How to Help Your Child Embrace Halloween
Now that Dr. Anthony Fauci has said it’s safe to trick-or-treat again, we can turn our attention to last-minute Halloween preparations. Costume? Check. Candy? Check. If you’re the parent of a child with autism, there are a few other things you may want to consider, too.
“Children with autism may face some obstacles on Halloween,” says Courtney Domanico, Lead Program Coordinator at Potential Inc. “These can include sensory challenges related to wearing a costume or mask or the noise level of the environment and issues with eating candy because of dietary restrictions or a selective diet. That doesn’t mean children with autism can’t participate. Rather, their Halloween is just going to look a little different.”
Domanico says there are some things you can do together now to help children feel more comfortable come Halloween.
Allow them to pick their costume.
Feel free to make suggestions, like dressing up as their favorite superhero or Disney character. But, ultimately, let it be their decision. And whatever their costume of choice turns out to be, embrace it without judgement.
Depending on their sensory needs, consider getting the costume in a larger size so they can wear their own clothes underneath. And let them know it’s OK to only wear part of the costume, or even to skip the costume altogether and simply wear Halloween colors.
Rehearse the day before.
The more you can expose them beforehand to what they’ll experience while trick-or-treating, the more familiar it will feel to them on Halloween, Domanico says.
This can mean having them try on their costume at home and practice saying “trick-or-treat,” whether verbally or using a communication device, pictures, or sign language.
You may also want to walk the route you plan to follow together. Doing so will allow you to show them decorations along the way and explain that, while they’re meant to be fun, they can also be frightening. There’s no reason to be scared, though, because they’re only pretend. Same for other kids who will be wearing masks.
If your child isn’t up for trick-or-treating, there are lots of other ways for them to have fun. “The Halloween experience should be individualized for each child,” Domanico says.
Check with your local elementary school to see if it’s planning to host a trunk-or-treat. Maybe your volunteer fire department is staging a costume contest. You can also suggest they help give out candy to trick-or-treaters. If that’s still too much stimulation, encourage them to relax and watch a Halloween movie.
According to Domanico, “Awareness and acceptance are really the key to helping your child make the most of their Halloween experience.”