Decorations. Costumes. Door-to-door requests for candy. These are just a few of the many things kids look forward to on Halloween night. This spooky holiday is a favorite of kids who like sweet treats and delightful frights. For children with autism, Halloween can be a minefield of struggles.
Sensory issues are at the top of the list. Costumes can be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. The dancing skeletons and cackling witches can be both scary and noisy for kids who have visual and auditory sensory issues. Kids with autism can find themselves facing difficulty with the social niceties of Halloween. Saying the right words, making the trek from house to house, and taking turns at the door may be hard. Many parents of children with autism skip the festivities altogether rather than risk a meltdown.
Despite the problems, there are many strategies parents can use to help kids adjust. Start the costume conversation a couple months in advance. Buy or make the costume a few weeks before Halloween. Address any comfort issues and make sure your child has a chance to wear it before the big night comes. While you can’t avoid the decorations and noises during a trip around the neighborhood, you can use earplugs and sunglasses or a mask to dull the
impact. Take the time to practice the trick or treating process long before the day arrives.
Practice knocking on doors with neighbors so your child can get used to what he needs to do. Another issue that kids on the spectrum run into is dietary restrictions. Unless you limit your child’s trick or treating to houses with approved treats, you may find yourself with a bag full of candy that has to be given away or thrown in the trash. One way to address this problem is by finding friends and family who are willing to provide treats according to your restrictions. Some parents have bought treats and handed them out to neighbors with a note explaining the issue. That way your kid can still enjoy trick or treating and not have to see a large pile of candy he isn’t allowed to have.
If traditional trick or treating won’t work, find a Halloween celebration that your whole family can enjoy. Many places offer events that aim to be supportive and inclusive for children with special needs.When it comes to holiday celebrations, you know your kid best. If she can only handle ten minutes of costume time and a visit to one house, be proud of her accomplishment. Halloween is about fun, so as long as your child is enjoying the day, you can call it a win.
Including Kids is committed to finding solutions that help those with autism enjoy the holidays. We are hosting a Halloween event on October 31st from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. The event will be held in our CCI Program parking lot and there will be trick-or-treating, games and a bounce house. Those that pre-register will get a special treat! To find out more about how Including Kids is helping children with autism enjoy their community, visit includingkids.org.