Making Halloween Enjoyable for Children with Autism

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Your Tips for a Safe, Comfortable and Enjoyable Halloween

Trick-or-Treating:

Make a deal with neighbors to have their kids come for a ‘dress rehearsal’ day before. Your child can first practice answering the door and handing out candy to kids. Then switch and practice knocking and saying “trick or treat!”

The first two years of Halloween we just let our son dress up and walk up and down the street watching the other kids and looking at the decorations. Come our third Halloween, he went to knock on doors by himself and yelled “trick or treat” like a pro.

Be flexible, no expectations! Your child may be content stopping at five or six houses. Have quiet back up activities ready.

Be aware of which areas have displays with lots of gore and special effects so you can avoid them.

Discuss with the child safety tips for crossing the street, such as remembering to look both ways before crossing. The child may be over-stimulated from the change in schedule, so priming may be necessary.

Flashlights are a must.  My son carried one to help him see in the dark. It offered comfort and gave him a means of some control.

What helped my son most was watching children trick or treating on Youtube (Make sure you preview the video before your child sees it).

We always put plenty of glow sticks on my son in case we get separated at some of the more popular houses. You can purchase them at Wal-Mart in different shapes and colors. They make him feel more secure in the dark, too!

If your child is nonverbal, or not very verbal, make sure he or she wears some kind of identifying bracelet – it can even be part of the costume if done cleverly.

We practice trick-or-treating at our own house. Then he knows what to expect on Halloween night.

Take a route familiar to your child. Avoid homes decorated with flashing lights and loud sounds that may trigger sensory reactions. Review the day’s events when winding down. Discuss any fears about something seen or heard. Reassure him of your love and protection.

It’s a good idea to get a buddy that will make sure your child knows where he or she is going.

 

Collecting and Handing Out Candyhalloween-candy-in-bowl-590

Plan now for how you will handle candy consumption. A gluten or dairy intolerance may not be an issue with Halloween treats, but food dyes and sugar may wreak havoc with any child. Decide the candy-eating rules in advance and write them down.

After Halloween, watch the doors extra closely. My son escaped for the first time on November 1 along with his plastic pumpkin bucket from the night before.  A neighbor alerted us that he was going from house to house on his own.

When no longer appropriate to trick or treat, my son was given the honor of giving out treats to kids who came to our door. To “sweeten” the deal, each time someone came to our house he could add a piece of candy to a bowl reserved for him.

Trick or treating is too hard for my son, so I have him answer the doorbell instead when trick or treaters come.  I have taught him to open the door, take candy out of the bowl and put one in each bag, say goodbye and close the door.

 

Costumes

In lieu of a costume, try a Halloween T-shirt. There are screen-printed ones that look like Dracula’s tuxedo, complete with a jeweled medallion. There are also big orange T-shirts with a jack-o-lantern faces.

Pick a costume that may require a little face paint and is not too big or uncomfortable. Try to use a child’s own clothing. Definitely no masks or hats that might be distracting, irritating or uncomfortable to their senses.

I’m an adult who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Something I did as a kid was make sure I knew what costume I was going to wear at least four days in advance and try it on a few times. It’s also good to have a buddy that will make sure your child knows where he or she is going.

 

Themed Events

My 20-year-old son is too old for trick-or-treating and not social enough for parties. But, he is a HUGE train fanatic and is looking forward to a “Train of Terror” in our hometown. Check your community for similar events.

We had a daytime party with a bouncy house and everyone dressed up in Halloween costumes. This was safe for all the kids and not too scary for our daughter. We felt good about her not missing this fun childhood tradition.

About Amanda Beck

Amanda Beck writes for American Medical ID on a variety of topics relating to health care and healthy living, especially for those whose medical conditions warrant an emergency ID.