Prepare For A Fa-Boo-Lous Halloween

The unpredictability of Halloween along with its sights, sounds, and smells can be 100 times scarier for a child with autism.  However, when we let our children know what to expect ahead of time, we pave the way to a fa-boo-lous holiday.
Being a parent of a child who has autism is not an easy thing. It requires a great deal of patience and understanding. Autistic kids react differently than other kids. Now you add the COVID pandemic onto that, you have a double whammy that needs to be addressed.

Halloween Tips For Autism Families

1) Some of the decorations and frivolity that may take place might be a bit hard for some kids to take. Simply remind them that this is all make believe. Remind them this is not to be taken too seriously. 
  • Avoid houses with scary decorations when trick-or-treating. 
  • If the change in scenery brought on by decorations is difficult for your child:
    • Prepare them by showing pictures of your house all decked out from previous years.
    • Gradually decorate. Make a visual schedule or calendar that shows what will be done on each day.
    • Include Halloween-themed sensory toys, such as slime, squishy brains, stretchy skeletons or spiders, water wigglers with eyeballs, etc.

2) Are you taking your child somewhere that might be a bit too noisy, distracting or obnoxious? Take some kind of sensory toy with them. That way they can find comfort when things become too sensitive for them to take. 

  • Bring along items tailored to your child’s sensory diet: noise blocking headphones, ear plugs, weighted vests, comfort items, etc.
  • At parties, set aside a private room for your child to safely relax when the crowd and noise become overwhelming.
3) Never dress your child up in a costume that causes issues with sensory overload. Your child might react or overreact in a violent way (some autistic kids do). Keep your child's sensitive issues in mind when dressing and undressing them.

  • Avoid accessories and props that may cause sensory overload.  Simplicity is key. 
  • Allow your child to dress up as their favorite cartoon or game character no matter their age.
  • Have your child practice wearing their costume before Halloween.  Doing so will help determine if it’s comfortable and fits properly.
  • When shopping for costumes, check out the pajama section of the store.  There are lots of comfortable pajamas that look like costumes.
4) Explain the idea of trick-or-treating to your kid (especially if this is their first time). Watch family-friendly cartoons and movies with positive scenes of children trick-or-treating and attending Halloween activities.
  • Practice all of the steps involved with trick-or-treating, such as:
    • Ringing the doorbell or knocking at the door, waiting outside the door, receiving candy, expressing appreciation, etc.
  • Have friends come over to role play trick-or-treating with your child.
  • Walk through your neighborhood and explain where you’ll be going.
5) Use social stories to help your child understand and prepare for Halloween and any activities you plan on participating in.
  • Reduce anxiety by maintaining your child’s regular routine as much as possible.
  • Mark the dates of important events on a calendar.
    • If your child has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event, you may want to adjust the number of days in advance you prepare him or her.

  • If you're going to a party, ask the host to let you know, in advance, as much about the plans as possible:
    • See if you can help plan the party and include activities that your child enjoys.
    • Prepare your child for how long the event/gathering will last, how many people will be there, and what activities are planned.
      • Develop a portable picture schedule to help your child know what to expect.
  • Teach your child how to safely leave a situation or get support when an event becomes overwhelming

Practice social distancing this year. Wear a mask (this is one holiday where it is socially approved) and stay clear of any bad apples that might be lurking in the shadows.  Have a fang-tastic Halloween! 


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