Halloween Tips and Tricks for Autistic Children

Now that spooky season is officially underway, we wanted to take a little time to talk about Halloween tips and tricks for autistic children. Any event that involves talking to several different strangers has the potential to overwhelm an autistic child. However, when you add in unusual costumes and things that go bump in the night, the chances of sensory overload increase exponentially.

Even though All Hallows’ Eve can be a lot for young ones, we have a few ideas on how to help children with autism on Halloween.

Talk About Halloween

So many situations are made better with a quick, honest chat. Before Halloween and all the celebrations surrounding it begin, sit your child down and talk to them about everything they may see and experience. Costumes, parties, and decorations can all be intimidating to an autistic child, so give them a heads-up.

Once you’ve had the initial discussion, you can ask them what they feel most apprehensive about, and plan some activities that address their concerns. YouTube videos of other children trick-or-treating are a great way to show your kids that Halloween is more fun than spooky. 

three children dressed in halloween costumes together

Establish Rules for the Evening

One of the essential Halloween and autism tips is to set up rules for Halloween night. If your child wants to try trick-or-treating, ground rules will help you get through the night safely.

You’ll want to establish guidelines surrounding treats, especially—you don’t want to get home to find your child’s candy bag filled with nothing but empty wrappers. Make sure to inspect your child’s candy before they eat—throw away anything that is not factory sealed. If you’re on the lookout for healthy treats, these Vitamin C Pops are delicious! To learn more about healthy eating with autism, try this video.

Other important rules to consider are travel safety. Is your child old enough to walk ahead of you, or should they stay by your side? What about crossing the street? These are all important things to consider before Halloween night so your child knows what the expectations are.

Plan (and Practice) Your Route

Before you involve your child in the travel plans, take a walk around your neighborhood and note any houses that you’ll avoid. Some people like to put up motion-sensing decorations that make noise when you pass, and these can scare anyone, autism or not!

When you have a safe route in mind, take your child on a walk during the daytime a few days before Halloween so they can get comfortable with the experience. Consider talking to your child about the decorations from the car if they’re uncomfortable getting close to them.

On Halloween night, be sure to have a few calming tricks in your back pocket, just in case your child experiences a meltdown. For instance, you might bring a fidget toy along with you so your child can self-stimulate if they need to calm down.

You can also take cues from your child to determine how long you’re out. When you see them getting tired or overwhelmed, wrap up the trick-or-treating experience so they leave with good memories.

Doorbell Rehearsal

The idea of ringing a doorbell and being greeted by a stranger is off-putting for many autistic children, so make sure Halloween night isn’t their first time trying it. Let your child practice ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door at home first, and then at a friendly neighbor’s house. They can also work on saying “trick or treat” and “thank you” if your child is comfortable with that.

Additionally, if your child finds it too intimidating to ring the doorbell themselves, you can always walk up to the door and ring the bell for them!

Comfortable Costumes

Not all Halloween costumes prioritize comfort, which can be a big problem for children with specific sensory needs. Set aside time before Halloween to try out different costumes so your child can find one that they’re comfortable in.

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Of course, this only applies if your child wants to dress up—even though it may seem like a requirement, there’s no need to make your child wear a costume. They can enjoy trick or treating whether they’re wearing a costume, a little face paint, or even regular clothes!

Look for Sensory-Friendly Events

Many communities organize scare-free Halloween events for young children, and these can be perfect for kids on the spectrum. You can also look into other fun fall activities to get into the spirit without the scares, like pumpkin or apple picking! Are you looking for local resources? Visit our resource page to find information based in your state!

Now that you know these Halloween tips and tricks for autistic children, remember to start small. If this is the first year your child will try Halloween for themselves, you don’t want to overwhelm them. Consider starting by trick-or-treating at a few houses this year, so that next year they may feel ready to go around your whole block.

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Do you have more ideas to share with other parents and caregivers about how to help children with autism on Halloween? Post them in our Facebook community—we can’t wait to read your ideas and connect with you!

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