Halloween can be a pretty overwhelming for a child with autism. Heck, it’s overwhelming for ME – add to the mix sensory-aggravating costumes, spooky lights and decorations, crowds of loud children on the streets, and possible sugar and chemical dye sensitivities from loads of candy… and you may have created the perfect recipe of a meltdown.
Here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable Halloween for your child with autism:
Let your child practice wearing their costume at home for at least a week in advance. This gives you time to make any last minute modifications and time for your child to get used to it. I wish I had a nickel for all the times it took me to learn this one.
Avoid costumes with masks or hats that restrict sight or movement. It may be worth it to start with an item of your child’s own clothing or a Halloween t-shirt. Also avoid costumes that require extra accessories – your child will not want to carry them for long and they also may contribute to tripping or other safety hazards. Trust me on this one.
Last year we did a simple pair of baggy overalls and my son’s red shirt with a pre-bought Mario hat and white gloves. Easy, comfortable and everyone recognized his character!
This year my son is (possibly) bold enough to try a box on his head to be a character from Minecraft. With large eyeholes, this is mom-approved, as we can easily fill in the rest of the costume with a solid colored sweatshirt and matching sweatpants.
Be aware of which homes in your neighborhood have displays with lots of gore and special effects (our house… oops!) so you can avoid them.
Use repeated social stories for safety tips about crossing the street. In addition, carry glow sticks and a flashlight if you are going out in the dark.
If your child is nonverbal, make sure he or she wears some type of obvious identification. We love QR Code ID – which is printed right on the child’s clothing! My son will not keep a bracelet, ID tag, or watch on long enough for it to do its job.
Also, I have been seeing this wonderful picture circulating around my social media networks – what a great idea:
Create a visual schedule that includes a map of where you will go. It’s also a great idea to practice trick-or-treating at home the week before Halloween: take turns answering the door to give out the candy and being the trick-or-treater.
Don’t try to hit every single house in your neighborhood. Keep trick or treating short and comfortable for your child. Consider letting siblings that might want to go longer go trick-or-treating with a friend.
Make a plan for how you will handle candy consumption. A gluten or dairy intolerance may be an issue with Halloween treats, as are food dyes and extra sugar. Decide the candy-eating rules in advance and write them down.
For those that avoid animal products in general, here is the The 2013 VegNews Guide to Vegan Candy (hot off the press!).
After Halloween, don’t relax your safety routines! Watch the doors and windows extra closely. I’ve heard from other parents that their child continued to trick-or-treat on their own the next day or following week.
I hope these tips help you have a safe and fun Halloween! What tips and routines do you use in your house for trick-or-treating? Share by commenting below!