Halloween can be scary for kids with autism in all the wrong ways. In general, they have a hard time quickly grasping and making sense of anything that falls outside of their daily routines, like holidays. Add social anxiety, which is also common in children with autism, and seasonal celebrations like Halloween, with all their noises, decorations, and crowds of people, can create a lot of stress for children and their families.
All is not lost though! With some preparation and a willingness to make fun and not perfection the goal, you can create a safe and happy Halloween experience your child can enjoy in their own way.
Halloween To-Dos for Parents of Children with Autism
Here are few important things you can do to help your child feel more comfortable with Halloween traditions and reduce the stress and sensory overload that can lead to acting out.
- Show your child what’s going to happen, so they know what to expect – and when.
- Use photos of past Halloweens you have or find images on the internet to let them see or remind them what Halloween is all about – kids in fun and scary costumes, music and sounds, all the decorations, the trick or treating, and of course, the candy.
- Talk them through what will happen on that day as you look at the photos.
- Be sure to also spell out when Halloween is. A calendar is great for kids with autism to visualize and countdown to the day.
- Find a costume your child doesn’t mind wearing for more than a few minutes.
- Kids with autism can be particular about fabrics and other aspects of clothing against their skin. It’s the feeling that can bother them.
- Most Halloween costumes are made of fabric they don’t normally wear, so it’s best to let them wear the costume ahead of time around the house to make sure it’s comfortable for them.
- If they don’t want to wear a costume, but still want to participate in Halloween, try a Halloween-themed t-shirt or hoody and a fun candy catcher that they decorated.
- Practice trick-or-treating with your child either at home or at a trusted neighbor’s house.
- Like wearing costumes ahead of time, it’s a good idea to practice trick-or-treating before the big night. It’s a social situation your child may not be comfortable with for a variety of reasons.
- Practicing ahead of time can be a comfort to know how it’s done and that it’s ok if they can’t say the words. They can use these cute trick-or-treat calling cards to say what they can’t.
- It’s also smart to plan your route around the neighbor, so you can stay away from houses with bright or loud decorations that may be too much for your child.
- An alternative is to find a sensory-friendly Halloween event in your area, like our Prosper Hive HalloweenFest for kids and families in North Texas.
- Ask your ABA therapy team for advice. They know your child almost as well as you.
- If you’re child isn’t enrolled in ABA therapy, the gold standard autism care, get them started as soon as possible. Starting early is important! Look for a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence® (BHCOE) to find an accredited provider that has been independently and extensively audited and found to provide the very best care.
Here at The Behavior Exchange, we’ve achieved the highest possible accreditation as a BHCOE. Our autism and ABA therapy experts have been helping children with autism and their families for more than two decades. It would be a sweet treat to help you as well. To learn more and get started, email or call 972.312.8733. We can help make autism a lot less scary!
For more insights, check out our 4-part guide to ABA therapy basics for parents who’ve just received an autism diagnosis.