Last minute AUTISM-FRIENDLY HALLOWEEN TIPS
Decide whether your child trick-or-treats with a blue basket. While some autism organizations are encouraging the use of the blue baskets so autistic children don’t have to go through the “who are you in that costume?” questionnaire at trick-or-treating houses, the blue basket also restricts children from a good socializing event that higher functioning autistics can use to learn to be more comfortable during social interactions, learn about one-to-one communication, and polite mannerisms, all while being rewarded with tons of delicious fun!
Create Halloween indoors rehearsals. Make sure you ask a variety of costume questions, create different situations and dialogues in different room doors so your child knows what to say, how to respond, and what to expect. Even better, rehearse at uncles’ grandparents’ and family friends’ entrance doors so they know it will be outdoors. If your child isn’t used to going out at night, make sure you explain why it’s more fun to do that with all Halloween’s decor lit up on the neighborhood!
Before Halloween night, prepare your child for the trick-or-treating tradition. Help him try-on the costume of his choice several times before the day so he gets used to it or to see if the fabric irritates your child's skin and fix any uncomfortable problems on time. Remember that tags and bad needlework can be uncomfortable even for you. Make sure the costume fits on top of comfortable clothes if the problem can’t be fixed.
Explain Halloween through a teaching story or activity found online. This “All About Halloween” slideshow (http://media.autismspeaks.org/stories/halloween-teaching-story.pptx) helps you explain to your child what Halloween is, and how it’s celebrated. Other organizations also provide social narrative templates you can use and personalize to talk to your child about trick-or-treating traditions (i.g https://handsinautism.iupui.edu/pdf/HalloweenTipsSN.pdf).
On the 31st, be aware of your child’s sensory needs and create backup plans in case of meltdowns. Remember there might be flickering lights, loud haunted houses, or plenty of children approaching candy cauldrons at once. You can bring noise canceling headphones in case the noise or sounds go out of control. While it would seem impossible to find an all-senses safe place for your child in these situations, by simply keeping your car close to you, you can always go back with your child, sit and roll up all windows to clean the air of loud sounds and blinding flashing lights. Once in the car, explain to your child one more time why it’s okay to see these lights and hear these noises during Halloween, and ask him whether he wants to keep trick-or-treating or go home.
Use your child’s strengths and hobbies in his favor. For example, if he likes completing tasks, make a checklist he could checkmark as he makes sure his Halloween is as fun as yours, or make a list to keep a record of specific number of houses, chocolates, or hard candy. If he likes hands-on activities, you can print a map of the neighborhood and go with him on a quest to find different houses. You can also make “thank you” notes and ask him to make origami figures before heading to each house and give back to candy handlers (this note is also a good opportunity to teach others about autism!)
Bring your own trick or treating bag! Make sure you bring items your child would potentially need while outdoors: water bottle, noise canceling headphones, pressure vests, light filtering glasses and other sensory toys that could be useful in case of meltdowns should be in your haunted basket!
And as always, don’t forget to have fun, too!