For many, the arrival of Halloween evokes memories of choosing fun costumes, enjoying cooler weather, and eating lots and lots of candy. It can be a very exciting time for both children and adults but for children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), it can be a bit tricky to make sure their Halloween turns into a treat.
Scratchy costumes, spooky music and sounds, crowds of people, and other sensory triggers, can be overwhelming for children with autism and sensory disorders. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare your child and help them have a fun Halloween holiday.
1. Make Halloween less spooky
One helpful tip is to spend some time with your child showing them pictures or videos of kids having fun trick-or-treating. You could also use pictures or drawings to create your own social story around memories of previous Halloweens spent together. Your child may find it interesting to look at other children in their costumes which may help them feel more comfortable when the time comes to trick-or-treat.
After talking with your child about what to expect, arrange with a neighbor for them to practice ringing the doorbell and saying the magic words to receive their sweet treats. If you plan to stay home and give out candy with your child, practice greeting trick-or-treaters and giving out candy.
2. Do a walk-through of your neighborhood
We all know families that really get into the Halloween spirit when it comes to decorating their homes. And while the creepy skeletons and fog machines can be a lot of fun, they can spell sensory overload for your child with sensory sensitivities.
Before Halloween, take a stroll through your neighborhood to see which houses have decorations that might be scary for your child. It’s also a great idea to talk to your neighbors and find out if anyone is planning to dress up and scare unsuspecting trick-or-treaters. Create a map and note the houses you may want to skip.
3. Play dress up
Halloween costumes can be itchy, scratchy and hot. And heavy makeup can smell and feel weird to children on the autism spectrum. Having a dress rehearsal with your child can help them get used to their costume and get excited.
This can also be helpful in deciding if adjustments or alterations need to be made to their costume and if makeup or other accessories will be too much for your child. You may find that its easier to create a costume using clothing you already have instead of introducing new and unfamiliar textures.
4. Embellish the familiar
If a full costume makes your child uncomfortable, consider incorporating items that layer over your child’s clothing such as butterfly wings or capes. Your child can wear their familiar clothes without missing out on dressing up for Halloween!
Silly hats or Halloween themed shirts are also good options for children that may not want to wear multiple textures. New clothing can sometimes be troubling to children with sensory disorders so building a Halloween costume around their own clothes could help them feel more comfortable.
5. Go at your own pace
You know your child best so feel free to go at your family’s pace. Maybe you want to try going to just a few houses at a time to see how your child does. Bringing along a favorite toy or something to soothe your child can also help. Once you try a few houses, you can decide if you want to keep going or call it a night.
6. Consider a school festival or community event
If you think trick-or-treating might be too much for your child opt for a school festival or community event instead. Attending an event at a venue your child is familiar with may make it less stressful for them, especially if they are familiar with the people that will be there. Many festivals and events are held during the day which can be less scary for your child.
7. Use the buddy system
If your child has a favorite friend or family member, see if they are available to celebrate with you. Having a buddy can help your child feel at ease and give them a bit more confidence.
No matter how you decide to spend your Halloween, we hope you have a fun and safe time with your family. In fact, a few of BlueSprig’s clinics are hosting fall festivals and events, like our Sugar Land location in the Houston Area and their Fall Festival on November 2nd! Check out others on our website. We hope to see you there!