Halloween is an exciting time of year — the decorations, the costumes and trick-or-treating make this holiday a favorite among children. But for a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can be overwhelming and scarier than it may seem for others.
If your child has ASD, you can plan ahead to ensure he or she still has a fun time. To avoid stress, here are some Halloween tips for children with ASD.
Choose Your Child’s Costume Carefully
While every family is planning ahead for what the children will be on Halloween night, children with ASD have some added considerations to keep in mind. Take your child to the store with you to pick out a costume, and let him or her try it on to be sure it fits correctly and isn’t itchy. Make sure they are not frightened by the costume; what they had in mind may seem scarier when they see it at the store, so this will help reduce the chance they won’t like it later. If your child is particularly sensitive, consider a costume they can wear over their regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or a pirate hat.
Going to different houses can be frightening for children with ASD, especially if most of the time is spent in the dark. Practice going up to the front door at family members’ or close friends’ houses. Practice with your child what they can expect to say or be said to them. Tell your child he or she will likely get comments on their costume, and practice saying, “Thank You!” and “Happy Halloween!” Kids feel safer when they’re in familiar places, and interacting with familiar people can be comforting. The experience will be easier for children who struggle with overstimulation if they are prepared in advance for what to expect. When the time comes to trick-or-treat, try to go with other families who have children with ASD if possible. It may help your child feel better about the situation and ease their tension.
The Autism Society recommends keeping a room in your house undecorated so there is somewhere your child can go if the holiday becomes too overwhelming. This can be a place you and your child can talk about things besides Halloween, or a place they can go to escape the festivities and calm down. You could include soothing music in this room, or other security objects that resonate with your child (for example, a stuffed animal or blanket).
Know Your Child’s Limits
If Halloween day comes and your child is overwhelmed at the idea of trick-or-treating, have an alternate plan so he or she doesn’t miss out on the Halloween fun. Let them hand out candy to trick-or-treaters at your home; perhaps after seeing other children, it might make them less afraid. You could suggest going to a couple of houses and see how he or she does, giving them the option to go home if it’s too much. At home, set up a Halloween scavenger hunt inside for them where they can collect treats from around the house.
Making this “spooky” holiday fun for your child with ASD can be tricky. You’ve got to find the right balance between what’s fun and what’s scary. Don’t be afraid to try fun activities such as community events or pumpkin carving to introduce your child to the holiday. The more you talk to your child about what they should expect about Halloween traditions, the more prepared and safe they will feel.
Fisher-Titus is proud to sponsor the upcoming sensory-friendly Halloween event on October 21, 2017. Join us at Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center at Norwalk High School at 1 p.m. for trick-or-treat and Halloween crafts, and a sensory-friendly showing of “Hotel Transylvania” at 2 p.m. Admission is free! For more information, please call 419-660-2117, ext. 3040.