Fun is just around the corner with October’s spooky season, but it can be challenging for children with autism spectrum disorder and their parents. What neurotypical people think of as frightening can be double the scare for kids with autism, making “The Nightmare Before Christmas” a reality, not just a film!
Scary costumes, elaborate decorations, flashing lights, and itchy costumes can be overwhelming! To make Halloween a fun time for everyone, follow these eight tips for an autism-friendly Halloween. These simple steps will prepare you and your neurodivergent loved one with great ways to enjoy this fantastic day!
1. Talk about it!
Discuss Halloween to prepare your kids and family for the season. Talking about this event and preparing your child for what they’ll see and experience can make a difference in how they react. This also includes discussing how your family will celebrate and how others might do so throughout the month. Talk to your child about costumes, decorations, parties, treats, and more. Try to cover as much as you can! Setting up expectations can ensure your family enjoys an autism-friendly Halloween with fewer problem behaviors.
2. Stay close to home
It is a good idea to stay on familiar grounds where your child will feel secure and safe. Whether you’re visiting a pumpkin patch or trick-or-treating, staying close to home or a family member’s place is recommended. If you plan to go trick-or-treating, it’s also an excellent option to walk the route beforehand to see if the decorations are too scary and ensure you will be safe.
3. Make a schedule
Having a scheduled agenda is a helpful tool for both preparation and creating an autism-friendly Halloween experience. Planning and setting limits that best suit your child’s needs are excellent ways to map out the festivities!
4. Get comfortable costumes
Costumes are a tricky part of an autism-friendly Halloween, but they can be a treat with the right tools! If your kid on the spectrum is sensitive to fabrics and temperature, involve them in the costume selection process. Creating a visual board of options that includes characters, animals, or their favorite themes, can make this challenging process fun!
There are also ideas on how to make Halloween costumes from scratch with autism-friendly materials on Pinterest! But if that’s not your expertise, we recommend searching for autism-friendly Halloween costumes on Amazon and Etsy. A backup costume is also a great idea if your child needs a quick change on the day of the event.
5. Think about the treats
Planning your child’s treat intake is critical to an autism-friendly Halloween. This is especially true if your kid has a restricted diet. Planning ahead includes talking to them about rules regarding their sugar intake. If they cannot eat any sugar, prepare to buy autism-friendly Halloween treats or toys for them to enjoy so no one feels left out!
6. Find autism-friendly Halloween events
Check your community calendars for not-so-scary or autism-friendly Halloween events in your area. Most of these events are daytime parties with children’s activities that limit music, sounds, and crowding. This can help reduce the scares!
Some places offer farm visits and drive-through events, which might be even more fun for your kiddo! These are great ways to introduce your kid to the idea of wearing a costume or tolerating Halloween decor that doesn’t involve trick-or-treating.
7. Find friends and support material
Scheduling friend dates for your kid can be the perfect way for them to have fun with kids their age. Feeling accompanied is a fantastic way to experience Halloween.
For nonverbal children who struggle to express themselves and talk to strangers, teaching them to say “trick-or-treat” and “thank you” may be challenging. Autism Speaks created a downloadable sign you can bring to make others aware of this challenge and that the candy is still appreciated! This sign is also shared on several autism-focused Halloween bags that are available for purchase on Etsy. You can also make your own!
8. Stay open-minded
Remember not to force something just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Keep an open mind by being flexible and prepared to adjust. You can even stay home and have your own Halloween “party” with movies! Enjoy autism-friendly Halloween treats in the comfort of your living room and hand out candy to other kids instead. Having fun is what’s most important!
Above all, it’s best to plan with intent but let go of any expectations for Halloween! You can have a wonderful autism-friendly Halloween with your loved one on the spectrum by remaining present in the moment and enjoying your time together!
ABA Centers of Florida and Autism-Friendly Holidays
ABA Centers of Florida understands that the holidays can be a demanding experience for many families with children on the spectrum. Our ABA professionals work with families to help children develop the skills they need to enjoy holidays like Halloween to the fullest! For more information about our autism services and how we can support your family, call us at (772) 773-1975 or visit us at ABACentersFL.com.