The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp, and one of the most anticipated holidays is fast approaching – Halloween.

Many people are excited for this time of year because it is a night filled with amazing parties, fabulous costumes, and plenty of free candy for those trick-or-treating. Although Halloween may be a fun-packed night for many, individuals on the autism spectrum may have a hard time coping with these festivities.

Halloween effects every person differently and sensory triggers vary from person to person. It could be a sudden noise that causes distress, a sight that frightens and overpowers the senses, or it can be the feel of a costume that makes the individual uncomfortable. These sensory changes can make individuals on the spectrum feel overwhelmed and uneasy, leading to a night of meltdowns and misery.

Here are a few tips on making Halloween a sensory-friendly holiday for children on the autism spectrum:

1. Costume Craze:
The costume craze is exciting because dressing up is one of the main highlights of the holiday. Children who have sensory sensitives may find this craze distressing. Costumes may trigger sensory meltdowns for a number of different reasons such as having a harsh odor or irritating your child’s skin. One way to make your child comfortable is to create a costume right from your child’s wardrobe. This takes out the element of unfamiliarity that store-bought costumes generate.

If your child really wants a store-bought costume, have them feel the costume in the store before you buy it. Once they are happy with the costume, wash it a few times to soften the material. Allocate time for your child to have test runs in the costume. This allows them to become accustomed to the costume, become comfortable with how it feels, and makes time for any adjusts to be made before Halloween night.

2. Trick-or-Treating Trend
Trick-or-treating is one of the most anticipated trends children look forward to on Halloween night. They are able to receive tons of free candy, stay up later than usual, and get to dress-up with their friends. For children with sensory sensitives, this trend could trigger sensory meltdowns due to many factors such as the noise of the crowd or the breaking of their routine which can be overwhelming. One way to make trick-or-treating fun and comfortable for your child is to map out and practice the route together ahead of time. This builds your child’s familiarity for not only the route, but also what is expected during the night. Another way to go tricking-or-treating is by only visiting the homes of friends and family your child knows. This way your child does not have to interact with strangers, which could be scary and distressing.

There will be a crowd, but to avoid the bigger crowd at the peak time of the night, go out after dusk or just before the crowd. If your child wants to be out in the hustle and bustle, try using their bicycles or wagons as a means of transportation. This way your child would not bump into anyone or be swept into the crowd.

3. Harmonious Halloween
The most important factor in any situation is understanding when your child communicates their need for a break from the festivities or they need to leave the overstimulated environment. Some children like the feel of squishy pumpkin guts at craving time, some children do not. Some children do not mind the feeling of face paint but to other children, face paint can be irritating. Understanding what your child likes and dislikes can make a huge difference come Halloween night. If your child wants to go out for Halloween night, creating a code word that represents their need for a break and or that they want to leave can make communication in the hectic environment easier.  If your child does not want to go out, then create a sensory-friendly party for them at home. You can invite your child’s friends and family members who your child is comfortable around. You can set-up a trick-or-treating route in your house by going from room to room.

These are some tips in helping to prepare yourself and your children for Halloween. Even though this environment is filled with many activities that can cause distress to children on the spectrum, your child can still enjoy the night. All it takes it some planning, flexibility, and awareness to make this a fantabulous night!

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