Halloween is a day filled with fun for many. You’ve got costumes, spooky decorations, jack-o-lanterns, scary (hopefully not too scary!) movies and TV shows to watch with friends and family to get in the holiday mood, and, of course, there’s the candy. However, Halloween can also be an overwhelming and difficult event for some of us.
In particular, Halloween can present some challenges for a child with autism, and his or her parents, to navigate. It can mean itchy costumes, flashing lights, strangers, and uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or potentially unsafe social situations. But kids with autism can still find plenty to love and look forward to about Halloween! Here are a few Halloween activities for kids with autism to help make this Halloween happy, fun, and safe for everybody!
Tip #1 - Safety First!
With crowds of people, a sea of children in costumes, and flashing lights in the dark, it is easy and not uncommon for children to be distracted and wander off from their folks. Trick-or-treating can be one of the best Halloween activities for kids with autism each year, but the degree of sensory stimulation can sidetrack your child from the rules and routines of trick-or-treating.
Invite a friend or family member to keep an extra set of eyes on your child. If your child is old enough, create a couple of general rules and be sure to review them ahead of time (i.e. stay with your buddy, check-in with mom/dad between each house, stay in sight).
If your child is not yet following verbal instructions/rules, try using a wagon, stroller, or practice hand-holding to keep your kiddo close by. Trick-or-treating can be a blast for a kid with autism, but the most important part of the adventure is sticking together!
Tip #2 - Practice, Practice, Practice!
Practice Halloween routines ahead of time! Walk the route with your child a week or two in advance. Help your child become familiar with the social etiquette of Halloween, including knocking on the door, saying, “Trick or Treat,” choosing one piece of candy, and saying, “Thank you,” whether that be through words, gestures, ASL, PECS, a wave, etc.!
You can try a Social Story to review the expectations of the process, or practice going door-to-door in your own home or at school. Have your kiddo practice wearing their costumes at home ahead of time while they are playing. This also gives them the opportunity to find out whether they are going to be comfortable in the costume. One of the most important Halloween activities for kids with autism is practice and preparation for the big day.
Tip #3 - Keep the Costume Simple!
Halloween costumes can often be uncomfortable. Masks, face paint, itchy tags, heavy or bulky material, etc., can cause a child with autism to feel upset or overwhelmed. If your child just can’t handle the costume, don’t fret! A Halloween costume can be as simple as it needs to be while still being a fun and creative way for your child to participate in the festivities. One of the key Halloween activities for kids with autism is working together to figure out the costume.
If your child is bothered by a costume they have tried on, try to find out what they dislike about it and help find a solution. Sometimes, that solution is to just simplify. If that seems like the way to go, avoid masks, hats, tails, wings, and gloves, and instead find a costume that fits over or similar to your child’s typical clothing. And feel free to skip the costume! A simple Halloween-themed shirt will do the trick! The important thing is that your child is comfortable and having a good time.
Tip #4 - Make it Your Own
Feeling like you are just not prepared this year? Have your own Halloween celebration in your own way. There are plenty of Halloween activities for kids with autism that you can enjoy together at home to make the day special. You can bake pumpkin seeds or cookies (to decorate with orange and black frosting!), have a Halloween music dance party, make Halloween-themed crafts like painting pumpkins, or watch a fun movie in your PJ’s together. At the end of the day, Halloween is all about having fun with your loved ones!
Whether you venture out into the neighborhood for tricks and treats or just hang out at home with the family, we’re happy to help you keep things simple, fun, and worry-free. With just a little bit of planning ahead (and by minding the limits of your child’s comfort zone), there are plenty of fun family activities to make this Halloween one to remember! Just try not to eat too much candy!