Tips to Help Ensure Children with Autism Enjoy Halloween

Date: October 11, 2016

By: Lauren Freeney, BCBA, EAP Tampa Clinic Director

Fun costumes, trick-or-treating and bags and bags of candy are a few of the many reasons children look forward to Halloween. It’s an exciting day when you are a kid but some of the best parts of the holiday can be behavioral triggers if you are on the spectrum. The various sounds, crowds and out of the ordinary images can be stressful to a child with autism spectrum disorder, so the following is a list of tips for parents to help ensure Halloween is an enjoyable night for everyone.

  1. Choose a comfortable costume. Avoid itchy tags or seams; if the costume includes a mask, let your child wear it in advance; and make sure the costume is appropriate for the weather. To play it safe, have your child wear normal clothes under the costume so it can be quickly removed if it becomes bothersome.
  1. Show your child other costumes in advance. If you plan to join other families for trick-or-treating, and you have concerns the other costumes may scare your child, try to arrange a get-together an hour or so in advance. This may be especially helpful if costumes have wigs or masks that make the other children look different than normal.
  1. Practice trick-or-treating. Approaching a strange home and knocking on the door may seem overwhelming for your child. Ask a neighbor or a family friend to allow you and your child to come over to practice. Knocking on a familiar door first is a great way to introduce your child to the concept.
  1. Be flexible. You may have spent hours designing the perfect Halloween costume, but again, the night includes many sensory issues and if you sense your child is about to act out, take a break and evaluate if you should return home.
  1. Plan “treats” in advance. If you child has particular food allergies or is extremely picky about food and candy, visit a few homes in advance and bring them candy your child likes. This will help ensure by the end of the night there are a few things your child can eat and enjoy and you will be surprised how many neighbors will be more than happy to help you out.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

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