In keeping Halloween safe and fun for all children, let’s discuss some tips and tricks and how careful planning ahead can help your child with Autism enjoy and stay safe this season. We want to try to create a fun Halloween for ALL children. Keep in mind – we may need to adjust how we approach the holiday!
Halloween is full of dressing up, engaging in imaginative play, giving and receiving gifts and treats, and enjoying activities with friends. For children on the Autism spectrum, Halloween can come with many challenges. Things like trick-or-treating, wearing costumes, communicating with others, stranger safety, or even handing out treats to others can be a challenge. Here are some ideas to help your child and make this occasion special and safe:
Costumes & Preparation:
- Picking out a costume can be tricky and finding a texture your child is comfortable wearing can take time. Avoid scratchy costumes by making or choosing costumes that have fleece or other cozy materials! Have your child try on the costume in advance and practice wearing it at home.
- It might be a good idea to keep a bag with all your items in preparation for the night ahead. This could include keeping an extra change of clothes on hand just in case your child becomes uncomfortable and wants to remove the costume.
- If you have a child who is sensitive to textures, it may be a good idea to avoid masks or face painting. You can try a Halloween themed alternative such as a pumpkin shirt, superhero or a princess shirt, or a favorite cartoon or movie character if you sense your child is uncomfortable with costumes altogether.
- In addition, it is important to pack some safety supplies for you and your child. Bring along useful supplies such as flashlights, noise blocking headphones, fidget or sensory toy, visual schedules or aides, communication devices, or a favorite item for comfort.
- It is important to map out your route before leaving the house! Let your child know where you are going. This can help with transitions throughout the evening.
- Practice, practice, practice! Before Halloween, try practicing “trick-or-treating” at home! This can be done by role playing with your child and having them practice the communication and social skills needed for this task. If your child struggles with communication, social skills, or uses an AAC/visual aide for communication it can be difficult to interact with others. It can also be tricky to give out and/or receive candy. There are cards that you as the parent can pass out along your route to give those handing out candy a quick reminder that there is a speech or communication challenge present. This is a great opportunity to spread awareness for Autism and advocate for your child.
- Role playing with your child can help practice beforehand on how to ask for treats and what to say when giving them out to others. One way to help with this is to create a visual story or cues for your child. This can include pictures and drawings explaining the process step by step. For more information on visual schedules, you can check out our previous blog here: Visual Schedules
- Social stories are a great way to engage your child in learning about this experience! Social stories are a social learning tool that supports safe and meaningful exchange of information between parents and children as well as children with other children! Check our Pinterest for Halloween themed social stories to help motivate your child and teach them in a fun and creative way.
- Practice greetings, answering the door, stranger safety, and all things that may come in the path of your evening! If you are worried that children will come too late and disturb your child and their routines, leave a basket of treats on the porch with instructions not to ring the doorbell, etc. It is okay to cut things off early if your child has had enough by turning off the porch light and locking it up for the evening earlier.
Halloween can be a great time to work on communicating, advocating, and educating as a community! Be sure to ask your child’s therapists for important information on how to make this successful. For creative ideas on how to accomplish communicating with others during this occasion, check out our Pinterest