How To Make Your Family's Halloween Autism-Friendly
Halloween can be challenging for autistic kids and their families. A few tips and some basic courtesy can make all the difference in the world.
As neighborhoods around the country get ready for Halloween, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement. There's a certain thrill in the air on the big night as hundreds of princesses, superheroes, ninjas, and monsters take to the streets reveling in the adventure but it's important to remember that not all kids process Halloween the same way. For autistic kids, as one mom's viral Facebook post is driving home, Halloween can be a challenge.
Omairis Taylor took to Facebook to remind everyone that all trick-or-treaters are not the same. "My son is 3 years old and has autism. He is nonverbal. Last year houses will wait for him to say TRICK OR TREAT in order for him to get a piece of candy and there I go explaining the situation for the next 5 blocks." To cut down on confusion and help autistic kids enjoy the holiday as much as their neurotypical siblings and friends, Taylor said they're using a blue jack-o-lantern bucket for trick-or-treating this year. Similar to the teal front porch jack-o-lanterns used to signify Halloween offerings are allergen-free, blue trick-or-treat buckets are being implemented to let people know the child might have delays and to be patient.
"This year we will be trying the blue bucket to signify he has autism," explains Taylor. "Please allow him (or anyone with a blue bucket) to enjoy this day and don't worry I'll still say 'trick or treat' for him. This holiday is hard enough without any added stress."
For parents of neurodivergent children, prepping for Halloween can be scary. The Marcus Autism Center offers the following tips for helping your child enjoy the holiday.
- Avoid scratchy premade costumes that may have tags or be uncomfortable. Stick with fleecy material, pajamas, or, if you're able, make your own costume to avoid fit and comfort issues common with store-bought costumes.
- Try to avoid masks or face paint for kids who are sensitive to textures.
- Practice, practice, practice! Let your child wear the costume around the house several times so they get used to it, and remember to bring a spare change of clothes along if they decide they no longer want to wear their costume.
- Have a plan. Plan out how many houses or how far you'll walk on Halloween and practice beforehand. Have your child pretend to go trick-or-treating so they become accustomed to knocking on doors and saying "trick-or-treat."
- Bring along comfort items, headphones or earplugs, and consider printing out cards to hand out door-to-door if your child has trouble communicating.
If you hand out candy, keep in mind that all children are different—not everyone will say or is able to say trick-or-treat. Treating families with compassion and not expecting every child to interact the same way is a surefire way to make everyone happy and spread that Halloween cheer. And keep an eye out for blue pumpkins!