When it comes to Halloween, there can be a number of reasons why it may seem like a daunting night. From meeting strangers to dealing with loud unexpected noises and sensory issues associated with new fabrics and textures. When a loved one is on the autism spectrum, planning is an essential element when trying to ensure that the whole family can have a great night and participate in the festivities. Here are some tips for making your Halloween an Autism-friendly one.
1. Stick to what you know
I suppose it should really be called, who you know, not what you know. In the days leading up to Halloween, get proactive with the neighbors and family that you plan on visiting on the night. Depending on where your child is on the autism spectrum will dictate the level of anxiety associated with meeting new people. Try to eliminate this by pre-planning your route, too and from the houses. Communicate with your neighbors and family, the time you plan on calling and try it out in the days approaching Halloween, you’d be surprised how much this can help!
2. Pick the right costume
Make this a fun game. Letting your child express themselves is a great foundation for eliminating some of the stress that can come with Halloween. Keep in mind that sensory issues mean that the Halloween costumes should meet some criteria for your child. Try to make the costume as comfortable as possible, children with autism can be very sensitive to different types of fabrics and a Halloween costume is no different. Keep the textures and length of the costume as close to your child’s day to day clothes as possible. Try it on in the days leading up to Halloween, to avoid any distress on the day. Let your child wear the costume while playing around the house in the days before hand, ensuring both you and your child know that it feels comfortable for them. Oh, I almost forgot, please do try to avoid masks, hats or face paint. This may be different for people who are on the higher functioning side of the autism spectrum, but it’s better to be proactive and try to avoid a meltdown.
3. Stay at home
Make the day all about your family, this can be a way to make sure that Halloween is a great and enjoyable day. Plan the evening around your child’s needs if you think the stress around trick or treating, scary masks, loud noises and the sensory overload may be too much.
Considering some children on the autism spectrum can have very specific dietary needs, hosting the Halloween party at home means that you can control what your child can and cannot have. I would also ask some of their classmates to join in the fun at home, if possible.
When using an augmented and alternative communication (AAC) device, Halloween is no different from any other day. In the weeks and days leading up to Halloween introduce signs, symbols, and pictures that you plan on using on the day. Start slow and build the categories that best suit your child’s cognitive ability. Always be patient and if you sense frustration starting to build, slow down, you are introducing too much too soon. If you are lucky enough to have a support system in place, ask your speech and language pathologist (SLP) to help.
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