Halloween can be a challenge if you have a child on the autism spectrum. Some parts of the holiday can be overwhelming and scary when your child doesn’t understand or feel in control. The most popular activities such as trick or treating, projects, parties, and wearing costumes can be easier for them to enjoy with a few preparations. Keep in mind that not every child will enjoy all aspects of the holiday. Take it slow. If Halloween is hard for your child, have them try just one of the ideas below this year. After a little practice, your family can be on the way to a fun Halloween!
Trick or Treating
If your family chooses trick or treating as one of your activities, a little preparation can make the experience more comfortable for everyone. One thing you can try is role playing before going around the neighborhood. To practice trick or treating before the big day, have your child say “trick or treat”, put candy in a bag, and say “thank you” by using different doors in the rooms of your house. It is also good to practice what to do in scenarios where no one is home.
When it is actually time to go trick or treating, you can try it out by just going to houses that are familiar to them and close to home. (This also helps in case of needed potty breaks.) Consider trick or treating during the daytime and/or limiting the amount of time to avoid your child becoming overwhelmed.
Projects and Parties
Halloween projects and parties can be fun if they are simple, safe and eased into. Try decorating your house slowly in stages to ensure that your child is comfortable with the changes. To avoid sharp tools or strong smells you can decorate jack o’ lanterns with markers, stickers and other materials. This way, there is no carving involved. School or neighborhood Halloween parties can be great activities if your child already knows the people there, and is comfortable with the setting. Don’t forget to take advantage of park district and local events in the neighborhood because they are often free, and can be lots of fun too.
Halloween costumes do not have to be elaborate and complicated. To avoid complaints and overwhelm from irritating outfits, a costume can be just a unique hat or a silly shirt. Another option to try is a family-themed group of costumes that can encourage your child to participate. Plan a back up costume just in case your child is uncomfortable or doesn’t want to wear the first costume, you have a plan B. When you have your child practice in their costume ahead of time, they can get a feel for the costume and make sure they are comfortable before the holiday.
BY YOUR SIDE kiddo Ethan looks really great in his space commander costume. He looks adorable sitting with his sister Scarlett and brother Liam who are all set to go trick or treating. His mom says, “Ethan was our little space commander, per his request. He typically doesn't like any costumes with masks, so this one (with just a hat) was perfect for him. And he's so smart, he just may work for NASA someday! We call this picture, ‘Donut monkey around or we'll kick your astronaut.’”
Halloween can be another great opportunity for you to spend quality time with your child, and have lots of fun. Who says your child with sensory challenges can’t have fun doing Halloween activities? With a little practice they can enjoy the holiday, and the Halloween season!