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October 14, 2022

Halloween and Autism: 5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Halloween Fun

Halloween is coming up and the boys and I haven't done any trick-or-treating in a while because of COVID. I remembered how to do it and it's easy, but it's also easy to get caught up in the excitement of Halloween and then the day comes, and my child has a big meltdown. So here are some of my favorite ways to prepare for Halloween when your children have anxiety, sensory processing disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Use a Calendar and Plan Ahead

Kids with anxiety need gentle reminders of the upcoming holiday so they will not feel as though the holiday has been sprung on them without notice. Planning ahead by creating an activity with your child to mark off the days leading to Halloween activities at school and Halloween day. This can help children feel more prepared for the and less overwhelmed on the day.

Also, place the Halloween costume in a place that your child can see and let them practice putting it on.  Additionally, have them practice making their face look like the character they are going to be. This will help them with confidence and self-awareness on Halloween.  Another way to practice trick or treating is finding local Halloween events leading up to Halloween that will allow your child to practice and get used to various situations during the day.


Create a Personalized Social Story

Create a personalized Halloween story for your child that can include pictures and drawings in a booklet form. In this story, you will detail the activities of the day and any potential stressors that may happen throughout the day, especially when trick-or-treating.

Start the story by explaining the significance of Halloween and any family traditions. Then outline the different activities such as going to school, eating dinner, preparing for trick or treating, and trick or treating. While reading this story talk to your child to see what they are concerned about and create strategies to support them. Grab a visual story template to help you create your child’s social stories.

Recognize Your Child's Emotions One

As you are preparing for Halloween with your child pay attention to the questions they may ask you. Such as " Will it be scary?" or " I don't like the dark." These questions indicate that your child has anxiety about the unknown circumstances that may occur. When answering them reassure them and provide a coping strategy for them to use.

Even though you have prepared them for trick-or-treating anxiety may still creep in during the actual trick-or-treating. When this happens reassure your child and remind them of a coping technique. Also, if during your preparation your child tells you or shows you certain situations are not ok with them, do your best not to place them in these situations. For example, a house that is decorated as a cemetery with spider webs and spooky music.

Create Your Sensory Bag

It's always nice to have a sensory bag when taking your child with anxiety or sensory issues into new environments. Even though your child may be excited about Halloween there is always chance anxiety may kick in. Because new situations are exciting and a little scary. As well as overwhelming for kids with sensory processing disorders.

My boys have Autism Spectrum Disorder Sensory and anxiety so my go-to items for our sensory bags are noise-reducing headphones and earbuds so my son can listen to o calming music. Other items that you can place in the bag are fidgets, spinners, slime, or a soft plushy.

Choosing a Costume

This is the part that may frustrate you but your child may love a costume and when they try it on they may not like how it feels on their skin or how they have to put the costume on. Due to sensory overload.

Have your child pick out their own costume which will increase their desire to wear it. When they try it on and they don't like it. Listen to what is agitating them and do the following:

First, ask them about what is bothering them about the costume.

Second, if it's about the fit or material of the costume. See if you can purchase a different size or the same costume made with different materials. You may have to consider making one yourself.

Third, some costumes have to pull over the head which can irritate a child. While other costumes have tight closures which are uncomfortable. Try to find alternate closures or customs.

Finally, the tags on the clothing are irritating, which is an easy fix by cutting off the tag. If you can't cut the tag all the way off the clothing then you can place a soft piece of material over it.

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