Halloween can be challenging for some children on the spectrum. To make this holiday fun and safe for all, planning this holiday well in advance is very important.
What to do if going out: First, let’s consider the costume. Tight, scratchy costumes may be too much to handle for some children. Take your child shopping early so you will have the best selection of costumes. If possible, try them on to determine if your child will be able to handle wearing it for a few hours. If your child does not want to wear a costume, maybe just face painting or color in his hair is the way to go. Or, just let them wear their favorite superhero pajamas. Make it easy for them to feel included in the event. There should be no judgement, even if your child just wants to wear his regular clothes. Whatever the costume, have him wear it a few times before Halloween to get used moving around in it.
Your child may be averse to loud noises. Talk to them about what to expect on Halloween. Maybe you can let her hear some of the sounds they may encounter and discuss with her what they are and that they’re nothing to be afraid of. During Halloween festivities, bring headphones or ear plugs with you so if the sounds of Halloween are too much, you can help ease them.
Flickering light and unusual lighting schemes can be a bit frightening. Just the contrast between night and any type of bright light can be too much visual sensory overload, so plan ahead. If you’re going trick-or-treating or to a Halloween gathering, include some sunglasses with the costume.
And then there are the decorations and other people in costumes. Some of these can be quite scary and to a small child seem too realistic. Some decorations may move and have sounds or include a fog machine. These types of decorations can make your child uncomfortable and may make them react in an impulsive manner that could be unsafe for them. Stay close to your child at all times. Remind your child that all of these decorations and costumes are pretend….they’re not real and underneath all of them are real people who are just like them. And, better to skip the houses that look too ominous.
Make sure your child has a sensory toy or some other toy that is familiar to your child to help him feel more comfortable when things seem a little uncomfortable.
What to do if staying home: If you plan to stay home, chances are, Halloween may come to you in the form of doorbell rings and other children in costume. Place the Halloween Friendly sign on your door or in your window to alert others that this is an autism home (Thank you AutismSpeaks.org). autism-friendly window sign and pumpkin templates You can make Halloween a special event by making cool Halloween decorations as a family activity. You can buy a pinata and fill it with allergy-friendly candy and toys. Play yard games. There are also sensory games your child and family/friends can play. For some cool ideas, check out this website: Totally Awesome Non-Spooky Halloween Sensory Play Ideas for Kids (lemonlimeadventures.com)
For Halloween outings in lieu of trick-or-treating: If you and your child want to go out for Halloween but not trick-or-treating, select sensory-friendly events. Drive-up or Trunk-or-Treating events have become popular with many organizations. Attending a Halloween party at a friend’s house is another safe option.
Safety: Speaking of safety….safety is the number one priority to a fun Halloween. Halloween can be hectic and unpredictable, so it’s important to keep safety at the top of your mind. Even in familiar environments, new sights and sounds can increase the risk of wandering. Here are some ways you can help your child stay safe:
- Before you go trick or treating, take a picture of your child in their costume. This will ensure you have a recent picture in case they get lost.
- If your child may wander, have them wear light-up sneakers or glow-stick bracelets to make them easier to spot after dark.
- Wear something that distinguishes you from the crowd so your child can easily find you.
- Make sure your child has identification on them and a way to communicate if they are lost. If they are nonverbal, write your name and cell phone number on paper and put it in your child’s pockets.
One more note: Halloween is full of sugar, sugar and more sugar! Sugar is not your friend, so limit the amount of sugar you allow your child to consume.
For more information and cool ideas, check out these websites: