or-treating with friends, or attending a Halloween party, our SMart Tips below can help you prepare for a fun and successful Halloween!
Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum‘s free, 40-minute webinar offers numerous tricks to guide your Halloween preparations for a fun and enjoyable time for our children and teens with Selective Mutism! Tips are based on our evidence-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®) approach utilized in treatment at the SMart Center.
Goals for a child/teen when handing out candy:
- Drop candy in Trick-or-Treaters bag/basket.
- Wave “Hi” and “Bye” (Parents can bring child/teen into conversation via Hi or Bye using Verbal Intermediary).
How to Achieve Goals:
- Prepare a script and practice the routine in advance.
- Give the child a specific role to establish control and reduce anxiety, e.g. help pick out candy, prepare Halloween bags, decorate, be the door opener, hold candy bowl, or give candy out.
- Involve a sibling or peer to make the interaction more fun and draw less attention to your child.
Important: Do not push or pressure child to verbalize or engage if they are not uncomfortable. Understand where your child is on the Social Communication Bridge® in any environment.
Goals for a child/teen when Trick-or-Treating:
- Wave “Hi” or “Bye”
- Bring child into conversation. Parent can ask child, (via direct choice questions) “Do you want the Hershey bar or Milky Way?” Child can point, whisper to parent, or say their choice.
- Download and assess where your child is on the Social Communication Bridge®to understand how your child participates in the trick-or-treating.
How to Achieve Goals:
- Utilize FrontLine™ by allowing the child to approach a house with a parent, sibling, or peer.
- Use Handover/Takeover™ (child holds out bag and allows it to be filled instead of taking the candy themselves OR the child can hold his or her bag and the parent, sibling, or peer picks out the candy and puts it in your child’s bag.)
- Prepare in advance: where are you going? who are you going with? what should your child expect? Practice Trick-or-Treating at home first! Knowing what to expect reduces anxiety and allows for more confidence and control.
- Go out earlier, if possible, while it’s still light out and less people to allow child to adjust.
- Use a Big Five bracelet as a script for communication.
Important: Never push to say “Trick-or-Treat” or to go up to a house if child is shut down.Click here to read why Halloween terrifies some children.
Goals for a child/teen when attending a party:
- Give child a task or specific role.
- Bring child into conversation.
- Engage in small group interaction (easier than larger group).
How to Achieve Goals:
- If you are hosting the party at home, stagger guests’ arrival times so child can acclimate.
- If you are attending a party at someone else’s house, arrive early to check out the decor allow for warm-up time.
Have child hand items out, use silly props and costumes as ice breakers.
- Practice dressing up (be careful with wigs, makeup, texture, etc. with children who have sensory sensitivities)
- Talk about types of costumes a child will see, e.g. scary, silly, etc.
- Look online at different costumes in advance to show scary types and funny ones.
- Make game of how many Spiderman costumes you see. For example, “Oooh…that boy is wearing a Spidey suit! Let’s count how many more Spiderman costumes we find!”
To effectively overcome Selective Mutism and all anxieties, an individual needs to be involved in an Individualized or Group Treatment program, such as those rooted in the evidenced-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®). Developed by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, this holistic or “whole child” treatment approach is designed to reduce anxiety, build self-esteem, increase social comfort and communication in all settings.
As a physician, Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum (“Dr. E”) and her team at the Selective Mutism Anxiety & Related Disorders Treatment Center (SMart Center) views SM as a social communication anxiety where mutism is merely a symptom. The key to an effective treatment plan is understanding factors into the development and maintenance of SM as well as understanding an individual’s baseline level of social communication on the Social Communication Bridge©. Then, working as a team, the treatment professional, parents, and school staff members help the child build coping skills to combat anxious feelings and to progress across the Social Communication Bridge©.