Kids who have autism and/or sensory issues may find the change in routine and the sights and sounds of Halloween challenging. Although you might be tempted to skip Trick-or-Treating altogether, it may be a rite of childhood worth trying. Here are some tips to help make Halloween a little less scary for you and your child.
1. Prepare your child socially.
If you really think about it, Trick-or-Treating really goes against all the safety lessons we try to teach our kids about interacting with strangers. For kids who don’t always understand the flexibility of social rules, it can be confusing to understand why it’s okay to talk to and take candy from strangers on Halloween.
Your child may also encounter loud or unexpected noises, like “Boo!” or spooky music. Or, he may come across cobwebs and fog that make him uncomfortable. Consider taking him to a party store or the Halloween section of your local department store. He can press buttons to hear the noises, touch the decorations and have a better sense of what to expect.
2. Pick a costume carefully.
For kids with sensory issues, picking a costume involves more than just finding a character they like. Be aware of how the fabric feels, whether a mask changes your child’s visual or if makeup might feel slimy to him. A good general rule is if it’s too tight, scratchy, slimy or has a strong odor, it’s probably worth avoiding.
Don’t forget that even a simple costume is a costume. A bath towel around the neck can be a cape. A silly hat can be a clown. If your child uses noise-cancelling headphones, consider creating a construction worker or air traffic controller costume to go with it.
3. Do a practice run.
Talk to a few trusted neighbors and ask if they’d mind having a practice Trick-or-Treat session. Provide them with something to give to your child and then do a practice run of the night. Help your child into his costume, explain the route you’re going to take and talk about how to avoid the crowds and what to say (if your child uses his voice to speak).
4. Carry explanation cards.
If your child doesn’t speak, make eye contact or doesn’t like to be touched, you know why. But not all of the people you come across will. Instead of having to explain the situation over and over again in front of your child, consider carrying explanation cards to discreetly hand the card to the person who opens the door
They can say something along the line of “I have autism and do not speak. But I would like to trick-or-treat. Thank you and Happy Halloween.”
5. Have an alternate plan.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to prepare, Trick-or-Treating may not work out as well as you hope. That’s okay. Have a backup plan. Spending time at home giving out candy or watching a movie may not be what you planned on doing, but it may be a little lower key and a lot of fun.
After all, having fun is the goal of the night. And don’t worry about that your child lost out on candy. The day after Halloween clearance sales have your name written all over them!
About the Author:
Amanda Morin is an education writer specializing in child development and special needs parenting. She is on the editorial team of Understood.org and is a contributing writer to Parenting Special Needs Magazine. When Amanda’s not writing about other people’s kids, she’s wrangling three of her own.
On Twitter: @AmandaMorin
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