Creating an autism-friendly environment for Halloween can be challenging. Every year, children across the country (and more than a few adults) dress up in their spookiest costumes and celebrate the holiday. This could be through walking from door to door as they trick-or-treat in their neighbourhood, watching a scary movie, or going to a Halloween party. In the context of autism, any of these Halloween activities can be overwhelming to the point of meltdown.
This may not necessarily be because of the ghouls and ghosts: indeed many autistic people count spooky movies and monsters among their biggest interests. In reality, the challenges of Halloween are sensory and social.
Firstly, like any holiday, Halloween means a change in routine and activities. Whether it’s Halloween decorations, eating different foods, or the prospect of leaving the house to trick or treat, Halloween can represent a significant disruption. As autistic people rely on routine and predictability, this can be a distressing prospect.
Secondly, although trick or treating guarantees some yummy goodies, it also means a lot of socializing with other people. Even if your child is not intimidated by talking to other people, encouraging them to talk to relative strangers can be a confusing change in social ‘rules.’ Additionally, trick-or-treating or Halloween parties among friends may lead to feelings of exclusion if autistic children are not invited to take part.
Finally, sensory barriers make it very difficult to celebrate an autism-friendly Halloween. Sudden noises or bright lights can be overwhelming for autistic people of all ages, which can make a holiday associated with fireworks and bonfires a great source of anxiety. Furthermore, autistic people may struggle with the feeling or texture of Halloween costumes.
To help you celebrate an autism-friendly Halloween, we have put together a series of resources. This includes a Halloween social story to help build predictability for Halloween and an activity pack of Halloween themed games and tasks.