Making Halloween Fun For Kids With Autism

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.

For many kids with autism, Halloween can be extremely difficult. It’s sensory overload and possible diet restrictions. They may not like the idea of dressing up or seeing people in creepy costumes.

Halloween hasn’t always been easy for us. We’ve had a few years of trial and error. Last year was the first year my son Norrin really understood the concept of Halloween and was excited about it. And this year, he’s even more excited. Seeing him so excited about it, makes me excited about it. Because it means progress! And I love progress.

While it may seem early to talk about Halloween, I’ve learned a happy Halloween needs plenty of preparation. Here are few tips that will make Halloween fun for your kid and less stressful for you:

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. I cannot stress this enough.  It’s important that you talk to your child and prepare them so they know what to expect. There are so many great books on Halloween that your kids will enjoy. (I like to buy holiday books, after the holiday when they’re on sale.) Another great way to prepare your kid is to make your own social story. Personalize it by using their pictures and pictures of the neighborhood. You can also use a fun calendar to count down to the days to build a sense of excitement. Buy your costume in advance – do not wait until the last minute.

Practice. Once you prepare your child for Halloween. Put it into practice by incorporating it into your child’s therapy session. Ask your occupational therapist to work on holding a bag or a basket. Maybe your speech therapist can work with your child to say “Trick or Treat” and “Thank you.”
Practice trick or treating by making it a turn taking game. Knock on your child’s door, when they answer, you can say “Trick or treat.” Then have it be your child’s turn to knock on the door.
Let your kid wear the costume around the house. Let them get used to how it feels – especially if a mask or hat is involved.
Make it fun. Make your home festive. You don’t have to break the bank with holiday decor. If you have construction paper, crayons, glue and scissors – spend a few hours making your own with your child. Cutting and coloring are great fine motor activities. Go pumpkin picking and carve/decorate your pumpkin together. Scooping out the pumpkin seeds makes for a great sensory activity.
And why should your kid have all the fun? When costume shopping for your child, pick up a costume for yourself. Pick a family theme and go with it.
Keep it short. No one says you have to tour the entire neighborhood. Go to a few houses on your block, a few apartments in your building or a few stores in your neighborhood and call it a day. Every year, stay out a little longer than the year before. And always listen to your child. When they say they’ve had enough or when they look overwhelmed, take them home.

Staying home is okay too. It’s perfectly fine if your child wants to stay home. You can still make Halloween fun. Maybe your kids can greet trick or treaters (this can be fantastic way to work on social skills). Or you can do something fun like bake cupcakes, order take out or watch a Halloween movie together.

What do you do to make Halloween fun for your kids?

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  1. by Ruby

    On October 4, 2012 at 11:33 am

    great advice! I think preparing is key as well even for my little ones. I can be scary and overwhelming last year we visited 10 homes and then called it a night It was fun short and they were happy with the candy they got.

  2. by Monica

    On October 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Great tips! Especially the part about wearing the costume ahead of time to allow your child to get used to the feel and figure out if there are any problem areas. Thanks!

  3. by Bren @ Flanboyant Eats

    On October 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I love and appreciate how you touch on all elements of autism… I wouldn’t have even thought of Halloween being a reason for sensory overload. Makes total sense tho! I hope you all have a good time no matter what you decide to do!

  4. [...] Halloween Fun for Children with Autism [...]

  5. by leah

    On October 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    My son is 10, he’s had a few years of trick or treating now, and enjoys it except for the occasional too scary costume alarming him sometimes. My idea to submit to your list is this. My son, like many are on special diets which for us means no gluten/wheat/dairy/oats etc.. plus no procesed sugars or dyes. basically nothing you get trick or treating! So we began early on explaining to him, we don’t eat it, we just get to have fun collecting it and we give him options what he wants to trade it for, and he’s happy to do so. Most often he chooses Chuckee cheese tokens, so we take the candy and give him tokens, and we all go have a morning playing games together. works great every year!