The spooky season of Halloween is upon us! Everywhere you can see smiling pumpkins, spider webs, and ghostly decorations on home fronts and in the stores. Candy fills the shelves. This is one of the most exciting times of the year for children!
However, for children with autism, the Halloween season can be a difficult or challenging time. There are sensory concerns from uncomfortable costumes, scary decorations and lighting, as well as peers ringing doorbells with shouts of “trick-or-treat” ringing up and down the street. The social rules of Halloween can also be challenging for children with ASD and then there is the role of candy to play in the struggle. Overall, Halloween can be a chilling struggle. If you want to help your child enjoy Halloween or at least make it more comfortable for them, try a few of the suggestions on this list.
Going Out For Halloween
Preparation Before The Night
Many parents agree that a major component to your child’s enjoyment of this holiday will be preparation. Find time long before Halloween to discuss with your child what’s going to happen. Show them pictures and do research with them so they have an idea of what their peers are going to be doing and why everyone is in a costume hunting for candy.
If they are going to be dressing up and try trick or treating, take them on an established route that you decide beforehand. Do a test run as an evening walk so they are familiar with where they will be going away from their house. If you have good neighbors, you can coordinate with them beforehand to practice trick-or-treating so it won’t cause too much anxiety on Halloween night. If your child has dietary restrictions, you might be able to give your neighbors special treats to give your child when they come so they get the experience without breaking their diet.
Pick costumes out a long time beforehand so your child has an opportunity to try them on a few times. Try to pick costumes that go easily over the top of clothes or are not restrictive to avoid sensory issues. You could even go and pick up a fun sweatshirt or goofy hat as a substitute for a costume, since it will be easy to put on and easy to shed if it becomes restrictive. If your child isn’t into the costume on Halloween, that’s okay. This is all about making their experience with Halloween positive and fun.
Once you have all the early prep work done, the next step is to get to through the night without a meltdown, which might be easy or difficult. Every year will likely be different. Take a flashlight with you as you walk and follow your route. Often times, trick-or-treating with friends and siblings can be really helpful because they can watch over your child, ease some of the tension associated with the social situations, and help them score some delicious treats. Trick-or-treating in groups is a great way to keep tabs on your child too, in case they get frustrated and try to elope. Consider light up shoes or glow sticks to keep track of kids in the dark or adjust your timeline a bit to return home as the sun goes down.
Candy can be another major issue on Halloween. You should probably set clear expectations for how much candy your child is allowed to have once you return home. Establishing this before you go out will make it easier to avoid a meltdown. If your child has dietary restrictions, you can also incentivize them with different treats, a new favorite toy or trip to their favorite place as a trade-in for the candy. Do what works best for you and your child, but don’t forget to snag yourself a piece!
Staying In For Halloween
Many children with autism struggle so much with Halloween that they can’t really enjoy the holiday if they go out. Some kids with ASD are just completely uninterested in Halloween and all the festivities. If that’s the case with your child, that’s perfectly okay. There are a few things you can prepare them for as the holiday approaches.
If everyone else is partaking in the activities but your child is not, there can be a disconnect for them when it comes to school interactions or peer interactions. As you would do with children that are participating in the holiday, make sure you sit down with them and explain what is going to happen during the holiday. Explain the costumes and the decorations that they will see. Show them what trick-or-treating is and how children come to the doors of strangers to collect candy. Overall, just make them comfortable with the holiday before Halloween night begins.
On Halloween night, find some activities to do with your little one that they enjoy. If they aren’t interested in trick-or-treating, but they do want to take part in the fun, you can have them help you hand out candy to all the ghouls and goblins. If they become stressed out, you can always shut off the light and go inside.
Try to limit sensory overload for your child on Halloween night. If you’re still going to hand out candy, but they don’t want to join, don’t give kids the opportunity to ring the bell and shout. This can cause agitation. Make sure that their environment is comfortable as the night progresses.
Alternative Activities That Are Spooky Fun
No matter whether you are going out or staying in for the eeriest of holidays, there are a lot of really fun activities that you can do at home or in a classroom with children to keep the spooky spirit alive. Before, during, or after the holiday, try a few of these favorites that your kids are sure to enjoy:
All Kinds Of Slime!
Slime is fun for everyone! The gooey, squishy stuff can be really stimulating and fun for kids with autism to play with and make. You can keep it for yourself, or pick up little vials and hand it out for a party favor or Halloween trinket. Here are three different recipes for slime:
Crafting is fun and something about the winter season always makes it fun to stay inside and create something fun. These crafts are sensory friendly, easy to make, and perfect for the halloween season:
Any opportunity to combine activity and creativity together is a great thing. Try out these frighteningly fun play activities.
No matter what your child wants to do with their spooky evening, there are a lot of things you do with your little one to enjoy the holiday. From all of us at Lexington Services, Happy Halloween!