White children in Halloween costumes walking down street during trick-or-treating outdoors

Alternative Ways to Use Communication While Trick-or-Treating

With Halloween quickly approaching, we want all children to be able to communicate and participate in the holiday’s activities. Most families encourage their children to request candy using the phrase “Trick-or-Treat!” However, we know that speech can be very difficult for some children. Let’s explore ways that use all modalities to communicate while trick-or-treating! 

Sign Language  

Children with emerging language skills can use sign language to communicate. They can use the sign “candy” and add “please” while signing “thank you” as they are parting. The child can sign the message to the parent, and the parent can make the verbal request to the person passing out candy. With this method, the child receives immediate feedback and conveys their message. It is critical that children understand their words, in any capacity, are heard and powerful. 

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECs)  

Another mode of communication is conveying a message using picture icons. The child uses and exchanges the picture with another speaker. The pictures can be tailored to fit the child’s needs, particularly regarding Halloween phrases.  

Some phrases to use to write on cards with pictures include:  

  • Thank you for the candy!  
  • Trick-or-treat! 
  • It can be difficult for me to say, “trick or treat,” but I am trying! 
  • I am allergic to peanuts 
  • Can we go home now?  
  • Loud noises can be hard for me – please do not jump out and scare me!  
  • Costumes make me uncomfortable, but I am pretending to be a ___! 

The key part of this communication method is exchanging the picture with another person to convey your meaning. A helpful tip would be to have the child exchange the picture icon with their parent to improve comfort levels, and the parent asks for candy from the non-familiar adult.  

Language Devices

Using a speech-generating device is another way a child can participate in trick-or-treating. Most devices allow for the ability to add personalized icons. The child can use words, phrases, or
sentences on the device to communicate. For example, the child could key in “I want” “to eat” “candy” and press the sentence, and the text will be spoken. A child can use a complete sentence while pressing three buttons. Families and Speech-Language Pathologists can also customize the words so “trick or treat” could be added, allowing the child to use one button to communicate with other families.

AAC Device Halloween

How Speech Therapy Can Help  

Speech therapy is an integral way to ensure your child is communicating effectively, and research indicates using Augmentative and Alternative Communication can improve verbal communication. Using these modes of communication can foster participation in fun activities with peers. If you are interested in learning more about using a speech-generating device for your child, contact one of our Speech Language Pathologists. Visit our website for location information or to request an appointment online. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Article By: Maria Sawma, MS CCC-SLP 

Maria began her speech-language pathology career three years ago. Maria loves working with the pediatric population and believes in the importance of providing ethical and evidence-based care. She specializes in articulation, language, and literacy skills. Maria enjoys working with children with speech and language disorders to ensure all children can communicate. She currently treats patients at ABC Pediatric Therapy in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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