By Leslie Lindsay
It may very well be the 2nd most-preferred holiday by kids, coming in right below Christmas. But for some, Halloween stirs up anxious feelings. It may be due to sensory integration issues, social anxiety, childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), all three–or maybe something else.
I know when my daughter, Kate was first diagnosed with apraxia, I was concerned. I was worried she wouldn’t be able to ring the doorbells of friends and neighbors and say, “Trick-or-treat,” like all of the other kids. Never mind the fact that she wouldn’t even be able to tell a joke! I tried to keep my anxieties to myself, after all I know if I let my children see what I am anxious about, they will pick-up on it and in turn become anxious, too. So, I put on a happy face and practiced with her.
We worked on words and phrases that may come up in preparation for the annual rot-out-your-teeth holiday. Words and phrases like:
- Thank you
- And we practiced what she was that year, too: “doggy doctor” (a.k.a. veternarian)
Not that Kate was able to say all of those words–she wasn’t, but at least she had heard them and was able to make some approximations. We made a point of looking at things that went along with these words and practicing them whenever we could. Our SLP was good to make lots of print-outs for Kate’s “homework” with Boardmaker pictures on them. But, if you want to make your own flashcards, you can do so pretty easily…
- Together, with your child cull through some magazines/catalogs/actual photos from years past and look for items your child may come in contact with over the Halloween festivities. Attach them to notecards (index cards)
- Pull ’em out and practice them. I found that it worked well to do this in the car, speech waiting rooms, pediatrican offices, at dinner…
- We also made a point of showing Kate the actual, real-life item if we could. Have your child touch and feel a pumpkin…what does it feel like? (Here’s your chance to sneak in some descriptive words)…smooth, cool, fleshy, goopy, soft, slimy…
- Most of all, practice looking candy-givers in the eye and saying “thank-you,” even an approximation will do.
- If your child has sensory issues; beware. And I don’t mean this in an ominous way. Just be prepared that the lights, sounds, crowded neighborhood streets, and other costumes may be particularly scary to your child. You may consider telling your child in a matter-of-fact way what to expect come next Monday, October 31. “Other kids will be in costumes, too. There is no reason to be scared. It’s all just for fun.” Reassure your child that you will protect them.
- If your child does get over-stimulated, just take her home. It may be that 20 minutes of trick-or-treating is plenty. Don’t push it if your child seems overwhelmed.
It all worked out just fine for Kate that first Halloween with apraxia. She wasn’t able to say “Trick-or-treat,” but I didn’t care. In fact, not many other kids did, either. As my little “vet” toddled up to the doors of our neighbors I thought, “She can do just about anything. I won’t let this apraxia business set her apart.”