Halloween is an exciting holiday for kids, but it may offer certain challenges for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Members of the Autism Parent Advisory Board of the Boone Fetter Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles partnered with Kathryn Smith, RN, DrPH, nurse care manager in the Boone Fetter Clinic, to provide tips every parent and caregiver can use during the Halloween season.
Preparation and planning can help you stay stress-free. Whether this is your child’s first Halloween or not, here are some ideas to help you and your child enjoy the holiday.
Before Halloween: Tips for Kids with ASD
Create a visual story of what Halloween may be like for your child, with some pictures or drawings. This will help your child prepare for the day’s activities.
Try on costumes before. If the costume is uncomfortable or doesn’t fit right, it may cause unnecessary distress and ruin their fun.
If your child does not like their costume, don’t make them wear it. Instead, talk about the situation with your child and try to uncover the reason why they don’t like it. After you talk with your child, they may gradually get used to the costume. Have them wear it for short periods of time and at increasing intervals over time.
Consider a Halloween costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or capes.
Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell or knocking on the door and receiving candy.
Halloween Day: Tips for Kids with ASD
Know your child’s limits and do only what he or she can handle. For example, if your child is not comfortable trick-or-treating, you can start by going to three houses. Assess how your child is doing and build up to more houses the following year.
Take your child to an activity in the community, such as a school festival or a neighborhood party where the child is already comfortable and knows people.
Partner with family and friends that your child likes.
If you are giving out candy at your home, give your child the option to give a piece of candy. During the day, practice greeting people and giving out candy.
If your child is afraid of going out at night, plan indoor or daytime Halloween activities.