When it comes to autism, other parents of children on the spectrum can be your most valuable resource. We went straight to some Florida Autism Center parents and our autism community and asked what has worked for them in the past when it comes to dealing with all things Halloween. Here’s their best tips:
1. Have a Trial Run: Have your child practice trick or treating around the neighborhood before the big day. Even better if you can do this practice run in costume! You can also utilize social stories that explain the process in detail to your child! (See here for some great ones!)
"We did a mock trick or treat to our close neighbors homes prior to Halloween so he would know what to expect and could practice the process. We also would put his costume on every day for the week or so leading up to Halloween so he would be use to it."
2. Wear Comfortable Costumes: Avoid heavy costumes, bulky masks, and too many accessories. Keep things simple and consider using their own clothing as a part of the costume for ultimate comfort!
"I try not to dress my son up in heavy costumes or head gear/hats. I want to make it as comfortable as I can for him. My 5 year old has ASD and he is very sensitive to certain touch of clothing. I also try and get him to trick or treat in familiar places like the mall or church so he wont have so much anxiety.”
3. Shop Online: Sometimes the Halloween stores and sections themselves can be overwhelming. Shopping online can avoid the hustle and bustle and craziness of the in-store experience and reading online reviews should be able to give you a good indication of how comfortable the costume really is.
"We are careful to avoid the dark and scary stuff around Halloween. We dislike gore and the kids can be sensitive to fake blood, etc. It can be scary just to see the costumes available at stores. Sometimes it’s better to shop for costumes online just to protect the child.”
4. Identify Your Child: There are lots of helpful badges online to print and have your child handout during trick-or-treating. If they are non-verbal, a card that says so will ease their experience with the adults giving out candy and your child can still enjoy the fun without the pressure of someone not understanding why they won’t say “trick or treat!”
5. Prepare Your Neighbors: Consider bringing treats or candy alternatives that you know your child will like to some select houses in your neighborhood. Map out your route and make sure to visit those selected homes so your child will have a mix of experiences but is sure to have some great pre-planned ones that are geared towards them as well!
6. Walk Up First: Have your child hang back with another adult while you approach the house first. This will allow you to experience what your child will experience at this house and avoid any surprises like a spider that drops down from the ceiling unexpectedly when you ring the doorbell. Better to see if this is a house your child can handle than have a silly pop-out character ruin the evening.
“We make sure to walk up to the door first and explain a little about our son before he comes up to the door. People are usually really receptive and excited to interact with him and it also gives us a chance to make sure that there are no surprise pop-out items to scare him lurking in the bushes!"
7. Safety: Consider bringing a few extra adults that your child knows along with you. Encourage your child to hold your hand and having a few extra folks around to keep an eye on them as well as on the immediate surroundings is best.
8. Limit the Number of Houses: Don’t wear yourself or your child out and consider limiting the number of houses or at least putting a time limit on the evening. It will keep your child enjoying Halloween and avoid some of the more overwhelming moments that come when everyone is cranky and tired.
9. Utilize ALL of Your Options: Consider a Trunk or Treat earlier in the week which is notoriously shorter and more low-key than Halloween night. Attend a Fall festival, host your own Halloween party, or look to your local resources for “autism friendly” events.
10. Plan an Unwind Activity: Anything from trampoline time to get out the heebee jeebies or a typical bedtime routine to get the evening on track with a bath and a book. Tell your child about this activity in advance, especially if it is something they will look forward to while dealing with some of the more unexpected aspects of Halloween. Make sure there are no additional guests planning on lingering at home and get things back to where your child is most comfortable.