Doing Halloween Right with Kids with Autism
By Jenny Burke, October 25, 2019
Aren’t they cute?! Danny sure looks happy here, but I’d be lying if I said Halloween was always smooth sailing! FYI, you can be sure I stole a ton of that candy after they went to bed!
I begin this post with a quick Halloween pep talk to parents of kids with autism. Ready? You do NOT need to expect that on Halloween your autistic kids will do the following:
• Willingly, even happily, wear a costume.
• Enjoy and participate in all the loud school stuff.
• Love a long outing of trick or treating.
• Say a perfectly timed “Trick or Treat!” at every house along with an unprompted “Thank you!” after happily accepting the type or amount of candy offered.
A tough Halloween. No understanding of what was going on, total sensory overload.
Instead, a successful Halloween looks different for each individual child with autism.
Now, some parents will do a ton of prep work to help their kiddos enjoy a more “typical” Halloween experience. Great! That’s what we did. I am a huge fan of prepping and it can make Halloween way smoother for certain kids, and therefore easier on their families (especially siblings).
Other parents will recognize that no amount of prepping will result in a child enjoying the intense sensory bombardment that comes on Halloween. Good for them, because there is truly no good reason to force a child to dress up in a costume she or he hates to go out and do something that is painful to her or him.
So if your child falls in the latter category, or somewhere in between, please do not feel guilty as you figure out how to navigate the long day.
Below you’ll find some posts on Halloween I especially like. Some include very helpful advice. A couple are heart-warming and inspirational.
The one tip I’d like to add to the advice you’ll find below is the following: END EARLY!
Also a tough Halloween. At each house, he’d try to walk inside. So tired and overwhelmed by it all.
Do not stay out super long or let your kiddo be up way past the normal bedtime. First, you do not want an overly tired child to melt down – either Halloween night or the next day.
Second, you have earned the right to have a little peace and quiet on the couch watching Netflix, enjoying the candy you’ve swiped from your kid(s) or the candy bowl, perhaps even sipping a glass of vino. You might need to prep kiddos, and some will be disappointed the fun is over, but trust me: better to wrap things up early, than too late.
Halloween posts I think are great:
Why my son with autism loves unconventional Halloween costumes, on Autism Speaks
I love this one so much because here is a superstar mom who clearly celebrates the strengths and interests of her superstar kiddo! My favorite of all the creative costumes is the fire alarm costume because it is spot on and because my own kiddo went through a fire alarm phase (we have quite the collection — thank you eBay).
Halloween Tips and Tricks, on Autism Society
Concrete advice including having ear plugs on hand for trick or treating or a quiet room if you are having a party.
Tips for Supporting Your Child with Autism During Halloween, on KGH Autism Services
I like this post generally, but especially for its safety advice. Please know I do not personally know anything about the agency that posted this piece, but the safety advice is good, and draws from recognized sources.
Halloween got better! Danny wanted to be a card and fortunately I know how to draw (I definitely never sewed a costume!). His sis is a bed bug (she sure looks tired + grumpy!). Those hilariously creepy kids are good pals!
Mom urges use of blue Halloween buckets to raise autism awareness, on CBS News
You’ll find here a piece about a mom’s amazing Facebook post about how her son with autism, who does not communicate verbally, will be carrying a blue bucket to alert people passing out candy that her son has autism and to not expect him to say “trick or treat.” The blue bucket also raises awareness of autism. Personally, I love the blue bucket for many reasons but mostly because using one might take some of the pressure and expectation off of children with autism and their parents.
I just want to say here that on Halloween I will be sending warm thoughts, well wishes, and good karma out to all kids who have autism, and their loving families. May your kiddos survive school parties and parades, may everyone stays safe and trick or treating goes at least somewhat smoothly, and may your child’s siblings have a fun Halloween.
And for those families who modify or skip Halloween altogether, may you have a peaceful, GUILT-FREE day!
Got any tips for or thoughts about Halloween? Please share them in the comments section!