Preparing Your Autistic Child for Halloween

Photo: Girl Trick or Treating on HalloweenHalloween is a memory-making holiday for children, but it does bring with it a new level of energy and changes that challenge the autistic child. From dressing up in a costume to dealing with a bevy of unfamiliar faces, Halloween may be a truly scary experience if you are on the spectrum.

Autistic individuals process things differently and their heightened sensory perception makes Halloween especially tricky. Consider some ways you can help your autistic son or daughter enjoy All Hallow’s Eve in a safe and fun way.

Do Some Prep Work

Highlight Halloween on the calendar and talk about what fun it is with your child. Sit down and watch videos of children getting dressed up in costumes and enjoying Halloween activities. The more exposure your child gets to the various Halloween traditions, the better prepared the whole family will be for that special night.

Use social stories to explain what happens on Halloween and why it is fun. Stories are a practical way to teach children about safety issues, as well. Add some role-playing into your story to introduce Halloween traditions like treat or treating. Let your child practice getting and giving out treats.

Put out a few Halloween decorations of your own – one or two at a time. This allows everyone to get used to the different themes that come with the holiday.

Choose Costumes Wisely

Take into account the sensory processing issues with autism when picking out a costume. Don’t expect your autistic child to wear a mask, wig or an elaborate hood. The best costume is a non-costume, in fact.

Look for something that is nothing more than clothes – preferably in a color or theme your child already loves. For example, a sweatshirt and pants is all you need to be a convincing superhero. You might be able to add a cape to the shirt or provide a shield for your child to carry, too. If your kid loves hats, try a silly one along with regular clothes.

Pick a costume that you can spend a few days breaking in as part of Halloween prep. Let your child wear the costume around that house for a few hours a day, so it is familiar.

Create a Plan for Trick or Treating

Develop a strategy for trick or treating to avoid over stimulation. Start by looking to see if there are any autism-friendly Halloween parties in town or consider hosting one yourself.

If you do decide to go out, pick houses of people that your child knows. Ask them to provide something your child can eat if there are diet restrictions, too. Other Halloween safety tips include:

– Plan your route out to avoid streets with loud and scary decorations.

– Bring earplugs or headphones in case the noise overwhelms your autistic child.

– Carry a strong flashlight or go out during the afternoon

– Take a wagon or stroller with you in case your child gets tired of walking

– If you go to houses that give out candy, let your child trade it in for something else like a new toy or money.  

– Put a time limit on your trick or treating.

Halloween is a lot of spooky fun, but it doesn’t have to be a scary experience for your autistic child.