Sensory issues and trick-or-treating? SPD and unfamiliar costumes? Autism and too much candy and stimulation? Can these things go together (or can we at least survive them unscathed)? Yes! SPD Halloween tips are out there, and we’ve collected some of the best, to help you and your child with SPD or autism have a fun-filled holiday.
Practice trick-or-treating ahead of time!
Pick a route, and help your child become familiar with it. Practice going to the door and saying ‘trick or treat’ (perhaps at Grandma’s house, or a friendly neighbor’s). Don’t forget to practice the ‘thank you’ too! Go over safety tips, such as sticking together, not running ahead, and watching out for cars (as well as not going inside any houses). Luckily, trick-or-treating includes a built-in script, so kids can role play this with confidence that on the big night, the ‘script’ will be followed by others.
Pick a costume together, and have a back-up ready.
Consider a SPD Halloween-friendly costume, such as a hoodie with ears and a tail on a pair of sweatpants for animal costumes, or one-piece ‘cozy’ rompers. Practice wearing the costume too, especially around the house. Even if you’re sure your SPD kid loves their costume completely, always have a back up, just in case. Good options include a simple cape, a fun hat, or wings. If your child’s costume includes make-up, practice applying it ahead of time, and bring wet wipes just in case.
Go with the flow.
SPD Halloween stress is avoidable, especially if you just let your child be. If she doesn’t want to participate in the school costume parade, let her bow out. If he only wants to wear half of his costume, no one in the neighborhood will care. Carving pumpkins? Maybe she won’t want to scoop the insides out…they’re so slimy, after all! Let your child participate as much or little as desired, and have an exit strategy in place if things just become too much. When siblings are involved, this can be hard, and might require a second parent, a caregiver, or a babysitter enlisted to help.
Keep trick or treating short.
Going from house to house, ringing every doorbell, greeting every stranger, and asking for candy can be daunting for ANYONE, let alone a child with autism or SPD. Limit your trick-or-treating to around the block (you can always expand), or set a time limit.
Have a safe spot at Halloween parties and events.
If you plan to attend a Halloween party or event, designate a ‘safe spot’ where your child can decompress and escape the madness for a while. Maybe this spot is a guest room at the house where the party is taking place, a spot in the classroom set up by a teacher or aide, or even your car! Escape with your child and bring calming items important to him, such as a blankie, fidget strip, etc.
Practice what to do if things go wrong.
Halloween safety tips are crucial to have in place. Practice what your child should do if he becomes separated from you, and remind him to stay put if lost. Halloween presents a good opportunity to remind kids with autism how to find help, and that law officers are not to be feared. Remind them that they are never in trouble for getting lost or making a mistake. Older kids can have a planned meeting place or route home in case of emergency or can carry a cell phone. Younger kids should have a light source on their costume, like a glow stick or reflector).