Halloween Tips

October 18, 2016

Halloween is a time of year that many youngsters anticipate happily. They plan their costume months in advance, and eagerly await the onslaught of candy as they rush from house to house to collect all the goodies. But for many kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), this can be a difficult and anxiety-ridden time of year.

Children and young adults with ASD have fragile nervous systems, which lend itself to the misinterpretation of environmental stimuli in numerous areas, such as sensory integration, sensory modulation, auditory processing, visual-spatial distortions, motor planning and coordination difficulties. Strange looking costumes, brightly decorated homes and other aspects of the tradition of Halloween, therefore can be unnerving, to say the least. Here are some simple tips to help make Halloween a little less stressful for your ghoul or goblin.

  • Let your child decide if Trick-or-Treating is what they want to do. He/she may want to be an observer or perhaps hand out candy at your home.  Whatever their comfort level is okay.  Remember this is a two-hour holiday that will be forgotten the next morning.
  • If your child does decide to go out to Trick-or-Treat create a story board about what to expect step-by-step. This will help your child prepare for the day’s activities. Include in the visual board where you will go, what homes and what behavior is expected at each location.
  • Consider a Halloween costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or capes. There is nothing worse than an itchy, uncomfortable costume for an ASD child. In fact, let your child practice wearing their costume at home. This gives you time to make any last minute modifications and time for your child to get used to it.
  • Keep trick-or-treating short and go during the earliest hours you can.
  • Do research gluten-free/casein-free Halloween treats. If your child  has a special diet, you may want to consider giving your neighbors candy that your child can eat in advance.
  • On the night of Halloween, visit several houses in your neighborhood belonging to families who know your child well.
  • If your child is afraid of going out at night, plan indoor or daytime Halloween activities.